Six students are living in Orlando, Florida, to intern for a full semester at Disney World with the Disney College Program, making their childhood dreams come true.
Those participating in the program are:
- Annie Bailey, psychology graduate from Abilene
- Bonnie Tesseyman, communication disorders graduate from Tyler
- Johanna Baker, senior psychology major from Forney
- Kayla Gilbert, international studies graduate from Fort Worth
- Nicki Schauer, senior psychology major from Gonzales
- Sara Kincaid, junior Bible and ministry major from Friendswood
Tesseyman said she recalls hearing about the program when she was 15 years old and dreaming of it ever since. Growing up with a Disney-loving family, she knew that this would be the perfect opportunity.
“Legend has it that I said my first word on a Disney Cruise, and I was voted most likely to be watching Disney movies in my 80s in my high school yearbook,” Tesseyman said. “I watched many other people I know participate in the program, but it was always a dream for myself I didn’t think was achievable. I am highly goal-oriented and did not ever think taking a break to live in Disney World would be an option.”
Tesseyman said she realized the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity might be possible if she could manage to graduate early, so that is just what she did. After taking all of her required Speech Pathology classes, she finished the rest of her basic university required classes online this past summer.
“I quickly rearranged my life and graduated in three years in order to live out my dream of working for the company I grew up loving and that had given me so many precious childhood memories with my family,” Tesseyman said.
Prospective interns go through a three-step hiring process before they are accepted on staff. Students fill out a survey giving basic information about their educational experiences and answering a few background questions. The next step is an online interview, where applicants’ qualifications are screened.
Selected applicants may get invited to the last round of phone call interviews. After the last interview, applicants wait to accept an invitation to the program, where they are assigned a specific role and pay at Disney.
Each internship experience at Disney is unique. Tesseyman received her assignment to work in merchandise at the World Traveler store in the EPCOT World Showcase, and Baker stepped into her role at the Emporium at Magic Kingdom, the largest store in the park.
“It can get a little crazy, and very often I get off at 3:30 a.m.,” Baker said. “Everyday I put on my 1900s-inspired costume and go to work on Main Street, which is right by the castle. Some of my duties include working the register, floor stocking, holiday events and assisting guests in all ways possible.”
The DCP can be seen as a gateway to professional internships or long-term careers at Disney. The program can help students connect with important people through the company and offers a variety of classes and seminars to assist in the exploration of different careers they offer.
All interns receive free park access and get to enjoy benefits like a firework show every night, seeing character friends and listening to the music played by different bands throughout the park. The massive community offers so many valuable lessons and experiences for each intern. Disney World is 40 square miles, a workplace for 70,000 cast members, and brings in hundreds of thousands of guests every day.
“I have learned to be brave here in Disney,” Tesseyman said. “‘We all have the courage to fly’ is a line from the Magic Kingdom ‘Wishes’ fireworks show and is a line I repeat to myself often. Moving to Orlando was scary for me. I am far away from my home, and I left behind all of my incredible friendships at ACU. There was so much that was unknown about what my life would look like here in Disney World. God provided me with courage from day one here and has protected and guided me every day since. My faith in Him has grown stronger, and I have a deeper trust in His planning than ever before.”
“I’ve learned the reality of magic in this world,” Baker said. “As a young child, I always dreamed of visiting the magical world of Disney. Even at 21 years of age, the magic is still very much alive for me. In all honesty, when stepping onto Disney property there is magic everywhere.”
“The Walt Disney Company truly values their guests and makes sure that the cast members are going above and beyond every day. The motto for cast members is ‘We create magic.’ Personally, I love getting to create magical moments for families by making sure their vacations are ones they never forget. Whether that be spending time talking and playing with children in the store or truly getting to know families from all over the world; the opportunities are endless.”
“I’ve seen and experienced the magic created here, and it’s truly that magic of kindness and intentionality that stays with people forever.”