Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Disney Dreamers Academy Continues to Make Dreams Come True

Be 100: Dream It. Do It.

*Walt Disney World Resort once again opened its enchanted gates to welcome 100 Disney Dreamers to develop their aspirations into reality alongside the guidance of Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine.

Now in its 12th year, the Disney Academy continues to develop new programs and partnerships that will motivate these outstanding high school students to Be 100 and empower them to make their dreams come true during the four-day mentoring program.

From L to R: Actors Trevor Jackson (Grown-ish), Marcus Scribner (Black-ish) and Mikki Taylor, Editor-at-Large of Essence Magazine, lead a special celebratory parade of 2019 Disney Dreamers Academy students and alumni from around the country at the Magic Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. to signal the beginning of the 12th annual Disney Dreamers Academy. Photo Credit: Gregg Newton, photographer

At the press conference Annette Gibbs, Walt Disney World Public Relations Manager highlighted that the academy gained additional high profile sponsors such as Citizen Watches, as well as, Zara, Uniqlo, Anthropology, and Johnston and Murphy all of who provided attire and accessories for the Style 101 and makeover sessions.

Tracey D. Powell, Vice-President of Pricing for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts and executive champion of Disney Dreamers, remarked at a press conference that she was at the genius of the academy and is an ardent participant of the program for all of its twelve years of operation.  Powell considered her position of an executive champion of Disney Dreamers as a passion job and was excited to share new additions to the program.  For instance, the dreams along with their parents or chaperones had the opportunity to experience an exclusive viewing of Disney Studios newest feature Dumbo directed by Tim Burton before it was released. “The movie is about overcoming obstacles and really going after your dreams, we will pull out pieces of that theme for this weekend,” Powell remarked. With each new class and before the start of each academy, Powell along with Essence Magazine and Steve Harvey set out to learn about the hopes and aspirations of this incoming class of dreamers and builds the program around their interests.  “We created a session on influencing and brand building. Dreamers will learn how to influence and how to build their brand.  They will be able to hear from experts in the field that aren’t that older than them [like] 23-year old Lauren Simmons who is a stockbroker on NYSE, and social media influencer and blogger Color Me Courtney,” explains Powell.  She went on to say that her team had also developed the Parent Track so parents would have the tools to continue to pour into their dreamers when they go back to their communities, as well as, for parents and chaperones to reignite their dreams they have for themselves.  Within the Parent Track, there would be several breakout sessions called Recipe for Success, Dream Walking, and a presentation from the United Negro College Fund.  Every year the Dreamers Academy grows in recognition, and numerous students across the nation submitted their essays in hopes to receive coveted spot in the academy and with 2020 nearing the corner, Powell announced that the application process for next year has officially opened which is the first time they have opened the submissions process so early in the year.

Mickey Mouse welcomes two high school students from Miami, Fla., on Thursday, March 21, to the Magic Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. during the 12th annual Disney Dreamers Academy.

Michelle Eubanks CEO of ESSENCE Communications, Inc. added that her publication’s continued support of the Disney mentoring program stems from her organization’s commitment to excellence that is needed to inspire young people to go boldly towards their dreams.  One of the ways Eubanks felt that her organization would continue to motivate dreamers was through the revamped journalism session. Formerly headed by Essence Magazine Senior Relationships Editor Charreah Jackson, the workshop is now led by newly appointed Chief Content and Creative Officer Moana Luu and Essence Entertainment Editor Director Cori Murray.  Luu has extensive experience in creating content by launching television channels and programs, web applications, websites and magazines that expanded globally. She has built an impressive worldwide presence by working in such places like Europe and Africa, and she was an enormous asset for the dreamers to glean insight from as they developed skills to pursue careers in journalism.

