For Immediate Release
January 24, 2018
Contact Information

Joel Kaiman,
(407) 977-5004

(BPRW) “I’m Going to Disney World!’’ Teens Surprised Live on “Good Morning America’’ with Mentoring Trip to 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;

(Black PR Wire) LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. –   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 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. 

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


About Walt Disney World Resort/The Walt Disney Co.:

Walt Disney World Resort is a contiguous 40-square-mile, world-class entertainment and recreation center located at Lake Buena Vista, Fla., 20 miles southwest of Orlando. The Walt Disney Co. has a rich legacy of creativity and exceptional storytelling that brings families together in unique and memorable ways. Creative excellence is coupled with a strong commitment to community service and diversity. The Walt Disney Co. is dedicated to making a positive impact in communities around the world, with a primary focus on brightening the lives of children.

About Steve Harvey:

Harvey is an author, actor, producer and comedian. Currently, he is the host of the nationally syndicated radio program, "Steve Harvey Morning Show" as well as host and executive producer of multiple television shows including "Funderdome," "Family Feud," and "Steve.”

About ESSENCE Communications Inc.:

ESSENCE Communications Inc. (ECI) is the #1 media company dedicated to African-American women, with a multi-platform presence in publishing, live events and online. The company’s flagship publication, ESSENCE magazine, is the preeminent lifestyle magazine for African-American women; generating brand extensions such as the ESSENCE Festival, ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood and Black Women in Music, Window on Our Women and Smart Beauty consumer insights series,, and ventures in digital media (mobile, television and VOD). For 45 years, ESSENCE, which has a brand reach of 14.1 million, has been the leading source of cutting-edge information and specific solutions relating to every area of African-American women’s lives. Additional information about ECI and ESSENCE is available at

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