More Walt Disney World Resort Stories

Disney Dreamers Academy Alumni Make a Difference During Pandemic

Annette Gibbs

by , Public Relations Manager, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products

Each year 100 high school students from across the country are selected to come to Walt Disney World Resort and participate in Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and ESSENCE. Every student comes with an inspiring story, and throughout the four-day mentoring program they are encouraged to make a difference in the lives of others. So, during these challenging times, it is no surprise, that Disney Dreamers are out doing their part to help. Two of those making a difference include Ashlyn Pinkins of Gretna, Louisiana and Kaylin Garnett of Augusta, Georgia. Here are their inspiring stories.  

Tracking the Virus

Ashlyn attended the 2011 Disney Dreamers Academy with a love for science.  Now she has fulfilled one of her dreams and is a public health epidemiologist for her home state of Louisiana.  Ashlyn has the critical role of documenting and tracking cases of the virus using information gathered from hospitals and other medical organizations.  

“It’s just been so informative and inspirational to see how much people push forward and how much work they actually do,” said Ashlyn. “To get a firsthand account of the work people are doing in the background is just amazing.”

Ashlyn reflected on her time at Disney Dreamers Academy, saying, the experience showed her that no dream is out of reach as long as you keep working hard.  

Caring for the Sick

2016 Disney Dreamers Academy alumna Kaylin always had a passion for helping others. She has continued to chase her dreams earning her Bachelor of Science in nursing, while also working as a certified nursing assistant and unit manager at a local nursing home.  

Kaylin was assigned to care for and manage administrative duties specifically for COVID-19-positive patients. There she saw firsthand the impact healthcare professionals made.   

“This experience has confirmed that being on the frontlines to help others is what I want to do in life,” Kaylin said. Her efforts over the last few months have helped contain the spread of cases at her facility.

Although her work has been as challenging as ever, Kaylin’s desire to help others inspired her to pursue her goal of becoming an emergency medical technician (EMT), having recently passed the exam while still working.  

Kaylin credits Disney Dreamers Academy for teaching her the value of teamwork and inspiring her to never give up on her dreams.  

Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and ESSENCE is a four-day, transformational mentoring program for teens that has taken place at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida annually since 2008.  Each class of 100 teens is encouraged to “Be100,” to be positive and “all in,” and to pursue their dreams and make a difference in the lives of others.


  • These two stories are so inspiring! As a member of the Speaker Resource Group for DDA it makes me so proud to see these dreamers put what they learned during DDA into action. May you both continue to use your gifts to make a difference in the world! Kudos to you both!

  • These stories are so inspiring! As part of the Speaker Resource Group for DDA it makes me proud to see that these dreamers are putting what they learned during DDA into action and are making such a difference in the world! Kudos to both of you! May you continue to use your gifts to impact the world!

  • These stories are SO inspiring to see! During the pandemic, the news about young people has been about how much they supposedly don’t care and aren’t contributing to the solution. This is proof — there are many out there who are using their brilliant minds to be a light in the world! These Dreamers are incredible.

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