Disney Dreamers Academy Makes Dream Come True For Teen Entrepreneur With Visit to ‘Shark Tank’

On the heels of applications launching today for the 2025 Disney Dreamers Academy, one of the academy’s recent graduates – aspiring entrepreneur Te’Lario Watkins II of Ohio – experienced a dream come true moment as a result of his participation in the Walt Disney World Resort mentoring program.

Watkins, 16, recently spent an afternoon on the set of ABC’s hit show ‘Shark Tank’ as the personal guest of investor Daymond John, who was inspired to supercharge Watkins’ entrepreneur dreams after interacting with him during the 2024 Disney Dreamers Academy at Walt Disney World Resort this spring.

John, who was one of several celebrity mentors at the Disney event this year, was impressed by Watkins’ story of running his own mushroom farm, Tiger Mushroom Farms, since he was seven years old and starting his own non-profit, Garden Club Project, to address food insecurity in his community.

Walt Disney World arranged to fly Watkins and his father from their home in Blacklick, Ohio to Los Angeles, California where John gave Watkins an exclusive, behind-the-scenes tour of the show’s set, connected him with other entrepreneurs and introduced him to the show’s other “Sharks.’’ The highlight for Watkins was having the opportunity to learn business strategies from John, gain entrepreneurial insights, and acquire general life lessons. These experiences helped John become one of his generation’s most well-known, self-made millionaires—and Disney Dreamers Academy gave him yet another opportunity to share them forward.

“Being able to meet Daymond John again was super exciting to me,” said Watkins. “I wouldn’t be here without going to DDA. To high school students: applying to DDA would be one of the greatest decisions you’ve ever made in your life.”

Disney announced earlier today during the ESSENCE Festival of Culture in New Orleans, Louisiana, that applications are now open for the 2025 event at www.DisneyDreamersAcademy.com, where high school students looking to achieve their dreams can be nominated or apply themselves.

Disney Dreamers Academy is an annual four-day transformational program at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, designed to broaden career and personal development for a select group of 100 teens from Black and underrepresented communities across America. The 100 selected students will receive an all-expense-paid trip, along with one parent or guardian, to Walt Disney World Resort to experience a combination of inspiration, education and fun at The Most Magical Place on Earth.

Students attend in-depth workshops in a variety of disciplines aligned with their dreams. These workshops introduce the Disney Dreamers to diverse career paths within business, entertainment, and sciences, including career opportunities within The Walt Disney Company.

Watkins was just one of several teens from this year’s Disney mentoring program who had an experience-of-a-lifetime following their involvement in the event. Elijah Moore of Norfolk, VA., an aspiring producer and musician, was flown to Los Angeles where he received a special tour of Dolby Studios and Walt Disney Studios to name a few. And Orlando Ecung of Los Angeles, who dreams of being a business executive, attended the world premiere of the movie “Inside Out 2” as a special guest of Walt Disney Studios.

Over the years, Disney Dreamers Academy has inspired more than 1,700 students from across the country. Graduates have gone on to become doctors, engineers, performing artists, entrepreneurs, Disney Cast Members and more. Some have transitioned into mentors to the Disney Dreamers who followed them.

Disney Dreamers Academy is an important part of Disney’s commitment to supporting diverse communities by encouraging the next generation to think big and use what they learn in their relentless pursuit of their dreams to help make a difference in the lives of others.

 

Jason Honeycutt, photographer

Share It!

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *