Suffolk student to attend Disney Dreamers Academy

Published 8:27 pm Monday, February 21, 2011

A local girl is able to pursue her dreams, and gain inspiration on how to help the homeless, at Walt Disney World Resort next month.

Denise Dailey

Denise Dailey, a senior at Nansemond River High School, has been selected to participate in the Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine at the Florida resort.

Only 100 students were chosen nationally to participate in the academy. “They all have a very unique story and a very unique background,” said Belinda Wilson, associate brand manager for multicultural marketing. “This is going to be a phenomenal year.”

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The candidates were selected based on their expressed curiosity, compassion, courage, attitude, leadership skills and ability to dream and believe.

“It gave me a boost of confidence,” Dailey said. “I was happy when I found out.”

The academy will last from March 3-6. Dailey will gain inspiration from speakers and workshops hosted by celebrities such as comedian Steve Harvey, performer and inspirational speaker Yolanda Adams, Sherri Shepherd from “The View,” Ruben Studdard from “American Idol,” actress Raven Symone and more.

The workshops and speeches will all focus on inspiring youth, mostly African-Americans, to follow their dreams and begin looking toward their future careers.

“We get to hear from successful individuals who had a dream at first just like us,” Dailey said.

Dailey, 18, is the vice-president of the Nansemond-Suffolk NAACP Youth Council. She also is a dual enrollment student and works part-time at the Suffolk Family YMCA in childcare.

She has been volunteering since a very early age and she plans to attend Hampton University in the fall to major in elementary education and entrepreneurship. Dailey hopes to one day teach in Washington, D.C., where she sees a particular need for teachers and positive role models.

“Disney’s Dreamers Academy is a perfect platform to further the goal, shared by Disney Parks, Essence Communications and — it goes without saying — by Steve Harvey, to inspire children,” said Tracey Walters-Powell, executive champion of the program for Disney Parks and Resort. “We are genuinely excited about the possibilities ahead.”

The students attending the academy expressed their goals through a series of three essays that they completed as part of the application process.

Dailey’s dream is to open a community life rehabilitation center in Washington, D. C.

“I was in elementary school talking about feeding the homeless,” Dailey said. “I always wanted to help.”

In second grade, she designed an elaborate plan for the local shelter and turned it in as her class project.

Dailey said it upset her to see veterans who fought for the country living out on the streets. She especially noticed them in D.C. on visits with her family. “It hurt my heart,” she said. “I can see the city is hurting so bad.”

She plans to one day open a Christian-based center similar to the one she designed so many years ago. This shelter will help veterans, pregnant teens, people coming off of drugs, individuals and families with a low income, and anyone who needs help. “Through God and work, you can be exactly what you want to be in life,” she said.

Dailey plans to use the academy to network and plan for her center in D.C.

“It’s always good to get your dream and idea out there,” she said. “You have to start from somewhere. You can’t sleep on your dreams.”