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Life and Religion

At Disney Dreamers Academy, NC students encouraged to think big
Mentors initiative urge teens to pursue goals
Published Sunday, March 11, 2018 10:09 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

ORLANDO, Fla. — Attending Disney Dreamers Academy is not a vacation.

For North Carolina students Jordan Purvis and Jessica Dickerson, the academy experience at Disney World offers more than the opportunity to see characters like Mickey Mouse and celebrities like DDA host Steve Harvey.

“This is amazing,” Purvis said. “A friend [Morgan Hyman] told me about the academy.”

Said Dickerson: “I’m a big Disney person.”

Purvis, a 15-year-old sophomore, attends J.D. Clement Early College High School at North Carolina Central University, where he is a National Honor Society inductee. Outside of the classroom, he dedicates time to track and field, and vice president of the Community Service club.

Purvis intends to pursue a career in broadcasting after earning a degree in journalism, film and television production. Community involvement remains essential, regardless of where his career aspirations take him.

“You didn’t come here to hold back,” said 2011 DDA alumnus Ashley Nicole Johnson during the inaugural journalism Deep Dive.

Said Purvis: “I want to become a broadcast journalist/television producer. I want to be like an Ellen {DeGeneres], or a Steve Harvey.”

Dickerson, a 14 year-old freshman at Woodlawn School in Huntersville, her mother, Anne Marie, has been waiting for her daughter to reach high school so she could apply for DDA.

“My mom has known about this for a while,” Dickerson said. “This is the first year that I could apply, because I’m a freshman. My mom made sure I applied, and I’m very thankful for her giving me this opportunity. I’m glad I got in.”

Dickerson came to DDA to pursue medical insight. Her inspiration comes from her nephew, Aidan Marshall.

“I will be doing the medicine Deep Dive, because I want to be a pediatric oncologist at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital,” Dickerson said. “One of my biggest inspirations is my nephew, who was a St. Jude’s patient at 18 months old. He had brain cancer. He is a really big inspiration, and I want to help children like my nephew, who is eight years in remission.”

Outside of her academic interests in physics, chemistry and history, Dickerson participates in Science Olympiad, Model United Nations, Civil Air Patrol, travel softball, musical theater, basketball and track and field. She also volunteers at a retirement home.

Dreamers like Purvis and Dickerson experience not only the latest Disney rides and attractions, they have access to meeting someone other than iconic characters, both fictional and otherwise. They have a space to engage with themselves.

“The person I’m hoping you meet is not me, not these brothers and sisters who I acknowledged earlier, but you,” said Steve Perry, principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Connecticut and contributor for MSNBC, CNN and Essence magazine. “My hope is that there is something so powerful in you that you don’t even understand it—the dream. In that darkness, my expectation is that you will meet you.”

Said motivational speaker Jonathan Sprinkles: “Before you can connect with others, you must connect with yourself.”

DDA puts participants in contact with style essentials to determine basic principles about what to wear on a job interview to what’s appropriate to wear to prom. No one should see what Karli Harvey-Raymond describes as “your patience, mercy and blessings,” also known as butt and breasts. Undergarments are meant to be worn under clothing. Don’t walk into a job interview with your bra exposed.

“If people are paying more attention to your clothes than they are paying attention to you, you have missed the mark,” Brandi Harvey said during the Style 101 experience.

Above all, dreamers are encouraged to establish an impervious work ethic, to take that opportunity, as Perry put it, “change history,” and as DDA’s tag says “#Be100.”

“If you have a work ethic, that work ethic carries over into everything,” Harvey said. “If you push, if you press yourself beyond limits, it carries over into everything. My father used to tell me when I was growing up, I would say, ‘Dad, I can’t do no more.’ He said, ‘that’s good. When you can’t do no more, just do some more.’ I didn’t understand that as a kid. He said, ‘just keep doing it. Boy you ain’t dead. Just keep doing it.’ I’ve taken that work ethic into everything I do.”

Said Purvis: “What they’re saying here is to just #Be100. Be true to yourself. Just inspire others.”


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