*Sometimes it is the smallest choices that a person makes in his or her life that can alter the trajectory of their life’s journey. Disney Dreamer K’deja Correa is basking in the glow of this particular truth. As a junior at Dr. Michael Krop High School in Miami, Florida, K’deja hopes to pursue a future career in fashion design and photojournalism; she even has a blog that she launched in June 2015 that highlights her many interests and her general musings.
One afternoon, while engaging in one of her favorite pastimes, watching the Steve Harvey Show with her grandmother, the Disney Dreamer Academy program was announced. However, she was hesitant in applying because she assumed that it was only available for high school seniors.
Once she realized that she qualified for the Academy, she went ahead and submitted her application, “I wanted a new aspect of my career but [also] my life. Counselors in school can only point you in one direction and tell you ‘good luck.’ [I knew DDA would] offer not only a sense of direction but the advice, help, and skills needed to get you there,” says K’deja. When she received her acceptance letter, she described her initial reaction to being in pure shock. “I tore open the letter, read it, and screamed in pure joy,” recalls K’deja.
She immediately called her grandmother to share the good news, and her mother placed her acceptance letter on the refrigerator. Her family’s jubilant celebration is understandable; to be chosen to attend the Disney Dreamers Academy as a teenager is quite a big deal. Only 100 students are selected to participate in the Disney Dreamers Academy out of thousands of applicants from around the country. Dreamers, along with a chaperone, are given an all-expense paid trip to Orlando, Florida and lodging at one of the Disney’s Resorts.
During their stay, the students are given the opportunity to listen and rub shoulders with prominent experts, motivational speakers, entertainers, and business executives who share their wisdom and keys to success like: Essence Editor-At-Large Mikki Taylor, Walt Disney World President George Kalogridis, Grammy-award winning gospel singer and radio host Yolanda Adams, and 16-year old Jaylen Bledsoe, founder and CEO of Bledsoe Technologies. As well as, pop culture personalities such as film producer Will Packer, actors Lance Gross, Lamman Rucker, and TV hosts of BET’s The Real, Loni Love and Tamera Mowry just to to name a few.
Dreamers also have the chance to participate in courses geared towards to their chosen career paths called “Deep Dives.” K’deja joined the Journalism Deep Dive that was facilitated by Meg Patten, Operations Engagement Specialist for Walt Disney World and Charreah Jackson, Lifestyle and Relationship Editor and Intern Program Manager for Essence Magazine. Under Charreah’s tutelage, the Dreamer Journalists were engaged in real world experience of what it is like to be a reporter in the Essence newsroom. “I stressed to the students the importance of accuracy and authenticity. Your audience’s trust is all you have, and it is important to protect that,” says Charreah.
K’deja also learned the different characteristics of journalism, “There is print journalism, which caters to newspapers and magazines. As well as, broadcast journalism this caters to radio, TV, or internet. I fall into more broadcast than print,” she states. In addition to learning the various modes of journalism, K’deja and the rest of the dreamers had the great fortune to work with Charreah on creating a Disney Dreamers Newsletter where they could work on displaying their enhanced skills. “My experience working with Charreah Jackson [was] amazing, and I’m eternally grateful for her. Not only did she answer every question that popped into my curious head but she gave me such good advice and creative control, which lead me to create the logo featured on the front of our DDA newsletter. We also presented it to everyone at our graduation ceremony,” says K’deja.
Charreah was also left with a glowing impression of the promising journalist as well and awarded K’deja a position as an intern at this year’s Essence Music Festival. “[She] is incredible! She had the most questions of all the students, and her curiosity will continue to take her far. She not only wrote a story but also helped with design and created a hidden Mickey [Mouse] to add to the newsletter. She is one of two dreamers selected to join our team at Essence Festival. She will support in the execution of the country’s largest live event,” says Charreah.
K’deja exuberance and her willingness to learn and grow created an instant bond with known blogger Awesomely Luvvie, who was a speaker on the second day of the Deep Dive. “[She] came up to me and introduced herself so well and off the bat she asked a lot of great questions. She was excited to be in that space. You [can’t] teach passion. I can see she was super interested in storytelling; she told me she has a blog and [I told her that] I want to read it, I want to help you grow it, I want to see you do well. I am here to be a resource,” says Luvvie. The admired blogger was also very awe-struck by the level of K’deja’s creativity and the amount of thought the young journalist put into creating the DDA newsletter, Luvvie recalls thinking, “This girl is dope.”
The two kindred spirits instantly struck up a friendship where they both discussed the young Dreamer’s blog and how to expand her audience while maintaining her authentic self. “By the end of the program, I left with her contact info, but a mentor and friend to have through my journey to success,” says K’deja. Undoubtedly, K’deja’s future is tremendously bright, and she vows to implement daily the lessons she learned while at DDA. Her plans include attending Savannah College of Art and Design, starting her clothing line, and continuing to cultivate her blog. In the end, she is still in awe of what her life has become and is looking forward to all the creative adventures she has yet to experience, “I never thought that doors could open for me and that success was coming. [This is] the first time I feel this way, and it is incredible.”
Disney Dreamers Academy is currently accepting applications for the 2017 program until October 31, 2016.
Visit www.disneysdreamersacademy.com for more information.