Earlier this month, the Disney Dreamers Academy, in conjunction with Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine, brought together a field of talented young people and their parents from across the country to Disney World Resorts for a four-day mentoring and educational retreat.  Along with Harvey and the brain trust of Essence magazine, there were a slew of people from across the creative spectrum that participated in panels, workshops and to impart nuggets of wisdom to the talented young people.   

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(Photo Credit: Bossip.com)

Among them were actor Lamman Rucker, actress and talk show host Tamara Mowry and actor Lance Gross, who participated in a panel moderated by comedienne Lonnie Luv, alongside film producer Will Packer, Silento, legendary rapper MC Lyte and Yolanda Adams for a discussion titled a Lil’ Positivity.

“I remember my sister and I telling my Mom, we want to act. My Mom said ‘You know what girls. We can’t do it in Killeen (TX), but maybe we can do it in Los Angeles,” said Mowry of her ascent to celebrity status and her family’s emphasis on education. “If you get good grades, then maybe we can go out there for a month and see if it’s for you.  We did that and got 'Sister, Sister,' which is amazing because we didn’t have any acting experience.  All we had was faith in ourselves and faith in our dream.  Our Mom always taught us that education was very, very important.  After we did 'Sister, Sister', my Mom thought it was okay to hold off on acting for a little bit because she always thought that you should have a plan A, B and C just in case something just doesn’t work out.  So, we went to college. I graduated with a Psych degree with honors then I went back to acting. I can do anything that I want if I put my mind to it and challenge myself.”


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(Disney Dreamers Academy attendees, Photo Credit: IamSteveHarvey.com)


Actor Lance Gross has been a name on the rise for some time with such works as The Last Fall, "Meet the Browns" and "House of Payne" under his belt.  He told the collective audience of a decision he had to make very early on to get to where he is now.  As is the case with many young Black males, sports were initially his ticket but that changed.

“For me, Track and Field was something that I liked doing," said Gross. "But acting was something that I always wanted to do and I was in love with it. So, I got a full scholarship to Howard University. I held education very high on my list. So, that’s something that I wanted to do.  I went to school, graduated and got offered a contract for Track and Field, but that love for acting made me want to go to L.A. and pursue it.  So, that’s what I did. I chose acting over track and I am happy to be doing what I do.  I wake up every morning excited to go to work.  I don’t feel like I would have felt that way for track. I couldn’t see myself running for the rest of my life.  I’m doing what I love."

Actor Lamman Rucker (Why Did I Get Married, The Man in 3B) spoke of how his family’s emphasis on education, activism and artistry inspired him to become the person he is today. However, like Gross, he too thought sports was the way to go.

"Both of my parents are also artists but also educators and activists, like me," said Rucker. "A lot of what I am doing now is also about the environment and the type of community that I grew up in. (My sister and I) are used to being kids with these kinds of adults around.  It’s really interesting to see it come full circle. For us, we grew up in an environment of creators, activists and educators. Now it’s really just a natural progression. That creative spirit is nourished and education is required of you. Self-discipline, self-control and self-determination that’s required to do what it is that we were required to do, when those types of things are nourished at a young age it’s really inevitable that I came to acting."

"I have degrees in other areas as well, I played ball semi-professionally after college, but similar to Lance it was kind of like ‘Do I really want to do that?’  But, to do that there’s some sacrifices you’re going to have to make.  I had the opportunity to go back to school for free and it was either do that, play basketball overseas or do this NFL thing, what is my heart telling me to do? What do I love?   I had to realize where God was directing me and that was always toward service.  For me, the best way to serve was through being a teacher and an educator and an artist. All the blessings that I’ve been given, all I’m really doing is channeling it.”