By Guest Blogger Matthew Heid
DDA is a four-day workshop hosted by Disney, Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine at Walt Disney World each March. The academy is currently accepting applications for 2017 until October 31, 2016. Over 10,000 high school students apply for DDA each year, but only 100 are chosen, through a selective process based on your answers to three brief essay questions.
Just before Christmas, I received my letter from DDA in the mail saying that I had been accepted, I was super excited! I was of the 100 dreamers chosen! I spent the next few months befriending other dreamers on social media. I got to know a few of them pretty well and to this day we are still close friends.
March came quickly. I arrived at Walt Disney World the night before the academy started. The other dreamers and I stayed at Pop Century. Each dreamer could bring one parent or guardian. That night was the start of a long weekend that would change my life.
On the first day of the academy, the dreamers went to Magic Kingdom and were featured in the pre-parade with Steve Harvey. Some dreamers were on floats and others walked. We waved to the park guests and we walked from Frontierland to the entrance of the park. After the parade, we were given a couple hours of free time to enjoy Magic Kingdom – with fast passes loaded onto our DDA magic bands to ensure we could make the most of our park time.
Later that day, a bus took us to the World Showplace, a building located a backstage area of Epcot. Steve Harvey and other inspirational speakers gave us speeches about the magic and mentoring we would be experiencing through DDA.
For the next two days, we went to presentations by Steve Harvey and other speakers. We were also taken on “deep dives” where we worked alongside professionals and could see how they became successful. My dream is to be an Imagineer, so I was taken to Disney University along with a few other dreamers who also want to be imagineers. Disney University is the WDI headquarters behind Magic Kingdom. We worked with imagineers on designing attractions. This was a great way for us to practice our creative skills and picture our future. The speakers and professionals talked about what they did to make their dreams come true. It was great to be mentored by Imagineer Dexter Tanksley and learn how he became an imagineer.
Other dreamers worked alongside professionals from the fields they wanted to pursue – from chefs, to doctors, to dancers, musicians, and engineers. The Academy is not just for those who love Disney, but it is for anyone with a dream. Everything centered around Walt’s concept, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”
While the dreamers attended their sessions, the chaperones attended their own workshops receiving advice on how to help their dreamer achieve their goals. On the last day of the academy, there was a graduation ceremony. Mickey Mouse was on hand, Gospel icon Yolanda Adams sang, awards were presented and we received special class rings, presented by our parents. The four days I spent at DDA flew by, but the lessons learned will be with me for the rest of my life. For more information, or to apply visit www.DisneyDreamersAcademy.com.
Matthew Heid is entering his senior year of high school and hopes to continue on the path to Imagineering by majoring in graphic imaging in college and taking part in the Disney College Program. His friends know him as Matt, but to the several thousand fellow disnerds who follow him on Instagram he is known as Imagineer999.
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