“I’m Going to Disney World!” Teens Surprised Live on “Good Morning America” with Mentoring Trip to Disney Dreamers Academy

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Jan. 15, 2018 — Five high school students were surprised live on “Good Morning America'' today with the announcement that they were selected to be part of the exclusive Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and ESSENCE Magazine.

Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney World Resort executive Tracey D. Powell joined the “Good Morning America'' hosts and the studio audience for the surprise moment. National TV personality Steve Harvey also congratulated the teens on their accomplishment with a video message.

Five high school students are surprised live on "Good Morning America" in New York City Monday, Jan. 15, 2018 with the announcement that they were selected to be part of this year's exclusive Disney Dreamers Academy event with Steve Harvey and ESSENCE Magazine at Walt Disney World in Florida. The students include Ayanna Adams of Los Angeles; Christiana Oka for of Houston; Marquis Thomas of Virginia Beach, Va.; Ava Marie Easter of Los Angeles and Sean Smith of Basking Ridge, N.J. In March, as part of Disney Dreamers Academy, a total of 100 pre-selected students known as "Disney Dreamers," will embark on a journey throughout the Walt Disney World theme parks for a fun and educational experience to discover new careers and pursue their dreams. (ABC/Paula Lobo) L-R: CHRISTIANA OKAFOR, AVA MARIE EASTER, MICKEY MOUSE, PAULA FARIS, SEAN SMITH, TRACEY POWELL, MARQUIS THOMAS, AYANNA ADAMS
Five high school students are surprised live on “Good Morning America” in New York City Monday, Jan. 15, 2018 with the announcement that they were selected to be part of this year's exclusive Disney Dreamers Academy event with Steve Harvey and ESSENCE Magazine at Walt Disney World in Florida. The students include Ayanna Adams of Los Angeles; Christiana Oka for of Houston; Marquis Thomas of Virginia Beach, Va.; Ava Marie Easter of Los Angeles and Sean Smith of Basking Ridge, N.J….

Surprised live on-air were Ayanna Adams from Los Angeles, Christiana Okafor from Houston, Marquis Thomas from Virginia Beach, Va., Ava Marie Easter from Los Angeles and Sean Smith from Basking Ridge, N.J.

The students, who were handed T-shirts featuring the program's new logo during the surprise moment, are among 100 extraordinary youths from across the nation announced by Disney today to participate in its immersive, transformational four-day program, March 8-11, at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

The program, which is entering its 11th year with a new “Be100'' campaign, highlights Walt Disney World Resort's continued commitment to the next generation of teens by inspiring them at a critical time in their development to make a difference in their lives and to relentlessly pursue and realize their dreams.

“Each of these 100 girls and boys has proven themselves to be exceptional as students and as human beings, so it's an honor to have them join us at Walt Disney World Resort,'' said Tracey D. Powell, Walt Disney World Resort vice president of commercial management – resorts and Disney Dreamers Academy executive champion. “It is our hope that this potentially life-changing program will help create the next generation of great dreamers and achievers.''

Participating students, known as “Disney Dreamers,” embark on a journey throughout the Disney theme parks and behind the scenes, turning the vacation destination into a vibrant classroom for students to discover new careers, pursue their dreams and interact with Harvey and other motivational speakers and celebrities. Among the celebrities who have participated in the past are singers Patti LaBelle and Mary J. Blige, NBA legend and business mogul Magic Johnson, gospel music star Yolanda Adams, NFL superstar Cam Newton, plus TV personalities such as “The Chew'' co-host Carla Hall, “Good Morning America'' co-anchor Michael Strahan and ABC correspondent T.J. Holmes.

Additionally, students participate in hands-on, immersive career-oriented workshops, ranging from animation to zoology. Each student is given important tools such as effective communication techniques, leadership skills and networking strategies.

“Inspiring our youth to dream big and chase those dreams is a personal mission,” said Harvey. “Having a dream is one of the most important things in life. That is why engaging with these students is an annual highlight for me, and the 2018 Disney Dreamers Academy will be no exception.”

Since 2008, Walt Disney World Resort has provided all-expenses-paid trips to more than 1,000 students, plus a parent or guardian, to participate in the annual Disney Dreamers Academy.  The students are selected from thousands of applicants who answered a series of essay questions about their personal stories and dreams for the future.

