For Mary Yeboah, the thrill of potentially grasping her dreams became even more of a reality during this year’s Disney Dreamers Academy. Yeboah, a senior at Banneker High School in Fulton County Schools, said she dreams of becoming an OB-GYN and a professional singer.

Not only did Yeboah got a chance to talk about entering the music industry with Atlanta natives Chloe and Halle Bailey, recording artists signed to Beyonce’s Parkwood Entertainment label and stars of Freeform’s “Grownish,” but she also impressed a number of her Disney Dreamer Academy mentors so much that she was selected to receive the program’s Ne-Yo Entertainment Award during the Academy’s commencement ceremony.

Yeboah and another Dreamer, Anthony Juba-Richardson from Winter Garden, Florida, will get an opportunity to be flown out to Los Angeles, where they will meet with recording star and “World of Dance” host Ne-Yo to learn firsthand about what it’s like to record with a award-winning songwriter and producer.

“I aspire to make a global impact on the world by becoming an OB/GYN and a professional singer,” Yeboah explained in her Disney Dreamers Academy application. “During my free time, I enjoy serving my community and volunteer with Morehouse School of Medicine, Goodwill YES Program and my school resource center. I also sing for my church and school.”

Yeboah has also been involved in a number of extracurricular activities, including her school’s Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA), Student Government Association (SGA), National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS), NTS, Girl Up, chorus and debate and drama club.

The Disney Dreamers Academy, hosted March 21-24, 2019 at the Walt Disney World Resort, is an annual four-day, power-packed weekend of activities in which 100 select distinguished high school students—ages 13 to 19—become inspired, motivated and prepared to dream big.

The 100 students, including 14 from Atlanta, were immersed in a weekend program designed to empower, excite and inspire them to go after their dreams! For the first time ever, applications for the 2020 Dreamers Academy are available a year in advance.

Student participants from Georgia—the state with the largest number of students represented—included April Breedlove, Alania Broussard, Malik Carter, Makaya Clinton, Matthew Jackson, Myles Madden, Caleb Middleton, Patrice Roberts, Mikaela Sanders, Mary Yeboah, Benedict Zuzi, Henry Stephens, Sean Hanford and Devan Smith.

The fun kicked off with an opening parade through the Magic Kingdom down Main Street U.S.A through Liberty Square and Frontierland, featuring all 100 members of the 2019 Class of the Disney Dreamers Academy, Mickey, Minnie and friends, along with Tracey Powell—Vice President of Disney Parks and the Disney Dreamer Academy’s executive champion; “Essence” editor-at-large Mikki Taylor; as well as Marcus Scribner from ABC’s “Black-ish” and Trevor Jackson from Freeform’s “Grown-ish.”

Powell also announced on the Academy’s first day that applications for the 2020 Disney Dreamers Academy are now open, the first time in the program’s history that applications have been available so early.

High school students can now apply through October 31, 2019, for the chance to be among the 100 invited next spring to Walt Disney World for the four-day, all-expense-paid mentoring program.

“Being a part of Disney and serving as the executive champion for the Disney Dreamers Academy, I am so fortunate to be a part of such a phenomenal event,” Powell said. “It is so important to our brand to be able to give back to the community.

“For 12 years, (Disney) has been committed and we’ve committed again to doing this again next year,” Powell added. “The things that we really love about Disney Dreamers Academy is that it provides an opportunity to have 100 high school students come down to Walt Disney World to enjoy our parks and resorts, and really be able to go into their dreams.”

The Disney Dreamers Academy theme is “Be100,” encouraging teens to be positive, to be “all in” and to carry what they learn back with them, so they can achieve their full purpose and make a difference in the lives of others.

Students apply by answering a series of essay questions about their personal stories, the influential people in their lives and their dreams for the future. The final 100 participants are selected by a panel of judges.

Scribner and Jackson were among a slew of celebrity guests who interacted with Dreamers throughout the four-day weekend, that also included their co-stars Chloe and Halle Bailey, Miles Brown, as well as Academy Award-winning costume designer Ruth Carter, and JD McCrary, the voice of young Simba in 2019’s “The Lion King.”

Following the opening parade, the students participated in a packed weekend that also included an opening Networking Dinner, that gave students the chance to chat face-to-face with some of the biggest names in business and pop culture.

During the dinner, groups of students rotated through conversations with noted figures, discussing topics from school to social life to business before rotating to the next speaker.

The Dreamers also gained hands-on experience in their career fields as part of workshops, called Deep Dives. The Deep Dives gave the students the chance to learn from experts.

Workshops have included engineering students learning from Disney Imagineers and students interested in the entertainment industry being mentored by renowned Hollywood movie producer Will Packer.

Additionally, “Be 100” Conversations are talk show-style panels that allow Disney Dreamers to hear from and ask celebrities and executives how they achieved their dreams. The students and their chaperones also learned from a number of executive and motivational speakers, like Lisa Nichols, Brandy Harvey and Taylor, who shared professional and personal development insight in a number of planned sessions

“There is no greater legacy than to be a blessing or an influence on the lives of others,” Taylor said about the program of which she has participated in for the last 11 of 12 years. “Here at the Disney Dreamers Academy, I get to do that. That means that at the very least, I’ve poured into the lives of 1,100 students. To me, there’s no greater gift I can give to the future.”

“The path to your dreams begins with personal development so I talk with (the students) about self-perception—how they see themselves,” Taylor continued. “We’re now in a digital world and I don’t want them to get caught up in seeking outside validation. So I talk to them a lot about establishing a core foundation.”

Mickey Mouse welcomes 12 high school students from Atlanta, Ga. Thursday, March 21, to Magic Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. during the 12th annual Disney Dreamers Academy. The event, taking place March 21-24, 2019 at Walt Disney World Resort, is a career-inspiration program for distinguished high school students from across the U.S. (Todd Anderson, photographer)

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