Also, Essence Entertainment Editor Director Cori Murray who has worked for the magazine for over twenty years worked alongside Luu to provide individual instruction to dreamers by presenting to them innovative ideas in the field of media.   “Cori Murray [is] one of our top editors on the team and we know media has changed. We want our dreamers to understand [the] consumer’s journey and how media and [the social environment] are evolving, what are those business models?  They will get hands-on experience of the very latest of what’s happening in the media business.” Eubanks went on to speak about Mikki Taylor who she described as the architect of Essence from the very beginning as the company’s former beauty director and said that Taylor is an expert who is passionate, inspirational and will bring the young women dreamers together in an intimate conversation in a segment aptly titled “The Essence of You.”  The pow-wow is a necessary component to the dreamer’s academy because as Eubanks explains, “We need to understand [our students] hopes and dreams, understand their fears so they can look past their fears and be with women who have gone through life themselves and who can share their journeys.”  Annette Gibbs also interjected that the young men dreamers would also have the opportunity to speak older male mentors to exchange real-life lesson in safe space, both sessions were off limits to the media so dreamers would have the freedom to express their transparency and vulnerability. Another valuable element that Essence added to this year’s academy was the involvement of their new owner Richelieu Dennis, Shea Moisture haircare and skincare products founder, who acquired the publication last year and created New Voices Fund a $100 million venture fund to support women entrepreneurs of color.  As a means to create a safe space for up-and-coming business owners to grow their enterprises, he purchased Madam C.J. Walker 34-room mansion in New York is converting it into an incubator for African-American women in business.  Dennis participating in this year’s academy to speak the dreamers about entrepreneurship was essential considering his tremendous accomplishment in developing a successful enterprise.

(l-r) Former Dreamer Doni Holloway, Tracey D. Powell, Marcus Scribner, Michelle Ebanks, Trevor Jackson, Former Dreamer Sanah Jivani, and Annette Gibbs.

While dreamers have access to rub shoulders and learn from captains of industry, they will also get to the chance to speak and meet their favorite celebrities like Trevor Jackson from grown-ish and Marcus Scribner from black-ish, both who crashed the media conference to express why they felt it was important to come to Disney and mentor the young students.  Trevor Jackson who is experiencing tremendous success in the film, television, and music industry opened up saying, “One of the most stressful things in life is feeling like you are alone and the things that you go through you are going by yourself, and one understands. But I think things like this, seeing where we come from and how long it’s taken us to get where we are, we had to go through the same struggles. I feel to hear that from somebody is truly inspiring and can change your perspective on where you are in life, and things are not as bad as they seem.”  Marcus Scribner piggybacked on Trevor’s comments and retold the struggles he was going through applying for college and working diligently on submitting his SATs and ACTs scores while juggling to complete his high school classes and working on his successful television series.  “I know how stressful that time is and I’m starting to panic right now, [and I have to be like] whoa, calm down Marcus it was last year. It was an immense struggle and like Trevor was saying we’ve both been through it and that it gets better; you will get into the schools you want to go to, and you will succeed,” said Marcus. Dreamers are constantly exposed to concepts of maintaining their determination, perseverance, and tenacity when following their desired goals in life but Annette Gibbs quickly reminded the young actors that hard work should be rewarded with a day a fun considering they are at Disney World, the most magical place on earth.  Trevor said he looked forward to downing numerous churros, riding the water rapids and making his heart drop on the Tower of Terror.  Marcus, on the other hand, expressed his chosen Disney vibe centers around roller coaster rides like Expedition Everest and aimed to avoid all animatronics because it freaks him out.  After taking a few pictures, both actors jetted off to grand marshal the Dreamers parade at the Magic Kingdom. As the conference was drawing to a close, four Disney dreamers’ alumni shared how the academy impacted their lives.  Class of DDA 2014 Doni Holloway, a graduate of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill with a degree in broadcast journalism is currently employed by Bloomberg News headquarter in New York and works in broadcast television.  He was also recognized as Student Journalist of the year by the National Association of Black Journalists and credited the academy for giving him the fuel to pursue his chosen career.  When he attended the program and participated in the journalism deep dive, he covered the opening ceremony for the dreamer’s newsletter and used that clip to land internships.  He stayed in touch with the mentors like Sonia Jackson Miles and Brandi Harvey for continued guidance and even shared a note he received from Steve Harvey that read, “Always believe in God, He’s always there no matter what.”  Those encouraging words are what Holloway often looked to whenever he faced numerous obstacles in college and especially when he lost his grandmother in 2017 who was his chaperone when he was a young dreamer. “I brought along her name tag with me to really feel like she is still here and she’s coming along for this experience.  I have her magic band that she wore during the academy, and as I wear my Disney Dreamers Academy ring, I’m reminded as I look at it the power all of our dreams hold in each of our lives and when we remain courageous and bold we can achieve all of our greatest dreams,” says Doni.    Sanah Jivani class of DDA 2015 is currently a senior of the University of Texas in San Antonio and will graduate in May and is scheduled to attend graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania in 2020.  Jivani honestly recounts how her life was profoundly changed when she attended the academy, “I was shy and felt imposter syndrome, and [like] why was I chosen I didn’t talk to anyone.” Jivani lives with alopecia and lost all of her hair at the age of 12, couple that traumatic experience with the constant bullying from her peers and it is understandable why she rapidly sunk deep into her insecurities. However the perception that she held of herself quickly transformed when she interacted with Brandi Harvey and her twin sister Karli Harvey-Raymond for the style makeover segment.

