By Jacqueline Bassey
I have always had a set plan in life: finish school as fast as possible at the top of my class so I could start being successful young. I was focused on getting internships, going to every networking event I could find, and making connections. Taking a semester off to work at Disney was never in my plan. One day I saw an advertisement online for the Disney College Program, and I decided to apply for fun. I had heard it was extremely competitive, and people I knew who applied waited weeks or even months to hear back from the recruiters. I went through all three interview stages in two weeks, and was accepted. My parents had never heard of the program and thought I was going to drop out of school for good and ride Space Mountain all day. After conducting a lot of research and convincing my parents and myself that this was a good idea, I made the decision to enroll in the Disney College Program this fall.
Everyone gets a role in the program. Because I am a Marketing major, my first choice was to work in sales and merchandise. I was accepted into this field but I did not know where I was going to work until a week before the program began. I am located in the Emporium on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom; specifically, the Emporium is on the left side of Main Street and is that gigantic strip of stores that are all connected. My costume is very familiar to me. I wear a plaid skirt, which was my uniform in Catholic school from kindergarten through 12th grade. I did have to adjust to a new schedule. My location is the last place that closes in Magic Kingdom, so getting home at 4:30 am is now normal for me.
The second part of the program is the school. I take two classes: “Organizational Leadership” and “Creativity and Innovation.” The course load for the four-hour classes is time consuming, since I also work 45 hours a week. However, my classes are very interactive, and I get excited to go each week. My teachers have had several different management roles throughout Disney with years of experience. The best part is the field work: I get to go into areas of Disney and observe how businesses run and the different consumer behavior styles that guests exhibit. I am learning leadership skills that can only be taught by leaders of a Fortune 500 company with excellent guest service.
The final component of the program is the fun! I have made friends from all over the world. I have a roommate from Puerto Rico, one from Texas, and one from the one and only Long Island. When we are not working, we go to the parks as much as we can. We also have opportunities to attend special events. We got a backstage tour of Fantasmic and sat in the front row for the taping of the holiday parade.
My absolute favorite part of the program is making magical moments for guests. I have been part of proposals and birthday celebrations, and I make little girls become princesses for a day. It does not matter how old a guest is; they came to Disney for the magic, and it is my job (with the help of my boss, Mickey) to create homemade magic with a little pixie dust. In the words of Walt Disney, “Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, dreams are forever.”