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Finding Your Tribe with HBCU Alumni and Disney Aspire

Kaitlyn Woollen

by , Digital Employee Communications Specialist

The HBCU alumni “tribe” just got bigger! North Carolina A&T joins the Disney Aspire network as the first Historically Black College & University (HBCU) in the network. To speak to the importance of this new addition are HBCU graduates and Disney on The Yard advocates:

Dayna Lee, HBCU Outreach & Engagement Manager, Florida A&M University Graduate

I’m the manager of HBCU campus outreach and engagement. I say ‘campus’ because this will grow beyond HBCU, right? We build relationships at HBCUs and help pipeline that talent back for our recruiters. People see HBCU grads and see our success within The Walt Disney Company and it opens their minds when we talk about our personal journey. I make sure we do everything for our culture, to ensure we go out in front of the world.

HBCUs are Wakanda; they are the cream of the crop of Black talent and nothing in the world looks like it. We came from the pinnacle of Black excellence. Every organization and Fortune 500 company needs some of that [diversification]. If you want a different way of thought, you need to introduce different [talent] and different walks of life. When you diversify the thought, you get better outcomes. And you can start at an HBCU.

[For Disney] to offer NC A&T as an option for Disney Aspire is amazing, and it speaks to how much the organization is trying to grow and understand the importance of serving everyone. If you work for The Walt Disney Company, you will be able to find your tribe wherever you are. There’s a place for you here. No matter what you look like, no matter where you come from, no matter which HBCU, there’s a place.

One piece of advice I would give to someone looking into attending an HBCU, is to not go to an HBCU to get this historic rich experience and not touch, taste and see everything. You really must engulf yourself in the experience and absorb everything that it’s giving you because it will give you some things you didn’t know you even needed.

Kennedy Maddox, HBCU Outreach & Engagement Coordinator, NC A&T University Graduate

To me, an HBCU is a place where Black students have a place of belonging. It’s a place where we are able to be our true selves, untouched by societal judgments from our counterparts. It’s a family and we all support each other no matter what.

HBCU’s were made for us (Black people), by us. They are our history and they are our way to continue our connections with our ancestors and make them proud along the way. We use these spaces to elevate our peers and make a name for ourselves in a world that wants nothing more than to see us down, but we have to remember that when we’re down, the only way for us to go is up!

My involvement with Disney on The Yard starts with ideating ways to engage with students whose end goal is to work at Disney but also want to be involved with other HBCU alumni. Disney on The Yard is important because in a world where everyone is against us, we have a community where we can thrive and be ourselves through the connections, our fellow alum, and the way we can be extraordinary in our own space. Since recently graduating, I like to think of my role as an opportunity to be relatable with students and make them feel comfortable by telling my conversion story.

Sherrell Wilson, Disney Programs Recruiter, Grambling State University Graduate

HBCUs are so special to the community because they are so different. They are a lot smaller than their counterparts, so students and faculty can have a one-to-one relationship. A lot of times, when people think of HBCUs, they think marching bands and that is a piece that elevates our culture. It’s more than just class and schoolwork, it’s an experience from being on campus and attending football games, the friends you meet, to the history and legacy that you’ll find. There’s representation, authenticity and culture. When I attended an HBCU, it felt like a place where I could be myself and a place where I belonged.

[The fact that] we as a company are bringing an HBCU into our Aspire program shows how important HBCUs are and how much value they have, especially it being the first HBCU to the Aspire program. North Carolina A&T is one of the top HBCUs, and so for us to be [expanding our slate of in-network schools] shows volumes and gives people the understanding of how important HBCUs are along with the type of education you can get. There’s also a purpose behind what we’re doing and we’re paying it forward to students who are in school now.

This is the main goal of Disney on The Yard — an initiative by The Walt Disney Company that gives students who attend HBCUs the opportunity to learn about the company, as well as career opportunities. We have a mentorship program, scholarship opportunities with our Disney on The Yard innovations challenge and Walt Disney Company UNCF scholars’ program, and internship opportunities.

My piece of advice to students looking to attend an HBCU is to figure out your purpose of wanting to attend. Every HBCU has its own flavor, but they collectively provide the same type of experience. When someone is considering an HBCU, they’re going to learn a lot about the culture at the school. It’s not just the class and the education, you get so much more. Find a place where you belong and be your whole self to where you feel at home.

HBCUs make very dynamic individuals and purposeful students or graduates. They are a very important part of the academic structure of our country and history. I hope people can continue to learn more about what [HBCUs] offer and provide for students and that they produce anyone from inventors, technologists, entrepreneurs and more.

Krista Scarborough, Safety Team Leader, NC A&T University Graduate

Krista Scarborough, Safety Team Leader, NC A&T University Graduate

An HBCU means to me a rich history and resiliency for Black people seeking a higher education in a not-so-great time in American history. HBCUs are so relevant and are a foundation in the Black community to creating memorable cultural and educational experiences.

HBCUs not only offer top notch and quality education, but I also feel there is a sense of pride in attending an HBCU because of the foundation and legacy of HBCUs along with strong alumni support, which can be invaluable with networking opportunities and connections.

It was important to me to continue the HBCU legacy. The legacy of HBCU graduates runs deep in my immediate family and beyond. I am a second-generation Aggie as my dad graduated from NC A&T with a BS and MS in 1963 and 1972, respectively. My mom and brother are HBCU graduates from Winston Salem State University. Attending an HBCU exposed me to a career path that I had no idea existed. I’m going to keep working on getting a third generation Aggie in my family, hopefully with the help of the Aspire program.

Interested in learning more about Disney Aspire? Visit aspire.disney.com to learn more about how this program is putting Disney employees career #dreamswithinreach.

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