The twins placed Jivani in a bright yellow prom dress with a flower crown and taught her to strut across the stage with confidence.  When the time came for Jivani to showcase her transformation in front of her fellow classmates, she remembers the euphoric realization on how beautiful and confident she felt. “I thought to myself, that feeling no matter what I am wearing, that feeling of confidence is something I need to carry with me into every room I walk into, and that day I promised myself I would give myself more credit and walking in with that kind of confidence no matter where I was,” said Jivani.  As a result of her experience, she founded a non-profit organization called Love Your Natural Self Foundation that helps people develop confidence and self-love.  The last two alumni dreamers to speak were Kayla Jackson and Cedric Beal II.  Jackson class of DDA 2013 attributes Dreamers Academy with equipping her with the confidence, networking skills to co-found her company Pedul that she created while in college.  Pedul is a marketplace where students can use one application to apply to multiple local and national scholarships. Cedric Beal II class of DDA 2017 is an aspiring actor and a freshman at Morehouse College who created a non-profit that fights against bullying.  Without any hesitation in thought DDA cultivates young people of distinction and with a quick read through on the bio of the new class of dreamers they too will continue to meet that high bar of excellence.

(L to R) Emmanuel Lee from Teaneck, N.J., Amiah Adams from St. Petersburg, Fla. and Kynnedy Smith from Shaker Heights, Ohio pose for a selfie in front of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios during Disney Dreamers Academy. Photo Credit: Todd Anderson, photographer

Later in the day, dreamers had the opportunity to represent their hometowns in the pre-parade at the Magic Kingdom while at the same time a select group of journalist dreamers participated in an early deep dive with Entertainment Editorial Director Cori Murray to discuss how they would cover and report the event for the 2019 Disney Dreamer Academy newsletter.  Under Murray’s guidance, she gave useful journalistic tips and strategies on dreamers could shape this year’s newsletter. Murray encouraged the young writers to trust themselves that they have a story to tell, to allow their vulnerability to show, to create anecdotal imagery of their stories that will capture the reader’s attention, and explore various themes throughout the event that centered around dreams and overcoming obstacles.  Doni Holloway also participated in the deep dive and shared his experience with the dreamers by telling them to actively listen, be curious, and let emotion guide your interview.   Once the dreamers had gained an understanding of their assignments, they were whisked off to the Welcome Ceremony at the Epcot World Showplace.

High school students Patrice Roberts from Smyrna, Ga. and Alanis Broussard from Woodstock, Ga. engage in a journalism workshop Friday, March 22, 2019, during Disney Dreamers Academy at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Photo Credit: Todd Anderson, photographer



Disney Dreamers Newsletter Staff

The opening ceremony included such notable speakers like Maribeth Bisienere, Senior Vice President of Walt Disney Park, who told dreamers, “Understand the power of a dream, a wish is something you hope for, but a dream is something you pursue.” Grammy-award-winning gospel artist Yolanda Adams even stretched her comedic chops by imitating her friend Steve Harvey and told the young hopeful students to be excited, encouraged and for the dreamers to expand their horizons mentally, spiritually, and physically.  Adams ended her speech with, “As long as you are breathing that means God is not done with you yet.” The last to take the stage was Princeton Parker, a former dreamer class of 2011 and a member of Speakers Resource Group.

