The Disney Dreamer Academy changes minds.
During the annual, transformative, four-day event, 100 students from across the country got to see themselves differently while witnessing their dreams come to fruition.
Last week, we were invited to the magical Walt Disney World to fully immerse ourselves in a line-up of hands-on mentorship from incredible alumni and industry leaders, career deep dives, talent exposure, an emotional commencement ceremony, and surprise appearances from Marsai Martin, artist H.E.R., and celebrity ambassador Halle Bailey.
“You show me where you’re most curious, and I’ll show you where you’ll be most innovative. You show me where you passionate, and I’ll show you where you can be most profitable,” said Dreaming Big Brother and alum, Princeton Parker on day one.
We were able to speak with four Black teenagers, poets, creators, educators, and business owners who have demonstrated what it means to #Be100.
Hannah Hollings is a force that could quiet a ballroom. At the Cafe of the Senses, where dreamers got to present what they had been working on, Hannah surprised guests with a powerful performance of a poem, called “Ode To Be A Star,” from the spotlight she boldly stood in.
“THE DISNEY DREAMERS PROGRAM WAS HONESTLY MADE FOR US, SO TO BE AROUND SO MANY PEOPLE THAT LOOK LIKE ME, THEY’RE DOING BIG THINGS LIKE ME. IT’S AMAZING,” HOLLINGS TOLD BLACK ENTERPRISE.
When she is not performing poetry, the 15-year-old freshman uses her voice in Model UN, Youth in Government, and the Mock Trail Team. Her true passion in entrepreneurship all began six years ago with a strong desire to go to the farmers markets in her former hometown in Michigan.
As the CEO of H3 Lemonade, Hannah devoted her time with her dynamic sisters, Halle (seventh grade) and Harper (fifth grade) to serve their community during the COVID-19 quarantine. Servicing Nashville Farmers Markets with the likes of their famous Lemonade Cookie, the trio intentionally gave back by donating a portion of the proceeds to charities like Black Girls Code and Natural Rescue Mission. The H3 squad has also donated hygienic products to Stratford Magnet School, a local STEM middle school in Nashville.
As a business champion, Hollings created Kids Building Businesses, a YouTube platform that educates students on how to build a business.
“It’s really for children to get the support they need from people and how to get money to even start,” Hollings explained.
Although she may have some time, Hollings is looking forward to her college options. Becoming a Howard University legacy is definitely on her list. She aspires to be a business magnate and continue to inspire girls everywhere.
After meeting the very mighty Miguel Coppedge, I witnessed his light glow right before our very eyes during the fabulous “Put You On” event. Imagine this. He stepped out on a lit runway in fly kicks, jeans, bright yellow hoodie, red rain jacket, and iconic DDA Mickey Mouse ears. He was confidently floating on air, wide-grinning as the audience stood in ovation. Lights, camera, action!
“I LEARNED THAT DREAMS ARE NEVER TOO BIG. I’VE LEARNED THAT CONNECTIONS ARE VERY IMPORTANT,” AS MIGUEL EXPLAINED WHAT HE LEARNED THUS FAR AS A DDA DREAMER. “I’VE LEARNED A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE DIFFERENT. THERE’S A LOT OF DIVERSITY HERE AND I LOVE IT.”
But there was nothing staged about this young man. Miguel is a 17-year-old creative and business mogul in the making, living by his motto “You are never to young to do anything.” After applying for two years, the graduating high school junior woke up as a Disney Dreamer and a surprise opportunity that he described to me as “amazing.”
“A lot of people get discouraged by their age. A lot of people don’t understand that you can be young and do anything. You can be old and do anything. Your age does not matter of what you wanna do in your future,” said the three-time bestselling author.
Born in Washington, D.C., Miguel emerged on the creator scene as early two years old. He loves to write poetry when he is not sharpening his journalistic eye at the Richard Wright Public Charter School for Journalism and Media. His love for basketball inspires him to be a future NBA player and sports analyst.
Miguel is a motivational speaker, philanthropist, and proud descendant of his family Trinidadian roots. The pride runs deep through his Kruelle (pronounced kru-la-la). When he couldn’t find the right products to curl or grow his 4b hair, Coppedge masterminded a natural hair company and curl creme/butter that embodies African heritage and the naturalness of Black coils.