“At ESSENCE, we are committed to impacting the leaders of tomorrow,” said Michelle Ebanks, president of ESSENCE Communications. “Every year, we continue to be impressed by the exceptional students selected for Disney Dreamers Academy, and it is our privilege to play a role in encouraging them to achieve their goals.''

For more information, visit DisneyDreamersAcademy.com. Regular updates about Disney Dreamers Academy are also available on social media at Facebook/DisneyDreamersAcademy or Twitter/DreamersAcademy.

Here are more details about the five students surprised on “Good Morning America'': 

Ayanna Adams, 16 – Los Angeles Adams's father was incarcerated when she was 6. Inspired by her mother's work ethic and commitment, Adams started working at 13 to help support her family. Despite juggling work and school, Adams currently holds a 3.2 GPA and dreams of going to college to earn a job that will allow her to take care of her mother.

Ava Marie Easter, 14 – Los Angeles Easter is both an accomplished student and dancer.  Despite her family experiencing homelessness in the past, Easter's spirit has always remained strong. She has earned acceptance to both the LA County High School for the Arts and Millennium Dance Complex to pursue her passion. She dreams of going to Julliard and studying biology at Columbia and Barnard.

Christiana Okafor, 16 – Houston Okafor dreams of becoming a doctor, graduating as valedictorian and attending an Ivy League School. Currently, she has a 4.3 GPA and is involved in numerous extracurricular activities. She was recently nominated to represent her home state of Texas at the Congress of Future Medical Leaders. Inspired by speakers at the conference, she hopes to one day make breakthroughs to help those suffering from autoimmune diseases with no cure.

Marquis Thomas, 15 – Virginia Beach, Va. Recognized as the Virginia Beach Youth of the Year for his work in the local Police Explorers program, Thomas dreams of working in law enforcement. He is inspired to fight crime after the uncle that served as a father figure to him was killed.

Sean Smith, 14 – Basking Ridge, N.J. An encounter with a real-life war hero inspired Smith to pursue a career in aviation. He attended an event where Tuskegee Airman Eugene Robinson was a speaker.  After the event, Robinson gave Smith the uniform hat off his head and signed it. That moment led Smith to follow in the footsteps of the Tuskegee Airmen and he has been taking flight lessons since 6th grade and is a member of his local aerospace club. 

The 100 students selected to participate in the 2018 Disney Dreamers Academy are:

