The Making Of A Disney Dreamer

Disney Dreamers Academy

Dream Team. Atlanta area students pose with (L-R) Tracey D. Powell, Disney executive champion of Disneys Dreamers Academy, Steve Harvey and Mikki Taylor, editor-at-large for Essence Magazine/Photo by David Roark/Disney Parks via Getty Images

In 2017, the Disney Dreamers Academy (DDA) celebrated 10 groundbreaking years of bringing together 100 of the nation’s brightest minds and their parents annually for an immersive four-day program at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Created in 2007 in partnership with Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine, the Disney Dreamers Academy exposes youth and their parents to a chance of lifetime experience of hands-on workshops, mentoring, special entertainment, networking with established professionals and celebrities, and invaluable life-long personal and professional connections. The program is designed to inspire talented youth to dream bigger and put them on the path to their ambitious career goals.


Many of the Dreamers are African American youth who’ve often felt like their dreams were deferred. Growing up in poverty. Lacking a father at home. Bullied at school. Lacking confidence to pursue their goals or direction on how to achieve the seemingly impossible. The stories are all too familiar, but the Disney Dreamers Academy has successfully helped thousands of students change their narrative.

Students like DDA alum Princeton Parker. Parker began public speaking at two years old. Today, he speaks to youth groups and organizations all over the country and he credits Disney Dreamers Academy with showing him real examples of who he could become.

Or students like William Williams, a recent breakout DDA alum. The Norfolk, Virginia teen was bullied in school for being legally blind and living with albinism, a genetic condition that robs the skin of melanin. During the Academy, the once withdrawn William delivered a fully memorized seven minute poem addressing his bullies in front of the entire group of his peers and mentors.

William later performed that poem on the Steve Harvey Show, where Harvey also presented the Granby High School student and aspiring public speaker with a check for $10,000.

William Williams and his mother appear on the Steve Harvey Show.

The Academy gives each student the tools to begin making their big dreams a reality. More importantly, the Academy teaches students how to use those tools. “You go in with a dream and you leave with a dream and a plan.” That’s how Jonathan Sprinkles, a popular DDA mentor and speaker, likes to describe the magic that happens during the annual Disney Dreamers Academy.