Steve Harvey, the dream maker.
It was the fifth Disney’s Dreamers Academy hosted by Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine and has become a highly anticipated event at Disney World
Lake Buena Vista, Florida–Steve Harvey makes dream come true. When he said, “I wanted to be on television since I was nine (years old) but I didn’t make it until I was 38, but I’m there now,” it can readily be acknowledged that he knows a thing-or-two about ‘dreaming.’ He was speaking at the fifth annual Disney’s Dreamers Academy (DDA) which was held took place from March 8 to 11 2012 at the Disney World Magical Kingdom Resort.
The DDA program–created in 2007–was/is designed to provide those youth who are chosen with the opportunity to learn how they can harness the power of their dreams. Through life-enriching interactive workshops and motivational talks, DDA gives the Dreamers inspiration to explore the countless possibilities that they may never have even imagined, and the tools they need to jumpstart turning their dreams into reality. In addition, they are often exposed to professionals (mentors) who help to guide them along their chosen career path.
The 2012 program was hosted by Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine, and he was emphatic about it saying: “This is all for the kids.” The theme for the 2012 academy was ‘The Power of a Dream.’
Along with the 100 high school students from across the U.S. who participated (having been chosen from a field of 4,000), there was a list of who’s-who there to share in the mentorship portion of the program.
Among the mentors and guests on hand were CNN’s Soledad O’Brien; educator, Dr. Steve Perry; gospel singer, Yolanda Adams; Essence Magazine’s Mikki Taylor; Disney World’s Tracey Powell and Reggie Jarrett; and of course, Harvey himself, the driving force behind the career-inspiration program for selected youth.
One alumnus of the 2008 DDA, Tevyn Cole said, “The Dreamers Academy had inspired me to dream bigger and has shown me a world of possibilities.” He is presently attending Eastern Michigan University studying Theatre and Japanese; has his own T-shirt business; is looking forward to an internship in Merchandise at Disney; taught English in Korea; and met with music mogul, Russell Simmons.
Harvey said, “We’re in the changing-children’s-life business,” and had a few words for the parents who were there … and for some who were not there, but should have been. ” … there’s a website that you can go to and you can purchase software where you put it on your kid’s computer and every time your child goes on the computer and logs on you get an email. I recommend that you find that because it helps you with parenting because the Internet has made parenting awfully difficult now days.”
O’Brien spoke of her early days as a journalist, the obstacles she had to overcome as a Black woman, and also the struggles of her parents as a mixed race couple. “My role model was Katie Couric,” she said. Adding that she scored big with her “In America” series because ” … it made a ton of money (for the network) and that was good business. Succeeding is the best strategy.” O’Brien concluded with a quote from Dantes: “The hottest place in hell is reserved for those who, in times of a moral crisis, take a position of neutrality.”
Another alumna, Niki Dawson, from the 2010 DDA said, “Being a Disney alumnae means everything that was going on in the past means I’m accomplishing things in my life and everything that I am doing now is my motivation and it brought everything that was inside of me to the surface. My passion is toward motivating youth, trying to stay near Christ, and being a wholesome lady.”
Tracey Powell, executive champion of the program for Disney Parks & Resorts, added, “I have been a part of the Disney’s Dreamers Academy for the past five years; it is a perfect platform to further the goal, shared by Disney Parks, Essence Communications and–it goes without saying–by Steve Harvey, to give back to the community and to inspire these 100 youth who are here with us this weekend. We are genuinely excited about the possibilities ahead to take the initiative to the next level, and to explore the possibilities of what they (the youth) would like to do in the future.”
Next alumnus present was Princeton I. Parker from the 2011 DDA, who is presently a student at the USC Annenberg School of Communications. To get to the DDA, Parker said, “I went through the application process for the academy, which required me to tell my story: the specific aspects of my life that has shaped my dreams and my particular interests. And obviously they saw something in my representation of myself to bring me here; and at the time that I came here for the first time, I was actually at the height of the college application process: the waiting game. I had applied to many universities and USC was my number one. It is a blessing.”
Taylor Thomas from the 2009 DDA attends Southern Illinois University and is majoring in Spanish with a minor in Marketing and Advertisement. Presently, she is a cast member with the Disney College Program.
After Dr. Steve Perry was introduced by Soledad O’Brien, he directed his comments specifically to the parents. He related how his school, (a college preparatory school) sends 100 percent of its students to college and his methodology of holding everyone accountable including the custodians. “If they don’t do their jobs, I replace them,” he said. “The key ingredient that makes the school work is love … tough love. Parents need to audit their resources to find out what they have to help them with their children.” He summed it up by saying, “A dream without action is just sleep.”
Reggie Jarrett, a 32-year veteran at Disney and the director of production at Disney World Entertainment, said about the DDA, “We work with our marketing partners, and they come up with the idea and the concept, and we started working on how to produce the event; I had a producer sign the show’s director and then … it’s one of those things when you see it … I want to be a part of that. It just evolved. I wanted to get involved. So they invited me and I wanted to be one of the speakers, and I’ve been here from the first year, and I talk about entertainment. We hope the impact (on the young people) is: have a dream, but follow your dream to the end.”
And by the last day of DDA–all the Dreamers that Harvey selected for his program were inspired to go out and follow their dreams. One Palmdale, CA high school senior Jose Favela, Jr. said that when he came to the Dreamer’s Academy he wanted to focus on civil engineering. However, inspired to follow his dreams–he’s decided to pursue a career in the fashion industry and he said: “This is an amazing experience that Steve Harvey gave us … actually I think it should be open to a lot of kids because they need to hear this so it could open their mind–and they could actually believe in their dreams.”
After the commencement on the last day, the Dreamers were motivated to Dream On!