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Disney Aspire: Crossing the Finish Line as a First-Generation Graduate

Nataly Guzman

by , 2022-2023 Disneyland Ambassador

Congratulations to the recent graduates of the Class of 2022! You’ve accomplished a lot from completing kindergarten, receiving a high school diploma, completing college at any level, or defending a Ph.D. dissertation.   

I want to dedicate this post to all recent graduates of the Class of 2022. As a graduate of Disney Aspire, The Walt Disney Company’s education and career investment program, it’s an honor to know that I’m graduating alongside so many inspiring and driven individuals who have created magic while pursuing their dreams. 

School is as hard as it is rewarding, and it can be difficult to keep believing in yourself when the journey gets hard. Still, as I reflect on my own journey, I’m amazed at how things fell into place, all because of some faith, trust… and, yes, even a little pixie dust! 

Since a young age, school has always been important to me, but it wasn’t always easy. My parents were raised in a rural town in Mexico and didn’t speak strong English, so they couldn’t help me with my homework as other parents could. 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with my focus, time management and task completion. I have always loved learning, but it always felt harder for me. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized I had been struggling with ADHD the entire time. Knowing this, I’m even more proud of all I’ve accomplished in school. My grades weren’t perfect, but I earned them while coping with a disability I didn’t know I had.

Just before I graduated high school in 2007, my mother passed away. She instilled in me my love of learning and love of all things Disney. Even though college felt like an impossible reach, I decided I would finish one day no matter how long it took. 

My early college career was unsteady: I struggled with the application process and worried about its cost. I stopped attending community college due to financial reasons but promised myself one day I’d go back. Later that year, I got an exciting new job as a cast member at Disneyland! During my first few years in the role, I developed many skills and became fascinated with the area of communications.  

In 2015, I re-enrolled in community college. It was exhausting at times balancing my full-time job and driving long distances, but I had the never-ending support of my friends and fellow cast members and earned my associate’s degree in 2019. Still, the unknown of the future was looming over me as I began to think about transferring to a university to earn my bachelor’s degree. 

At the perfect time, The Walt Disney Company announced the Disney Aspire program. I was overjoyed knowing that a bachelor’s degree was finally in my reach, something that had always seemed so impossible for me. Even better, Disney was going to cover the cost of my tuition and books so that the price wouldn’t be a worry. 

I applied to and attended Wilmington University, graduating with a degree in communications. I was able to use my learnings in real-time as a tour guide, training facilitator and resort spokesperson, and I credit Disney Aspire in helping shape my future.

Wilmington University in New Castle, Delaware

Today, I am the first Disney Ambassador to earn a degree through Disney Aspire. While it took me 15 years to reach my goal, I wouldn’t have it any other way. What felt like an impossible task has been completed, along with a few other accomplishments I would never have dreamed of. 

I hope that anyone else doubting themselves as they navigate their own education journey can find their confidence because your educational path is yours and yours alone, and it is an amazing one no matter what! 

I’m also thankful to my cast member friends, peers and leaders who helped me, encouraged me and are never tired of me saying I couldn’t do something because “I had homework.” And a special shout out to my global Disney Ambassador family, who helped me through those first few months of a new role, while navigating the final few months of college. Thank you for all the support.

Congratulations, Class of 2022! We did it, and we should be forever proud! 

Check out Disney.Aspire.com for more information. For more #DisneyCastLife stories, follow the Cast Life Blog and follow Nataly on Instagram at @DisneylandAmbassador

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