Miguel is still building his family tree. “I just wanted to create something that would be significant for Black boys and Black men. I am Trinidadian. I do want to connect to my roots,” he shared, adding that “I am now figuring out that my great great grandmother was Nigerian.”
Miguel will be attending Virginia Commonwealth.
Shane Mushambi has been booked and busy for a while now. Becoming a Disney Dreamer Academy graduate is just one of his dreams come true.
“IT FEELS GREAT TO BE RECOGNIZED FOR THE WORK I’VE BEEN PUTTING IN. ALSO JUST BEING ABLE TO BE IN DISNEY AND IN SUCH A MAGICAL PLACE,” MUSHAMBI TOLD BLACK ENTERPRISE.
With inspiration from friends, Disney Dream alumni, and his mom, Shane applied to the Disney Dreamer Academy, where he enjoyed taking a ride on the newest and exhilarating TRON in Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland and learning from experts about entrepreneurship.
At just 12 years old, Mushami and his 13-year-old brother Nigel started a baking business. From winning a church baking competition three years in a row to taking small orders, Two Brothers in the Kitchen was a passion venture with layers of art and science. Yummy desserts include a wide array of unique cupcakes and cakes for all occasions.
The pair of qualified geniuses also published a book titled Beyond the Kitchen: How to Cook Up Success with Life’s Mistakes. The goal of the book is to encourage young people like themselves to reach seemingly impossible dreams.
“I WANT TO MAKE HEALTHCARE AND ACCESSIBLE AIDS MORE ACCESSIBLE TO EVERYONE AND MORE AFFORDABLE FOR PEOPLE WHO MIGHT’VE BEEN MISTREATED OR AREN’T TREATED FAIRLY BY THE CURRENT HEALTH SYSTEM IN AMERICA,” MUSHAMI EXPLAINED.
He added, “At my heart, I am an educator. I like to educate people and help people understand the world around them and become more knowledgeable.”
Growing up, Shane was homeschooled by his mother and was grateful for his community of other homeschoolers who exchanged knowledge. Now, he is also using his skills to operate his online math tutoring business focused on teaching math in an intuitive way.
“A lot of the times math is taught in a somewhat confusing manner with extra steps that might not be for everyone,” he said, later adding that he and his brother are writing a third book about complex math ideas.
“When you hear about it in your algebra class or in college class, you’re not completely blindsided by it. It helps you keep up.”
Julian Morris is a voice for many and an architect of his own dreams.
The 15-year-old sophomore at Saginaw High School in Michigan was among his 2023 Disney Dreamer class who got the opportunity to rep his business and learn how to propel it even further.
“KNOWING THAT THERE WAS OVER 6,000 APPLICANTS AND ONLY 100 WAS CHOSEN. TO BE ONE OF THE 100 IS AN AMAZING FEELING AND IT’S LIKE NO OTHER,” JULIAN TOLD BLACK ENTERPRISE.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Julian made a bold move that would give himself and his peers a chance to be part of the conversation. He is the founder and editor of SWAG Magazine, for teens written by teens.
“During that time, a lot of decisions were being made for kids. For us kids, we didn’t really have a say in too much of what was happening to us and for us. I started SWAG Magazine as a platform to give peers a voice so we can express ourselves without our voices being muffled with the adults,” said the budding journalist, repping his SWAG merch.
Shortly after he started SWAG, Julian said he found his voice. The writing became natural to him. From entertainment and art to photography, the creativity on SWAG pages are gifts that keep on giving. Julian said he had also opened up after-school writing workshops, teaching middle schoolers all aspects of journalism. He hopes to keep it going.
“I LOOK LIKE THE PEOPLE THAT I AM TRYING TO ELEVATE, AND SO IF THEY SEE ME DOING IT, IT OPENS UP THEIR EYES THAT THEY CAN DO IT. IF I CAN DO IT, EVERYBODY CAN,” JULIAN SAID.
For those who want to change the world in media, Julian advises to “never be afraid of what your dream is. Just always go for it. If you work hard enough, you can do anything.”