Disney Dreamer Alumni Princeton Parker greets students Thursday, March 21, 2019, during the welcome ceremony of Disney Dreamers Academy at Epcot in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Parker gave an energetic, uplifting speech to the dreamers and touched upon experiencing destiny moments which will have the power to cause you to sit next to the same people you admire.  He went on to say that each dreamer should maximize their destiny moments by accepting you belong at the academy, appreciate it, and to take advantage of all the opportunities the academy affords them. “Ask questions, meet people, don’t settle for a selfie go for wisdom, don’t go for a meet and greet, go for a connection, don’t go for a contact, go for a mentorship,” implored Parker. Later Mickey Mouse joined everyone on stage and sprinkled confetti on the new class of dreamers kicking off their exciting weekend.

Be 100: Be the Hero of Your Own Story.

On Friday, dreamers enjoyed a hearty breakfast and listened to a group discussion hosted by Motivational Speaker and Business Coach Becky Davis. The panel consisted of Mike Muse, Sirius radio host of the Mike Muse Show an co-host of Sway in the Morning, Courtney Quinn, Branding and Social Media Influencer and founder of the blog site Color Me Courtney, and Lauren Simmons former stockbroker and one of the youngest trader on the New York Stock Exchange. During their conversation, they discussed their dreams and how they overcame obstacles. One poignant point that Davis brought up was the proximity principle coined by author and career expert Ken Coleman which is the concept that states that whatever a person decides to do he/she must be in the proximity of people who are already accomplishing that particular task at the level an individual seeks to attain. Mike Muse, a former industrial engineer, decided to pursue a career in music and realized the only way he could meet people in the industry was to go where they are, and that was the Grammy’s so he hopped on a flight to attend the event. However, Muse encountered some slight problems, he had no ticket to enter the top-tier event, he had no contacts, his name was not the list for any exclusive parties, but he started networking and snuck into parties. The bottom idea as it relates to the proximity principle was Muse went to where his industry gathered so he could get his foot into the door. “Whatever industry you are interested in, don’t wait for anyone to usher you in, don’t wait for anyone to escort you in, and don’t wait to be escorted, never wait your time, go where your industry is and meet them there. Then show up and be your whole self and do then the work,” advised Muse.


(l-r) Becky Davis, Lauren Simmons, Adrienne Bankert, Mike Muse, Color Me Courtney at Disney Dreamers Academy.

Lauren Simmons followed in the same track as Muse, she went to New York after graduating from college and did not know anyone, but she understood the importance of creating a strong network. “If everyone in your network looks the same, same race, same gender, same age, how are they helping you to get to the next level? Although you don’t need people to get you to the next level, it is good to have a goal to reach up to and then once you’ve reached that person you find other people to reach up towards,” says Simmons.  She also expounded on the principle that the people a  person surrounds himself or herself with should not be ‘yes’ people, having people say ‘no’ will encourage humility and growth.  “For me, I went as far outside of my comfort zone as possible, I moved with no connections, and was told ‘no’ plenty of times, and I said I’m going to make this happen [and ended up] on the trading floor. I proved them wrong [and now] they were my ‘yes’ people. I know I thrive in spaces where I’m uncomfortable, and the moment I start getting comfortable, I have to make a new game plan,” explains Simmons.  Courtney Quinn shared that sometimes surrounding being in situations that are not ideal can be the most beneficial because that is the place where someone can learn the most from.  She also felt it is necessary before she requests value from another person that she can provide value in return, “Something I heard before is you don’t take something off the shelf before putting something back there.  I don’t want to ask for a favor, being able to network is not asking for a favor, [to network] it is being able to provide valuable conversation, showing up as your full self these things can really turn these conversations and your community into something of value. As you start to build your proximity principle I would encourage you to not look for one-sided relationships, you want relationships that can go both ways what can you bring to them and in return they can bring something to you, I think that is where you will build your community that will give you the most value.”  Most of Courtney’s audience was created online, and she was able to study other bloggers who were successful in the industry and emulate their strategies that they were utilizing and steering clear of patterns that she did not want to follow which aided her in her path to success.

