For the 11th year, Walt Disney World Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and Essence were joined by celebrities to offer 100 high school students from across the country a chance to dream big.
BY PENNY DICKERSON
SPECIAL TO THE FLORIDA COURIER
“God has a reason for why you are here. You are the 10 percent who made it,” said Steve Harvey, whose poignant words to 100 high school students at the 11th annual Walt Disney World Dreamers Academy likely will inspire their hearts and minds for a lifetime. “It’s mind-blowing what Disney is doing for you. All of this is free.’’
Indeed, the all-expense paid, four-day weekend held March 8-11 is a dream come true for the lucky high school students who became known as Dreamers to each other, a host of celebrities, alumni, motivators from the speakers’ resource group, and their accompanying parent or guardian.
Students compete for participation in the program by submitting an application and answers to a series of essay questions about their personal stories, the people who are most influential in their lives and their dreams for the future. A panel of judges, some of whom are also celebrities, select 100 students from across America.
“Each of these 100 girls and boys has proven themselves to be exceptional as students and as human beings, so it’s an honor to have them join us at Walt Disney World Resort,’’ said Tracey D. Powell, Walt Disney World Resort vice president of commercial management – resorts and Disney Dreamers Academy (DDA) executive champion.
“It is our hope that this potentially life-changing program will help create the next generation of great dreamers and achievers,’’ Powell said.
In a game of numbers, the Dreamers collectively hailed from 25 states this year with Natasha R. traveling, 3,118 miles from Centralia, Washington, which made her the farthest-traveling student.
The most popular career path chosen by 29 students was medical; 21 selected engineering, and 13 hope to pursue the legal field.
In previous years, Florida has been represented by as many as 15 Dreamers.
However, in this year’s DDA cycle there are nine strong who were proud to embody the tenets of the Disney Dreamers Academy (DDA). They are: Eamillia Barrington (Orlando); Q. Markis Brooks (Port St. Lucie); Sally Campbell (Zephyrhills); Malachi Hobbs (Cocoa); Lebarron Johnson (Jacksonville); Luis Lageyre Rivas (Weston); Andy Rajkumar (Ocoee); Giuliette Schutte (St. Petersburg), and Jackson Stewart (Port St. Lucie).
This year, the DDA program broke tradition and launched a new theme and logo.
Instead of seeing Dreamers in a sea of brilliant-red T-shirts, the new color scheme for all signage, apparel, banners, and peripherals are pastel hues of purple, soft blue, and gray.
“Who will you be?” asked Princeton Parker of the 2018 Dreamers at the opening ceremony held at EPCOT Center. “When the world asks who will you be, tell them ‘I choose to be 100.’
You will experience a lot of temptation to just exist, but if you choose to be 100, the world will say, we always knew a dreamer lived inside of you.” added Parker who is a 2010 DDA alumni, speakers resource group participant, and a Walt Disney Land (California) employee.
Deemed another innovative move by Disney, #Be100 is a multi-channel creative campaign that inspires and empowers youth to be relentless in the pursuit of their dreams.
Additionally, being 100 is not an event. It’s a personal mission to take action and to give your all. It’s a promise to be real, be genuine and to take action with integrity and honesty. In short, it’s a call to be a part of something special.
The hashtag-oriented theme is also inspired by the powerful impact of 1,000 graduates through the first 10 years of the program; the #Be100 campaign will be the primary focus of the second decade of DDA.
‘Black Panther’ magic
Celebrities, both young and less young, were on hand to share how their dreams catapulted them into stardom.
Among them was Academy Award-nominated costume designer Ruth Carter who most recently worked on the “Black Panther.”
“I think it’s important for dreamers to know that they can be successful, and it starts with their dreams,” Carter said. “Dreaming makes everything blossom for the rest of your life.
“I don’t want them to dream about something they are going to be in the future, I want them to dream about where they are right now and empower themselves with that dream. You have a long journey ahead of you that’s full of bumps, that’s full of successes, and you are unique to this group,” Carter added.
Super Bowl MVP
When Emmitt Smith led the Dallas Cowboys to win three Super Bowls and became the NFL’s all-time rushing leader, you can bet he was living out a dream.
The NFL Most Valuable Player awardee offered the following to the DDA class of 2018:
“I think life begins with dreams, and I think you dream about what you aspire to do, whether it’s sports, whether it’s something that you see on television, or something that you see someone else is doing. In some form or fashion, it starts with someone dreaming.
“Stay encouraged and do not limit your thinking. Always be prepared to expand your horizons. The best lessons (learned) are the ones you give back with because that tells you how much you’ve truly learned.”
‘Black-ish’ child stars
Marsai Martin and Miles Brown portray twins on the hit ABC sitcom, “Black-ish.” Together, their on-screen shenanigans illuminate their comedic timing, but individually they are pint-size intellectuals who understand the power of a dream.
“You will get a lot more nos than yeses, so thrive and always surround yourself with positive energy,” said Martin. “Don’t you just wish sometimes you could just jump into somebody else’s mind and see what they’re thinking? You can’t, so you have to push, work hard, and say, ‘I’m gonna show these people.’”
Brown offered arresting poetics to the Dreamers in a sofa conversation facilitated by Sunny Hostin from “The View.’’ Brown additionally had wise words for Dreamers, many of whom were twice his size.
“I dream every day. I dream of what I can become and what I do now. Everyone has their own dream,” stated Brown. “Whatever your dream is, you have to make sure you have enough confidence and keep pushing through. Always believe in yourself and know that you can get to that certain point.”
Award for Floridian
The class of 2018 Dreamers seek to be change agents, professional sportsmen, and specialty medical professions.
A standout, whose goal is to be an oncologist, was Q’Markis Brooks. The 17-year-old senior at Port St. Lucie High School excels in varsity basketball, cross-country, and track. He is a cancer survivor of desmoid fibromatosis, and his DDA peers voted for him to win the “Courage Award.”
“I want to be able to build a medical center for children like myself,” said Brooks. “It will help them receive the proper medical care and service for their illness.”
Eamilia Barrington hails from Orlando and attends Apopka High School, where she is active in six different clubs including Fellowship Christian Athletes (FCA).
She seeks to be a pediatrician for special-needs children.
“…I feel really comfortable around those specific children, and I want to be there to help them,” said Barrington. “My goal in life is to make sure at the end of the day I made someone feel good about who they are.”