Tiffany Walden, BlackDoctor.org Staff Writer
Under his mother’s orders, Princeton Parker sat down at the kitchen table and didn’t budge. The high-school senior couldn’t leave the table until he finished filling out an application to join Disney Dreamers Academy – a task his mother previously asked him to do after she learned about it listening to the Steve Harvey Morning Show.
“She said, ‘boy, you’re not getting up from this table until you fill out this application,’” Parker, 22, remembered. “Like every great Black mother in history, she had the ability to say, ‘this is something you need to do for your own future.’”
That moment forever changed the trajectory of Parker’s life.
Parker, a Los Angeles native, was accepted into the Disney Dreamers Academy, a four-day program designed to foster the career goals and ambitions of youth through hands-on experience. While at the Walt Disney World Resort, the Dreamers try their hands at professions such as culinary, law, entrepreneurship, medicine, acting/dancing, engineering and journalism.
Next year marks the 10th annual event of Disney Dreamers Academy and its partnership with Steve Harvey and ESSENCE magazine. Each year, hundreds of teens learn what it takes to become strong leaders. Parker, for example, went into the program knowing he wanted to be a public speaker. He preached his first church sermon at 4 years old.
So he took up journalism during the event, interviewing major TV personalities like ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith and even writing a story for the Huffington Post.
Parker came out of the Disney Dreamers Academy realizing his dream of becoming a public speaker is tangible.
“It’s one thing to see something and it’s another thing to believe that you can have what you see,” Parker said. “You’re hearing someone, who is where you want to be, say, ‘I started where you are and because I started where you are, I am qualified to tell you that you can, too.’”
Parker felt moved during one of the speaker series with Steve Harvey. In a very honest moment without press, Disney Dreamers Academy staff or parents, Parker said, Harvey told the Dreamers what it means to go after your dreams.
“One of the things that he conveyed is that a lot of people look at what he has now and don’t know how much it took to get where he is now,” Parker said.
Harvey shared with the Dreamers the time he wrote an essay about wanting to be on television. Harvey’s teacher told him that was impossible and “do you see anybody who looks like you on TV,” referring to Harvey being African American.
“After leaving that session, I felt like I had no excuse to give up,” Parker said. “To hear somebody I had seen on TV be honest about the struggle as well as the work that it took and how he did it was life changing for me.”
Since his stint at Disney Dreamers Academy, Parker has graduated from the University of Southern California. He was accepted into the leadership development program at DisneyLand Resort and works in the Guest Services department as a Manager. In his spare time, Parker continues to give inspirational speeches to youth in schools and educational organizations.
“Sometimes, when African Americans think and see Disney, we don’t necessarily see ourselves both on-screen and behind the scenes. Disney Dreamers Academy revolutionized that for me,” Parker explained. “I needed to see people who are not only where I want to be who look like me, but I needed to see people who are where I am who I identify with. That’s what Dreamers Academy does.”
To apply for Disney Dreamers Academy, high school students ages 13 to 19 must register online HERE.
Applications are accepted through Oct. 31, 2016.