This post was originally published on New York Amsterdam News

By Cyril Josh Barker

ORLANDO, Fla. – Teens learned about the value of self-image along with showcasing what they’ve learned on the third day of the Disney Dreamers Academy.

The theme for the day was “JUMPSTART” focusing on the work they need to do to make their dreams come true.

Essence magazine Editor-at-Large Mikki Taylor and designers Misa Hylton and Jerome Lamar Credit: Cyril Josh Barker photo

Dreamers were taught how to present themselves and make a good impression. The students learned about creating their personal brand and image via their attire from some of the fashion industry’s biggest names, including Essence magazine Editor-at-Large Mikki Taylor and designers Misa Hylton and Jerome Lamar.

Cyril Josh Barker photos

“My hope is that the Dreamers took away the importance of packaging your brand from an imaging perspective,” Taylor said. “That’s part of knowing your brand. It’s really a style expression. It’s really about expressing your intention, what you bring to the table. Authenticity is a superpower in this day and age. People meet your look before you open your mouth.”

Several Dreamers were part of a fashion show with clothing styled by the guest speakers. Fifteen-year-old Abibat Akinyele Yusifu from the Bronx was spotlighted during the fashion show. 

Students also got a chance to hear more inspiring words from those who have been there before them. Motivational speaker Lisa Nichols spoke to the teens about reaching their goals despite obstacles that might come their way. Nichols is the CEO of Motivating the Masses, Inc.

Dreamers attended a panel discussion with several celebrities led by ABC News reporter/anchor Janai Norman. Among those who spoke were retired NBA player, Quentin “Que” Richardson, Bruce W. Smith and Ralph Farquhar, Disney+ executive producers and directors, of the “Proud Family,” Demi Singleton, who recently starred in the film “King Richard” playing the role of  Serena Williams, and recording artist Mali Music.

“This is one of those things you don’t say no to because you get to be part of something massive,” Music said. “The kids have to know it’s real. I hope this excites and gives them a boost.”

ABC News anchor/reporter Janai Norman leads a discussion with celebrity panelists

Denia Smith, 17, is from Belle Mead, NJ and was selected to participate in this year’s Dreamers Academy. She said the event taught her how to pursue her dreams of becoming a trailblazer and helping others in her community. Smith created her own organization to raise awareness about inequities in education and wants to be a civil rights attorney.

“I hope to bring home the connections that I’ve made not only amongst the Dreamers but also with the professionals here,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of opportunities to do networking with people in the fields of law and civil rights really trying to see what a career in that would look like for me.”

In the evening, the teens showcased what they learned during their “Deep Dive” sessions on Friday at the “Dreamer Career Open Mouse” exhibit. Dreamers gathered at various stations to explain their career paths and how they plan to make their dreams a reality.

The Dreamers Academy came to a close with a commencement ceremony. The students reflected on what they learned over the weekend before bidding one final farewell and heading home.

Open Mouse

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