High school students (L to R) Jasmine Bell from Charlotte, N.C., Corynne Rittner from Lovettsville, Va., Ian McKenna Goncalo from Austin, Texas and Gabrielle Williams-Pope from Accokeek, Md. engage in a culinary workshop.  Photo Credit: Gregg Newton, photographer

High school student Kaiya Simmons from Miller Place, N.Y. engages in a medical workshop Friday, March 22, 2019, during Disney Dreamers Academy at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The 12th annual Disney Dreamers Academy. Photo Credit: Todd Anderson, photographer


High school student Lucas Davis from Cibolo, Texas engages in an Imagineering/engineering workshop Friday, March 22, 2019, during Disney Dreamers Academy at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The 12th annual Disney Dreamers Academy.  Photo Credit: Todd Anderson, photographer

Mickey Mouse surprises high school students during an Imagineering/engineering workshop Friday, March 22, 2019, during Disney Dreamers Academy at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Photo Credit: Todd Anderson, photographer


Dreamers were immersed in deep dives that covered a gamut of careers like medical, engineering, journalism, and entertainment which were held at Disney University, as well as, various locations throughout the park.   Dreamers had the chance to get hands-on experience in their chosen careers and speak with experts in the fields.   Once the deeps dives were completed dreamers listened to speakers such as Mikki Taylor, Princeton Parker, and Chef Jeff who went to detail on how he made some poor decisions that caused him to end up in prison and allowed him to discover his passion in culinary.

The day ended with a session titled Family Dinner where dreamers sat a table with mentors and engaged in an honest discussion about life, career, and attaining their goals. Among the notable the advisors were Oscar winner Ruth Carter who spoke to the dreamers about costume designing in the film industry, Entertainment Attorney Ricky Anderson spoke to dreamers about law, and celebrity Chef Jeff gave his advice on how to become successful in the culinary industry.

Be 100% Yourself. Better Starts Now. Be On Purpose.

For Saturday, Brandi Harvey, founder of Beyond Her an online women’s lifestyle platform and her twin sister Karli Harvey-Raymond, founder, CEO, and Artistic Director of Young Fit and Fly, kicked off the morning with an Image Makeover session for the dreamer girls, concurrently Dr. Alex Ellis was schooling for the dreamer boys on how to professionally present themselves.  During the fashionable assembly, the twins showed various pictures with celebrities and asked the dreamer girls rate their outfits his paddles that had ‘Hmm’ or ‘Nah’ on opposing sides. During that time, dreamer girls expressed that they preferred comfort rather style.  They boasted of wearing bralettes, leggings, and Crocs much to the chagrin of fashion experts Brandi and Karli.  “I think comfort is cool, I’ve dressed people for comfort, I think comfort can be stylish, I think always dress for your body size and what works for you and not just because it’s on trend and in fashion doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. Focus on not only is it comfortable but does it look good.  Do you feel good when you wear it, do you feel you can take over the world if you have it on,” remarked Karli.

As Karli was giggling in the background, Brandi also weighed on dreamer girls need comfy chic, “I’m so over that.  There’s a time and place for comfort.  I feel like sometimes you gotta fight through some things.   Beauty is a little bit of pain.  We know that nobody wants to walk five miles in heels, however, when you put on heels you commit, you are committed to them.  Leggings aren’t going to be for every place, we heard leggings and Crocs and all that kind of stuff.  That’s cool sometimes, but sometimes you are going to put on some Spanx, you gonna have to get uncomfortable, you gonna have to suck it in, but that’s a part of it, looking good is not a want it’s a necessity.”

The major theme of the academy is the ability to dream and go after your vision.  Even with all the success they have experienced Brandi and Karli still dare to dream.  Karli envisions herself as a talk show host, a dream she’s had since she was ten years old and currently hosts a twin talk show on Instagram Live with Brandi on Sundays. “Life prepares you for a time yet to come, whatever God has placed inside of you, I think that time propels you to do what God has called you to do,” says Karli.  Brandi feels that she is living her dream, “The things I’m striving for is to continue to change the world and bring people the word of God in a way that is transparent and authentic.  And give people the opportunity [to see that life] doesn’t have to look a certain way, [they] do not have to dress a certain way, or talk a certain way.  You can be you, and God can use you and make you a vessel for his glory.”

Dreamer girls participated in a fashion show and walked the runway in threads and accessories provided by Zara, Anthropologie, Uniqlo, Johnston and Murphy, and the Disney Costume Department.  Afterward, both girls and boys participated in a Tie and Pearl Ceremony where Dr. Alex Ellis led male Disney representatives to help young dreamer boys learn how to tie a tie.  The young girls were given pearls, and the young boys were granted Coach Wallets during their style session, by the end of the event all dreamers were gifted with Citizen Watches.

