Did I just hear someone say Welcome Home?, I thought to myself, head buried in my cell phone as I checked emails on the bus ride from Orlando International Airport to Animal Kingdom Lodge, one of Walt Disney World's world-famous resorts. Nah.
Having just dropped off a large group of overtly peppy cheerleaders and their chaperones for what I learned on the ride over is the annual All Star Cheerleading Championships, I was on Disney's Magical Express alone as it entered the gates into Animal Kingdom Lodge. To be honest, I hadn't really tuned in to my surroundings...just yet.
Welcome home!, I heard (again?) from a perky young lady dressed in safari gear as I exited the bus and stepped into the lobby completely abandoning all emails, wide-eyed and smiling. Thank you, I said quietly as I was led to the Reservations Desk finally taking in my surroundings. This is quite lovely, I thought. Niiiiice.
I'm here, folks. I'm here at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida for the 6th Annual Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine. I am staying at the African-inspired Animal Kingdom Lodge; but, more importantly, I am shadowing 100 high school students selected out of 5,000 applicants as they are encouraged over the next four days by Steve Harvey, Disney executives and a host of accomplished professionals and celebrities to DREAM BIG. And wouldn't you know it? Dreaming big + kids with dreams is just SO up my alley.
“It all started with a mouse.”
And while tomorrow is another day entirely, I have now been here for just over 24 hours and in those 24 hours, I have eaten, slept, laughed, cried, listened, watched a parade, been introduced to the Dreamers and their parents, taken pictures, met writers, bumped into colleagues, and have had the red carpet rolled out for me by Disney and my personal Disney Rep, Joni. Welcome home indeed.
|Mickey is always there to greet you.|
|Outside my room window lies the savannah. Can you spot the animals?|
|Steve Harvey addressing everyone at the Official Welcome Reception|
|Disney Dreamers Champions/alumnae (blue shirts) + 2013 Disney Dreamer (red shirt)|
|Steve Harvey's son interviewing a Disney Dreamer|
|Senior Editor of Essence Magazine Tanisha Sykes with some of the Disney Dreamers interested in journalism.|
|A proud dad and his Disney Dreamer son|
|A Disney Dreamer and her biggest fan: Mom|
|Disney parade introducing the Dreamers 2013 at the Magic Kingdom!|
|(Left to Right) Tracey Powell, Disney Dreamers Academy; Mikki Taylor, Editor at Large, Essence Magazine; Mickey Mouse; Steve Harvey; Yolanda Adams|
|The Happiest Girl on Earth|
This is Part I of a multi-part humanity series on the Disney Dreamers Academy. Click here for Part II.