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Teens Surprised Live on “GMA’’ with Mentoring Trip to Disney Dreamers Academy

GOOD MORNING AMERICA – Five high school students are surprised live on “Good Morning America’’ in New York City Monday, Jan. 15, 2018 with the announcement that they were selected to be part of this year’s exclusive Disney Dreamers Academy event with Steve Harvey and ESSENCE Magazine at Walt Disney World in Florida. The students include Ayanna Adams of Los Angeles; Christiana Okafor of Houston; Marquis Thomas of Virginia Beach, Va.; Ava Marie Easter of Los Angeles and Sean Smith of Basking Ridge, N.J. In March, as part of Disney Dreamers Academy, a total of 100 pre-selected students known as “Disney Dreamers,” will embark on a journey throughout the Walt Disney World theme parks for a fun and educational experience to discover new careers and pursue their dreams.
(ABC/Paula Lobo)




Five high school students were surprised live on “Good Morning America’’ 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 were handed 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 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.

About the Author

New York Trend is a weekly news publication that focuses on issues and lifestyles of the African & Caribbean American communities throughout the New York metropolitan area and Nassau and Suffolk Counties of Long Island. It is a respected and well recognized news publication that has been in existence since 1989. Owner, Publisher and Executive Director, Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams has been at the helm of this award-winning publication since its inception. New York Trend continues to be the only black woman-owned, metropolitan newspaper in New York and Long island. New York Trend is the largest black-owned newspaper throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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