Students learn how to dress for success during the Disney Dreamers Image Makeover on Saturday, March 23, 2019. Disney Dreamers Academy. Photo Credit: Todd Anderson, photographer

Later dreamers listened to empowering speakers, Dr. Steve Perry, founder of Capital Prep Schools, Sonia Jackson Miles, and Lisa Nichols.  Perry imparted to the young dreamers that while they may strive for success in the parameter of landing a lucrative job or growing a prosperous business, having an established family, but all of that means nothing if they are not seeking to impact another person positively. “Fame is fleeting. The names that are remembered the longest are the ones that made the greatest impact, you’re talented, go you, there are other talented people. What separates you [from others] is not your academic acumen, it is not the organization [you belong to], not the job you want, it is who you are as a person and what you do so other people’s lives are better.  The question you should ask yourself is what I [can] do to make other people’s lives better not just because it’s something I enjoy doing,” encouraged Perry.

As a renowned educator, he impresses on his students to work hard, to strive for excellence, and impact the world around them. However, with the recent college scandal in which actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman both bribed university officials to admit their children, Perry was asked what he says to his students on how to deal with an unfair playing field. “Our school’s theme is social justice most of our kids are Black and Latino, so we are constantly explaining to them that life ain’t fair and so get over it.  But don’t make it less fair by making dumb decisions on your behalf; don’t do something that will make it even harder for you. My kids know people do things that are crooked,” says Perry.  He went on to say that he was shocked at the collective surprise about the current college scandal, “I’m surprised that people are surprised, I’m almost shocked. I’m thinking did ya’ll really think that all those people who are famous were just smart? Did you really think all rich kids are smart?”  As an educator, he felt the silver lining concerning this situation is that it allowed the truth on how some kids can gain access to a quality education and he tells his students to use this negative, unfair example as a motivation to excel at school and in life.

As the dreamers processed the gems dropped by Dr. Steve Perry, the parents and chaperones participated in a session specifically geared to them and how they can continue to shape their dreamers but nurture the growth of their own goals. The first speaker was Sonia Jackson Miles, a former corporate executive with a career that spanned twenty years working for Ford Motor Company, Gillette, and Procter & Gamble. Before launching her organization The Sister Accord, her last corporate role was as Procter & Gamble’s Director, Global Packaging Purchases, where she was responsible for a $6B budget.  Now as the Founder, President, and CEO of The Sister Accord Foundation, she oversees 3 areas of focus:  educating girls and women, enlightening girls and women of the Power of Sisterhood and eradicating bullying and violence against girls and women.  She imparted her wisdom to the adults by declaring, “I cure dream phobia the ridiculous and absurd fear of [not] playing out fully in life, because we are more concerned with staying small to please others and playing safe to please ourselves rather than doing all that is necessary to our destiny.”

Motivational Speaker Lisa Nichols inspires 100 high school students during the 12th annual Disney Dreamers Academy.  Photo Credit: Gregg Newton, photographer

Following Jackson was renowned speaker Lisa Nichols who was once a struggling single mother on public assistance and turned her life around by becoming a millionaire entrepreneur as Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Motivating the Masses, Inc.  Nichols’s company is a personal and business development training organization that has transformed the lives of men and women, and shifted the trajectory of organizations throughout the country and globally.  As she commanded the stage, it is difficult not to lay witness to her warmth, as well as, her immense confidence and knowledge which permeates through each word that she speaks about her life experiences, but there was a time that was not the case.  Nichols retold a time in her life when she was 15-years old, and on a swim team and in every competition she always came in last.  Naturally, her self-esteem and confidence in her ability waned, and she spoke to her grandmother expressing her desire to quit the team, her grandmother responded, “Baby, I’m not sure you know your bloodline, your ancestors survived, picked cotton and died.  Quitters never win, and winners never quit.”  That conversation led Nichols to give swimming one more try, and she attended her next swim meet. But much to her chagrin, her entire family was in the bleachers because her grandmother told them to show up and support her.  However, the meet for her age group, the 15-16-year old freestyles had already occurred, but her coach pushed for her to swim in the 17-18-year-old category which she resisted at first.  Her coach told her that she needed the practice and while Nichols was on the edge of the pool she started to chant the words of her Grandmother “Quitters never win, and winners never quit.”  After the shot rang for the race to commence, Nichols hit the water all the while chanting, “Quitters never win, and winners never quit.”  When she finished her laps and hit the wall, she noticed one swimmer had just hit the halfway mark. Her coach ran to her screaming, and Nichols filled with confusion asked, “Coach, was I supposed to swim another lap?”  Her coach excitedly revealed to her that she broke the national record for the freestyle for the 17-18-year-olds.  When her coach asked her what she did differently, she told her coach the chant that she said to herself.

