*The Walt Disney World Resort has long been called the place of dreams where our tired bodies can go and imagine another world, but recently, from March 3rd through the 6th, it was the place where a handpicked group of exceptional young men and women were selected to dream about changing their realities in this world and, by proxy, maybe change the entire world for the better.
Hosted by comedian/actor/radio personality Steve Harvey, along with Essence Magazine and Disney World, the purpose of the Academy is seemingly a simple one: teach young adults how to dream.
“Each year our goal is to equip Dreamers with the know-how to get started on their journeys in life,” said Disney’s Dreamers Academy Executive Champion Tracey D. Powell. “Disney’s Dreamers Academy gives these students inspiration to explore the countless possibilities they may never have imagined. Lives are changed at this program.”
Our Lee Bailey recently had a chance to catch up with one of the Academy’s attendees. He lives in Los Angeles and his name is Princeton Parker and he’s only 16 years old, but you wouldn’t know it by talking to him. Not one word of Kobe, Weezy or Nikki ever fell from his mouth, but what did drop were pure jewels.
“I’m a firm believer in predestination as far as life’s events are concerned so I came at it with the approach that I’m going to invest my life into this and if it’s meant to be then it will return itself,” said Parker when asked why he decided to put his name in the proverbial hat for selection in the program. Applicants had to submit two essays along with their application. “So, I did my best, I tried to convey the best I could as far as my story’s concerned. Then I left it into the hands of what was supposed to happen for me. I’m so ecstatic and grateful that that would be included in the plan for my life.”
Among the celebrities on hand to impart wisdom on the wide eyed participants were actress Raven Symone, who gave the commencement speech at the program’s conclusion, Steve Harvey, and Grammy-award winning Gospel artist Yolanda Adams among others.
“There were a lot of great events that were set up,” Parker told EURweb. “We had a bunch of great public speakers. They touched on not just dreaming, but how you present yourself and the power of image. There were some who spoke to the power of determination and getting through all the nos you might hear in your life. There were some who spoke to business conduct and some who spoke on more spiritual matters, and self confidence and things like that. It was all the inspiration and then connecting with young people from across the country who have these same goals and mindsets in achieving their dreams as I do.”
The children that were selected were handpicked and considered to be the cream of the crops. It should go without saying that they weren’t dummies by no stretch of the imagination. So, what types of things were imparted by the various workshops? After all, they’ve obviously been paying attention up to this point in their lives. The wisdom couldn’t have been brand new, could it?
“There were a lot of things that I definitely heard that were new and, as I was saying with the people that were there, for every child there, there was some information that was relevant and new knowledge and some that was confirmation of old knowledge,” he explained. “I actually believe in the old saying that things come to life when you hear them from someone other than your family. It’s interesting to go there and to hear these things, and I definitely heard a lot of new things. There were some things that were definitely spiritual, but there was one guy there, Alex Ellis, who presented a series on image. He didn’t just tell us how to dress for an interview he shared that the cuff of you shirt should not extend more than an inch to an inch and a half when it comes our of your jacket sleeve. Just little things like that were refreshing on how to present one’s self. We learned not only how to dream but how to work and achieve that dream.”
As long as some folks have been on this planet it’s kind of hard to believe they’ve heard of that whole sleeve thing. Well, actually not so much. It was news to Lee and myself as well. Parker went on to say, despite the presence of celebrities, this was no trip to Hollywood. It was strictly busy.
“Even from the student’s perspective the conference was in no way built towards the celebrities,” he continued. “It was not at all about celebrities. It was a band of people with this influence passing it on young people. Even in the sessions the young people had with Steve Harvey, all of the cameras were turned off. We were not allowed to take any pictures or any video because it was solely meant to impart something in our lives and not at all meant to impart any celebrity aspect into it.”
Other notable guests participating in the 2011 Disney’s Dreamers Academy included NFL athletes Brandon Jacobs, LaDainian Tomlinson and D’Angelo Williams; American Idol’s Ruben Studdard; BET’s “106 and Park” host Terrence J; Celebrity Chef Jeff Henderson; Disney Channel’s “Camp Rock” star Roshon Fegan; actors Chris Massey and Tamera Mowry; Curb Records Artist Kimberley Locke; Atlantic Records Artist Cupid; and educational authority Dr. Steve Perry.
And who was the African American Queen that was doing such a great job raising this young man to adulthood? None other than Princeton’s mother, Star Parker. She had nothing but praise for the program as well.
“Sometimes people do things, especially imparting knowledge to young people, and it’s for publicity,” she explained. “It’s for their own advancement or what have you. That is totally not what happened on this trip. They really cared and they wanted young people to know that they could dream big. They could be big and they could do things that society may have said they are not able to do. That was one of the most impressive things for me. Everybody just kind of put whatever it is they do on the outside and throughout the whole conference they just invested in those young people and the parents alike.”
We know the young brother is only 16 years old, but with such supreme insight on things, and a take-no-shorts guardian, young Princeton Parker is well on his way to success. And he’s right on time because the world could use about 1,000 more of him right about now. So, what can we expect to see him doing when he’s “grown up?” Well, he’s been doing that for about a year already.
“As we embark on this year as I turn 17 I will have completed a full year serving as a licensed minister for the Church of God in Christ,” said Parker. “Being in the ministry is something that I definitely would like to continue to do but, like I was explaining to someone down there, the secular world … the spiritual world. I like to look at it as one world. The scripture command says ‘Go ye unto all of the world and minister the gospel.’ I was expressing to someone that I would like ministry to be my purpose outright and for the communication of that to be my career outright. So, I think the combination of the two would allow me to accomplish my dream of fulfilling my purpose in spiritually fulfilling people across the globe and then fulfilling my career objective.”
Wow….so, what did your resident 16 year old do last summer? We’re not sayin’, but we’re just sayin’! Princeton’s certainly on it already and his energy has been focused by the Dreamers Academy like a ray of light through a magnifying glass.
“That’s what the weekend does. If nothing else, it inspires you do go do something and that’s the place where I am now,” continued Parker. “So, when you get home what do you do now because it’s more than wearing a T-shirt that says you been to the Dreamers Academy.”
The Disney Dreamers Academy featured over 20 workshops and awards were given to dreamers in 5 categories:
Creativity: “The Arts and Entertainment Award”
Courage: “The Community and Public Services Award”
Curiosity: “The Health and Sciences Award”
Confidence: “The Entrepreneurship Award”
Dreamer Role Model: “The Dreamer with the most incredible journey and potential.”
But, just as not everyone got an award, not everyone will be selected for the Academy next year. But Princeton Parker would like for that potential dreamer not to be dissuaded.
“You don’t have to go to Disney World to be a dreamer,” he implored. “It opened our eyes, but you can definitely be a dreamer from wherever you are across the nation. My own personal philosophy is actually the 3Ps that I deduced from the weekend and all that is is preparation, priority and purpose. You prepare. Write down those dreams, write down where you want to go. Those things that seem impossible and prepare yourself in class and learn and build yourself. And then prioritize, we’re all working towards something. But we have to understand that there’s a purpose.”