dreamers academy logo_web.jpgFive South Florida students are among 100 mostly African-American youths who have been selected for the 2011 Disney’s Dreamers Academy – an educational program designed to inspire young people to dream big and get started on their career paths now.

The students are Diamond Sims of the Miami area, a senior at Miami Central High in North Central Miami-Dade County Khari Anthony of Davie, a ninth-grader at West Broward High in Pembroke Pines; ZaQuari Johnson of Hollywood, a ninth-grader at St. Thomas Aquinas High in Fort Lauderdale; Dalvin McHome of Riviera Beach, a senior at William T. Dwyer High School; Diamond Sims of the Miami area, a senior at Miami Central High in North Central Miami-Dade County; and Wayne Lyons of Fort Lauderdale, a 12th  grader at Dillard High.

The “Dreamers,” as they are called, will travel to Walt Disney World Resort in March to take part in workshops focusing on subjects such as Walt Disney Imagineering techniques, entertainment, entrepreneurship and the culinary arts.

Disney experts, entrepreneurs and celebrities will talk about their blueprints for success, in keeping with the program’s mission to motivate, empower and inspire young adults.

Walt Disney World Resorts and Harvey developed the Disney’s Dreamers Academy, launched in 2007, to unveil a world of possibilities, inspire teens to dream big and help them to get started on their career paths.

Earlier this fall, parents, teachers, school administrators, church groups and students nominated thousands of aspiring Dreamers in grades 9-12  for the program.

Prospective Dreamers were expected to show curiosity, compassion and leadership skills.  The program allows teens the opportunity to learn the process through which to attain their goals.

The Dreamers all have a personal story to tell and  hold on to dreams and aspirations for the future that are as diverse and interesting as their backgrounds.

“I am from Kool-aid stained countertops, lively Baptist churches and the infamous strife of a single parent. I am from an imprisoned father, a substance abused mother and liquor stores and churches on every corner of my neighborhood,” Diamond Sims, 14, wrote in the short essay she submitted to the judges.

“This is where I am from, but I know that I can go much further. Look up in the sky, it's a bird, it's a plane, it's my extremely high potential: I refuse to let it go to waste," Diamond wrote.

She has not yet decided what she wants to be but she has her eye on becoming a lawyer, an actress, a writer or maybe a journalist.

Khari Anthony, 14, is a home-schooled and self-taught computer graphics artist, visual effects and live action animator. He hopes to become a video game designer, professional visual effects and animation artist and, eventually, work in the film industry and own a visual effects studio.

After high school, Khari wants to attend an Ivy League university such as Stanford or Harvard and is hoping the Disney’s Dreamers Academy will further inspire him to pursue his artistic goals.

Za’quari Johnson, 14, was also raised by a single mother who died when he was 8. He says he is determined to take a path different from the one chosen by the male figures in his life, who have all served time in prison. He wants to become a role model for his brother and sisters.

Za’quari, who plays basketball and football at Saint Thomas Aquinas, hopes to attend university and major in criminal justice. He would like to become a detective or crime scene investigator but his dream is to play basketball in the NBA. 

“At an early age, I’ve faced many obstacles in life but I’m determined to be a strong and hardworking individual,” he says. “I will not give up!”

Wayne Lyons, 18, describes himself as an over-achiever and now boasts a 5.03 GPA. Raised by a single parent, he is ranked #1 at Dillard and participates in the Congressional National Scholars Program and the Congressional Young Leaders Council.

Lyons is also an all-star football player and is the fourth-ranked high school safety in the nation. He is a U.S. Army All-American player and Sporting News Magazine lists him at #10 on its best high school prospect in America. 

Dalvin McHome, 17, was raised in a gang-infested, crime-ridden urban neighborhood along with his younger brother and sister by a strong single mother.

He says he loves things that challenge his mind and are intriguing. He credits his mother’s strong personality and determination to make sure that he and his siblings succeed in life and for making sure his path does not cross with gangs, drugs or prison, like others he has known. 

Dalvin plays high school football, basketball and runs track and is thinking about studying computer science once he enters college.

“Each year, we strive to find young people who may have a will or passion, but may not have the courage to explore their dreams, so we hope to unlock the power that will allow them to pursue their hearts’ desires,” Harvey said.