Motivational Speaker Lisa Nichols inspires 100 high school students during the 12th annual Disney Dreamers Academy. Photo Credit: Gregg Newton, photographer

Lisa told the audience the only variable that changed was the conversation she had with herself, “What conversation is going on in your head, you have the power to speak a whole another level of life into your future.  What you see today is a woman who chose to speak life into her future.  The lexicon is available to all of us, the English language is available to all of us, and possibility is available to all of us.  Your human spirit does not care about the story of your past; your human spirit is saying give me a command and let’s go get it.”  As she continued to hold onto the attention of the audience, she implored every person to understand that their lives and goals are not to just for their own use but to inspire and transform the lives of others, “You are finite, but the number of people you will inspire is infinite.  The moment I make it just about me, then I will never do anything big.”

Be 100 Conversations with Celebrity Panel.

For the celebrity panel dreamers had the pleasure to listen to their favorite entertainers.  Actors from Freeform’s hit show grown-ish, Trevor Jackson and Grammy nominated duo Chloe and Halle, Marcus Scribner and Miles Brown of ABC family comedy black-ish, and J.D. McCrary the voice of young Simba for Disney’s Lion King due out July 2019 all discussed how they attained their success moderated by ABC National Correspondent host Adrienne Bankert.

Actors from “grown-ish” Trevor Jackson and Chloe & Halle Bailey speak to Disney Dreamers during Be 100 Conversations With on Saturday, March 23, 2019. Photo Credit: Harrison Cooney, photographer

One of the many topics they discussed, confidence was decided as one of the critical qualities needed for an individual to attain success. Miles Brown advised the dreamers that they will hear a lot of “no’s” but they will have to strive continually to reach their goals.  Chloe and Halle leaned on their faith and assured the dreamers that “Everything works in God’s timing, everything happens when it’s meant to be and for the dreamers to trust their intuition.” Chloe understands the importance of holding and pursuing a dream, “Dreams are so important it’s the foundation to your motivation, and it’s what keeps you going every day.  My sister and I love to vision board and speak everything into existence, and that’s where dreams come from.” Trevor Jackson understands the journey to success is an arduous path but told the dreamers, “Keep your motivation and stay consistent. Steve [Harvey] said when we talked to the boys the other day about being consistent and how important that is, and no outside party should determine that [because] it comes from the inside out.  The positive message that I carry with me and my story will be heard if I’m the greatest at the things I do.  It’s something that pushes me, but I’m not trying to compare myself to other people.”

(L to R) Marcus Scribner from “black-ish”, JD McCrary from the upcoming “The Lion King” film and Miles Brown from “black-ish” speak to Disney Dreamers during Be 100 Conversations. Photo Credit: Harrison Cooney, photographer

J.D at such a young age has a career that most young actors would desire. When he was asked by Adrienne how he came about gaining his confidence, he credits having a strong faith in God, keeping a robust and supportive group of family and friends around him, like fellow actor Miles Brown, all these elements aids in him in his success.

(L to R) Marcus Scribner from “black-ish”, JD McCrary from the upcoming “The Lion King” film and Miles Brown from “black-ish” speak to Disney Dreamers during Be 100 Conversations. Photo Credit: Harrison Cooney, photographer


Ruth Carter was the last speaker and told the dreamers that when they are faced with challenges not to fear to ask for help.  Carter also announced that she would travel from Wakanda to Zamunda by signing on to create the costumes for Coming to America 2 for which she received a thunderous applause.  To conclude the panel discussion she was also surprised and presented with a golden Mousescar by Tracy Powell who congratulated Carter on her historic Oscar win at the 2019 Academy Awards for Best Costume Design for Disney Marvel Studio’s blockbuster film Black Panther. To cap of the evening, dreamers presented all they had learned during their deep dives at the Open Mouse.

