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 9-12. It’s a unique career-inspiration program for distinguished high school students from across the U.S.
Rodney Belcher, Alexandra Philip, and Jhalen Spicer, 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 teens 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 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.
Rodney Belcher (Plano) is a senior at Plano Senior High School who has a passion for engineering and coding. He’s even the captain of his school’s Robotics Team. Rodney’s involved in the Coding Club, Young Men’s Service League, the Student Council Organization and varsity basketball. Rodney’s dream is to be an officer in the cybersecurity division of the Air Force so he can help lead the war against terrorist hackers.
Alexandra Philip (Plano) is a junior at Plano East Senior High pursuing an International Baccalaureate diploma with a STEM (engineering) emphasis. Her extracurricular activities include National Honor Society, French Club, Key Club and the NASA High School Aerospace Scholar program.
Alexandra’s passion is flying and she earned her student pilot’s license and she’s currently working on flying solo. She plans on attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and major in Aerospace Engineering and Astronomy with a minor in Flight. She hopes to become an astronaut and travel to the International Space Station or even Mars.
Jhalen Spicer (Lancaster) is 14 years old and a freshman at Greenhill where he’s a running back for the football team. He’s interested in studying law and business at TCU, University of Texas, Baylor or Oklahoma University. He wants to pursue a career in law so he can fight for what’s right and change people’s lives.
During their four-day stay, the teens 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 called “Deep Dives.”
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 chaperones, 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, along with alumni from the Disney Dreamers Academy over the past 10 years.
Of course, the Texas teens gave a big shout-out to Dallas when they walked by in the procession.
Rodney, Alexandra and Jhalen’s faces shone brightly towards 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 teens and their fellow Dreamers were escorted to The Land conference auditorium at Epcot to participate in the opening session.
Hosts Steve Harvey, Michelle Ebanks, President Essence Magazine and Tracey Powell, Vice President of Walt Disney World Resort and Disney Dreamers Academy Executive Champion, were on hand to welcome the teens.
Harvey reminded the Dreamers of how special they were because “they saw in you the qualities of a leader and a dreamer.”
Powell 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 four-day experience was capped off with an emotional Ring Ceremony.
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.
I’m certain my hometown group of distinguished Dallas teens collected unforgettable experiences and incredible memories that will surely fuel their dreams for years to come.
Disclaimer: Walt Disney World Resort provided access to the Disney Dreamers Academy. The thoughts and opinions are my own.