MIDWEST

Mariah

Barnett

Aurora

IL

Tabitha

Willis

Country Club Hills

IL

Tamera

Trimuel

Harvey

IL

Jayvion

Rice

Riverdale

IL

Chloe

Russell

Indianapolis

IN

Derrick

Lotharp

Belleville

MI

John

Garrett

Beverly Hills

MI

Anna

Sun

Canton

MI

Joshua

Fields

Detroit

MI

Kyle

Mcbeth

Southfield

MI

Elena

Hirsch

West Bloomfield

MI

Boston

Meeker

Hudson

OH

Colston

Urban

Marietta

OH

Brooklynn

Gross

Sioux Falls

SD

Rahsaan

Roberson-Teague

Milwaukee

WI

NORTHEAST

Darius

Martin

Hamden

CT

Thomas

Cahill

Canton

MA

Matthew

Thompson

Canton

MA

Lillian

Carr

Clarksburg

MD

Nina

Crosby Walton

Frederick

MD

Ryan

Steed

Glenn Dale

MD

Maria

Gakdeng

Lanham

MD

Sean

Smith

Basking Ridge

NJ

Kathryn

Stevens

Hornell

NY

Maxwell

Haseman

Carlisle

PA

Angela

McKeown

Edwardsville

PA

Brijette

Brown

Philadelphia

PA

Aneesah

Robinson

Philadelphia

PA

SOUTHEAST

Skylar

Boone

Dothan

AL

Braxton

Hunt

Mobile

AL

Victoria

Hardy

Pike Road

AL

Destyni

Newson

Tuscaloosa

AL

Malachi

Hobbs

Cocoa

FL

Lebarron

Johnson

Jacksonville

FL

Andy

Rajkumar

Ocoee

FL

Eamilia

Barrington

Orlando

FL

Q Markis

Brooks

Port St Lucie

FL

Jackson

Stewart

Port St Lucie

FL

Madison

Smith

Riverview

FL

Giulietta

Schutte

St Petersburg

FL

Luis

Lageyre Rivas

Weston

FL

Sally

Campbell

Zephyrhills

FL

Sarah

Oburu

Acworth

GA

Celeste

Giddens

Atlanta

GA

Jazzmyne

Ashworth

Calhoun

GA

Jaterria

Hicks

Cartersville

GA

Joshua

Brown

Darien

GA

Joshua

Boyce

Hampton

GA

TaMya

Woodard

Lawrenceville

GA

Ariel

Dildy

Lithonia

GA

Ashton

Peoples

McDonough

GA

Deka

Bonner

Snellville

GA

Kelli

Crews

Stockbridge

GA

Lauren

Moyer

Stockbridge

GA

Kayla

Brown

Suwanee

GA

Chasidy

Moore

Valdosta

GA

DeLon

Henderson

Woodstock

GA

Jimmy

Shaw

Winnsboro

LA

Sarah

Hardy

Bentonia

MS

Jordan

Purvis

Durham

NC

Joshua

Hill

Greensboro

NC

Jessica

Dickerson

Huntersville

NC

RoethaKijafa

Hunter

Winterville

NC

Angel

Cooke

Camden

SC

Casey

Carter

Columbia

SC

John

Jeffery

Columbia

SC

Destiny

Gadson

Cross

SC

Mia

Williams

Florence

SC

Tyler

Parrott

Mount Pleasant

SC

Jhamar

Rivers-Bradley

Summerville

SC

Aaliyah

Sweat

Murfreesboro

TN

Wyatt

Carter

Chesterfield

VA

Stephanie

Brown

Manassas

VA

Kody

Frye

Manassas

VA

Isaiah

Wilson

Portsmouth

VA

Jordan

Anderson-Murray

Richmond

VA

Sarah

Schaefer

Stafford

VA

Marquis

Thomas

Virginia Beach

VA

WEST/SOUTHWEST

Hudson

Osborne

Hayward

CA

Nada

Dalati

La Verne

CA

KeiLana

Wall

Lodi

CA

Ayanna

Adams

Los Angeles

CA

Omarri

Beck

Los Angeles

CA

Ava Marie

Easter

Los Angeles

CA

Sheila

Milon

Los Angeles

CA

Jervaughn

Gaines

Murrieta

CA

Insun

Choi

Riverside

CA

Anh

Le

San Jose

CA

Madelyn

Necochea

Temecula

CA

PhuongUyen

Nguyen

Torrance

CA

Maia

Dua

West Sacramento

CA

Moyleang

Taing

Bridge City

TX

Ryan

Solis

El Paso

TX

Taylor

Hayes

Houston

TX

Christiana

Okafor

Houston

TX

Toi

Williams

Plano

TX

Julian

Hudspeth

San Antonio

TX

Luckaia

Strand

Cedar City

UT

Natasha

Rodriguez

Centralia

WA

Mikayla

Weary

Edmonds

WA

About Walt Disney World Resort/The Walt Disney Co.:
Walt Disney World Resort is a contiguous 40-square-mile, world-class entertainment and recreation center located at Lake Buena Vista, Fla., 20 miles southwest of Orlando. The Walt Disney Co. has a rich legacy of creativity and exceptional storytelling that brings families together in unique and memorable ways. Creative excellence is coupled with a strong commitment to community service and diversity. The Walt Disney Co. is dedicated to making a positive impact in communities around the world, with a primary focus on brightening the lives of children.

About Steve Harvey:
Harvey is an author, actor, producer and comedian. Currently, he is the host of the nationally syndicated radio program, “Steve Harvey Morning Show” as well as host and executive producer of multiple television shows including “Funderdome,” “Family Feud,” and “Steve.”

About ESSENCE Communications Inc.:
ESSENCE Communications Inc. (ECI) is the #1 media company dedicated to African-American women, with a multi-platform presence in publishing, live events and online. The company's flagship publication, ESSENCE magazine, is the preeminent lifestyle magazine for African-American women; generating brand extensions such as the ESSENCE Festival, ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood and Black Women in Music, Window on Our Women and Smart Beauty consumer insights series, ESSENCE.com, and ventures in digital media (mobile, television and VOD). For 45 years, ESSENCE, which has a brand reach of 14.1 million, has been the leading source of cutting-edge information and specific solutions relating to every area of African-American women's lives. Additional information about ECI and ESSENCE is available at www.essence.com.

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SOURCE Walt Disney World Resort

Related Links

http://DisneyDreamersAcademy.com

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