Academy Award-winning costume designer Ruth Carter is honored with a “Mousecar” for her work on “Black Panther” during Be 100 Conversations. Photo Credit: Gregg Newton, photographer


Academy Award-winning costume designer Ruth Carter is honored with a “Mousecar” for her work on “Black Panther” during Be 100 Conversations. Photo Credit: Gregg Newton, photographer

Believe In the Power of Your Dreams Commencement.

(L to R) Founder of Young Fit & Fly Karli Harvey Raymond, Motivational Speaker Dr. Steve Perry, CEO of Simply Ellis Custom Clothier Dr. Alex O. Ellis, Mickey Mouse, Anthony Juba-Richardson from Winter Garden, Fla., Jasmine Bell from Charlotte, N.C. and Devan Smith from Marietta, Ga. pose for a photo during Disney Dreamers commencement.  Photo Credit: Todd Anderson, photographer

For the closing ceremony, three dreamers were given awards based on their involvement and contributions during the mentoring weekend. Anthony Juba-Richardson from Winter Garden, Fla., Jasmine Bell from Charlotte, N.C. and Devan Smith from Marietta, Ga. received awards during Disney Dreamers Academy commencement. To end all the activities the dreamers experienced during their adventurous and educational weekend, Steve Harvey took the stage at the commencement ceremony to deliver a word of continued hope.  He told the other dreamers who did not receive an award that it does not matter and will not determine if they will achieve their goals in life.

Steve Harvey poses for a selfie with Disney Dreamers during commencement. The 12th annual Disney Dreamers Academy. Photo Credit: Gregg Newton, photographer

Throughout his speech, an amalgamation of a comedic routine fused with motivational sermon, he riffed anecdotes, went off of tangents and teetered the line of dropping expletives in front of the dreamers and adult chaperones all the while having the audience rolling with laughter, which is what makes him great, it is his gift.  The idea of recognizing and using one’s gift was a theme Harvey prominently enforced; he encouraged the dreamers to recognize their gifts as the pathway to their success.  A gift, as Harvey astutely defined, is a thing you do the best with the least amount of effort and quoted Proverbs 18:16, that each dreamer has a gift that will make room for them and put in the presence of great men.  “Young people use your gifts. Young people follow your dreams. Young people shake them haters. Young people remember that every rough day you’ve had if you think about it you survived every last one of them. That you are battling a thousand, that God got you, that God got a great life for you, that God wants you to be an example, and He’ll take you if you use your gift, he’ll take you to places you’ve never dreamed you’d go,” said Harvey.  He continued to illustrate this point by declaring the success he has achieved in his life was due to his gift of telling jokes, and he has flipped his one gift into game shows, talk shows, movies, books, and standup routines.

To conclude his inspirational speech Harvey gave an example of how his gift afforded him the opportunity to converse with our forever President. “I interviewed President Barack Obama, how?  You tell me how? My ignorant behind, my not that good of Christian behind, this poor little boy out of Welch, Virginia with a stuttering problem the one that flunked out of school, the one that lived in his car for three years, explain to me how did I interview the greatest President we’ve ever had?  How did I interview the first black man that has ever led this nation? I’ll tell you how because I used my gift and my gift made room for me and my gift put me in the presence of great men. That’s a scripture, remember that, and thank ya’ll for coming,” and with that ultimate mic drop, Harvey exited the stage.

Parents presented their Dreamers with class rings during the Disney Dreamers Academy commencement at Walt Disney World Resort. Photo Credit: Gregg Newton, photographer

At the close of the ceremony, parents and chaperones presented their dreamers with commencement rings as tears streamed down some of their faces.  The room was filled with happiness, peace, and a deep sense of gratitude.  To finish the celebration, the cast of Lion King sang the dreamers home, leaving them with a great sense of accomplishment and purpose.

Disney Dreamers join Mickey Mouse, entertainer Steve Harvey, Vice President at Walt Disney World Resort Tracey Powell, Editor-at-Large at Essence Magazine Mikki Taylor and CEO of Essence Communications Michelle Ebanks.  Photo Credit: Gregg Newton, photographer

Registration for Disney Dreamers 2020 is now open until October 31, 2019. To register for the upcoming academy go to www.disneydreamersacademy.com



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