For dreamers like Princeton Parker, sometimes, the shortest distance between possibility and reality are the relationships you build along the way. For the young preacher, along with hundreds of other future leaders with aspirations of greatness, the Disney Dreamers Academy proved to be the bridge to his success.
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It was never a question of what his life calling would be. The young prodigy gave his first sermon at just 4 years old on the Biblical story of David and Goliath. Now, he’s become an in-demand speaker whose sermons are some of the highlights of the very program that gave him the tools he needed to go to the next level. That program was the Disney Dreamers Academy.
Parker built up his dreams and his career foundation at Dreamers Academy.
The four-day inspirational, motivational, and educational mentorship event takes place annually at Walt Disney World, where young people are selected to participate in various programs and workshops to help them become “strong future leaders and believe in the power of their dreams.” Put on in conjunction with Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine, the program celebrates a huge milestone this year with ten years of helping young people realize their goals.
“When I tell you this program is life-changing, I really, really mean that,” Parker tells HelloBeautiful. “Every year, Disney sets out to pick 100 high school students to give them the opportunity of a lifetime to be exposed to new opportunities, all for the purpose of igniting the power of dreaming.”
Parker, who was one of those lucky students in 2011, is still involved with the program six years later. In fact, he is part of the team that helps select the new class of Dreamers each year, all because he believes in the value of Disney Dreamers Academy so much.
A large part of that value comes from the opportunity the Disney Dreamers Academy gives students to see what the future can look like — no matter where they come from.
“Disney is deeply invested in community and making a change,” he tells us. “For some of these students, it’s the first time they are in a room full of people who think like them, who want more like them. They refuse to settle for the status quo of their community or their household.”
Through mentors like Steve, Yolanda Adams, Terrence J, and alumnae of the Academy, the students not only get the chance to meet like-minded peers in an all-expenses paid trip of a lifetime, but also people who can help them through their journey.
“The people these kids get to interact with will change their lives because they not only inspire them, but they provide them the tools to make their dreams happen,” he adds. “The biggest blessing of the program for me was that it was my first time being at a place as big as Disney, seeing people doing what I wanted to do later in life who looked like me. And that was huge.”
That representation of his future self helped fuel Parker’s drive to succeed, he says. And it wasn’t just the big-picture lessons he learned that have helped him along the way. It was everything from learning how to dress like a professional to learning how to stay motivated.
“The Disney Dreamers Academy gave me the work ethic and confidence that I needed to succeed,” he says.
So how did he become a part of the program? He tells us his mother made sure he applied when she heard about it on Steve’s radio show.
“One of the best things about being a Dreamer is that you don’t have to be the kid who has a 4.0 GPA,” he tells us, noting Dreamers are comprised of people from all walks of life.
“There are really just two criteria that make a student a Dreamer — story and courage. It is a combination. Disney is a story-telling organization so what matters to them is how adequately someone is able to tell their story — what makes you YOU? Because, at the end of the day, our dreams are shaped by our stories.”
“We’re looking for people who can say, ‘This is who I am, this is how my experiences shaped me and my dreams,’” he concludes.
The deadline to apply for the Disney Dreamer’s Academy Class of 2017 is October 31. Students and parents interested in learning more can visit www.disneydreamersacademy.com for more information.