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

Filed in: Disney Dreamers Academy

Teens from California, Texas, New Jersey and Virginia among 100 high school students selected from thousands across country to participate in coveted mentoring event at Disney in March

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.

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 sported 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:

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
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
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
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

Media Contacts:
Walt Disney World Resort
Reggie Roberts, Public Relations Manager
(407) 566-7198 or (407) 353-8848

TJM Communications, Inc.
Joel Kaiman, joel@tjmcommunications.com
(352) 262-3457 or (407) 977-5004

Katie Neumann, katie@tjmcommunications.com
(407) 977-5004