Last week, the Disney Dreamers Academy, with Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine, celebrated its 9th anniversary at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Every year since 2007, the Disney Dreamers Academy (DDA) selects 100 exceptional young people from many different racial and ethnic backgrounds, exposing them to industry leaders from multiple disciplines who tutor them in communicating, networking as well as instilling them with seeds to maintain self-confidence.
The students are drawn from a pool of thousands and vetted by the corporate leaders. Comedian, game show host and actor Steve Harvey has hosted the affair each year since its inception. He has been joined by gospel singer Yolanda Adams for seven years.
This year, celebrity Chef Jeff Henderson, actor Lamman Rucker, veteran lyricist and actress MC Lyte, actress Brely Evans, actor Lance Gross, actress Tamara Mowry, Dr. Steve Perry, Steve Harvey’s daughters Brandi and Karli Harvey, and a multitude of others were there to inspire the DDA Class of 2016.
Speakers, moderators and panelists also included the President of Essence Communications Michelle Ebanks, author and Essence Editor-at-Large Mikki Taylor, DDA Disney VP and Executive Dreamer Tracey Powell and pastor, orator and one-time Dreamer Princeton Parker, along with many other professionals who dedicated their time and energy to this worthy, four-day festival of uplifting enlightenment.
(Disney Dreamers Academy Class of 2014, Photo Credit: defendernetwork.com)
During the welcoming ceremony, Steve joked about some of the parents’ habits being detrimental to the growth of these precious resources.
Afterwards, Harvey, Yolanda Adams, and Princeton Parker held court over the assembled media in a roundtable Q&A discussion moderated by Michelle Ebanks.
When asked about his parenting acumen, Harvey answered with his signature candor.
“It’s a tough job parenting, especially when you’re successful because you’ve afforded your children a life that you didn’t have and it becomes difficult to parent from that perspective. I had to learn a different way from them. My daughters have been absolutely wonderful, Brandi and Karli. They are the joy of my life. They both run businesses of mine. Morgan did all my social media, my three sons…the rest of my kids ain’t nothing. I’m trying to stay upbeat with it but the rest of my kids and ain’t accomplish nothing. We just waitin’ on them. They comin’. The boys, they a little slow, but right now nothing. Nothing that we should talk about. Wynton is down here doing the Disney Dreamers Academy every year. He’s not flipping any money is what I’m saying.”
As the audience simmered from an eruption of laughter, Yolanda Adams chimed in.
“The one thing I always want for my daughter is for her to let her light shine how she wants to let it shine,” added Yolanda. “She can sing, she can dance, she can act. She’s fifteen years old in college prep. Doing AP collegiate work classes and all that. She’s the best of me and the best of her father, and I make sure that she knows that. Because she can sing, I’m not pushing her to sing. Because she can act, I’m not pushing her to act. I ask her everyday ‘How do you feel? What do you want to do today?’ Because those are the kinds of things that will make the relationship between both of us remain close. I don’t want to tell her ‘You have to do’ because no one ever told me what I ‘had’ to do. I chose gospel music because it was in my heart, no one ever told me I had to do it.”
High school junior K’deja Correa of Miami, Florida is interested in careers in Fashion Design, Photography and Journalsim. Talk about a triple threat! She told The Shadow League how DDA is inspiring her.
"It has been amazing. Not only have I gotten to network with some people and hear some incredible speakers, but also getting to network with the other dreamers. We’re all on different teams, I can be on the green team and she can be on the orange team, but at the end of the day we’re all wearing red shirts. We not only helped each other out on the social media challenge but we helped each other accomplish our dreams. I’m a junior so I’ll be applying for colleges early next year. I’m always looking for scholarships and considering new opportunities to network with other people to advertise myself and my talents. I’m planning on going to college in either New York or Georgia. New York it would be Parsons School of Art and Design and Georgia it would be Savannah College of Art and Design."
The affair, which ran from March 3 through March 6, was a rousing success among attendees and their parents as well. Dreamers learned of Walt Disney’s four C’s of success on the first day
There were 16 crash courses designed to immerse students in the industries of their choosing. The medical field, animation, sports media, acting, dancing, animal science, engineering and pharmaceutical science were some of the other subjects available.