Since my family and I are regular visitors to Walt Disney World Resort, we know that it is magical place where dreams come true.
That’s why it was such a treat to see a special dream become a reality for three kids from my hometown who were selected among 100 deserving teens across the country at Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and Essence March 3–6.
Athena Buress, Kenedi McCormick and Jarielle Nabors, all from the suburban Dallas area, were selected out of thousands of applicants and received an all-expense-paid trip to attend the academy with their parent or guardian.
The girls experienced a once-in-a-lifetime educational and mentoring program designed to inspire them to dream big and discover the world of possibilities that will help prepare them for their future.
While at Epcot’s World Showplace, I had a chance to catch up with these accomplished Dallas teens to find out more about their personal hopes and dreams.
Athena Buress (McKinney, Texas) is a freshman at Ursuline Academy of Dallas where she is part of the school’s swim team. She’s involved in the YMCA Youth and Government program and she’s also a member of Drama and the Refugee Awareness Club.
Athena, along with a couple of her friends, started a charity called The Sunshine Girls. The group is working with a children’s hospital to make art baggies for children in the hospital. She hopes to attend Harvard and pursue a medical degree. Athena’s dream is to become a neurosurgeon when she grows up and volunteer for Doctors Without Borders.
Kenedi McCormick (Plano, Texas) recently moved to North Dallas and she plans to make a tremendous impact on numerous aspects of the world through broadcast journalism. After visiting with Kenedi, I learned that she’s not only passionate about journalism but also performing arts. Kenedi says that anything can be accomplished with true commitment and perseverance.
Jarielle Nabors (Mesquite, Texas) is a senior at John Horn High School where she will graduate with honors, and she’s a member of the National Honor Society. Jarielle is involved in numerous organizations in and outside of school including the Junior World Affairs Council, Speech and Debate Club and the Carver Heights Angelic Choir.
Jarielle’s plans are to become a philanthropist so that she can give back to her community and inspire other young adults to excel.
During their four-day stay, the girls were involved with mentoring programs where they had the chance to speak and learn from leaders in their respective fields through interactive workshops and seminars.
I tagged along with the Dallas Dreamers as they went on their “Deep Dives” with Disney professionals and experts at Disney University and throughout Walt Disney World Resort.
This gave me a chance to take a look through their eyes as they explored a variety of careers ranging from journalism to medicine.
While there was plenty of time for the Dallas delegation to learn about their chosen careers, Disney made sure they had a considerable amount of time to play. All of the Dreamers, along with their chaperons, also enjoyed the park’s rides, food, and, of course Mickey Mouse.
To kick-off the first day of festivities, there was a parade led by a marching band with Dreamers following close behind representing their cities. Of course, the Texas teens gave a big shout-out to Dallas when they walked by in the procession.
Athena, Kenedi and Jarielle’s faces shone brightly toward the crowd as they passed by me. Many teens rode atop floats or in buggies, while other Dreamers excitedly walked the parade on foot.
Later, the girls and their fellow Dreamers were escorted to the World Showplace East Hall at Epcot to participate in the Welcome Ceremony.
The first speaker was Vice President of Walt Disney World Resort and Disney Dreamers Academy Executive Champion Tracey Powell. She reminded the Dreamers of how special they were saying, “We saw in you the qualities of a leader and a dreamer.”
Tracey encouraged the Dallas Dreamers, as well as the other teens, to take notes from their mentors and to connect with people who shared their interests and aspirations.
The amazing experience was capped off with an emotional Ring Ceremony, which was hosted by Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine’s Mikki Taylor and Michelle Ebanks.
As part of the commencement ceremony, students were given rings by their parents. The rings were a symbolic token for the teens to wear so they would have a constant reminder of this remarkable experience when they returned back home.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the place.
And I’m certain my hometown group of talented North Texas teens collected unforgettable experiences and incredible memories that will surely fuel their dreams for years to come.