Jaynie Grace Turner, a junior at Helena High School, recently spent four days attending the Disney Dreamers Academy after winning an essay contest that earned her a coveted spot in the Disney Dreamers Class of 2022.
Turner was one of five students from Alabama and only 100 selected nationwide to participate in the Dreamers Academy, an all-expenses-paid mentorship program founded in 2008 to give high school students with a dream the tools and resources needed to turn their big dreams into a reality. According to their website, the Disney Dreamers Academy’s four-day event delivers educational experiences for the Dreamers, including interactive career workshops, motivational talks from well-known speakers, and networking opportunities – all designed to motivate young students to dream big.
Dreamers meet Disney cast members, celebrities, industry experts, and community leaders showcasing a myriad of career disciplines. Dreamers also have the opportunity to explore the magic behind the scenes and have free time to enjoy Walt Disney World Resort theme parks.
Turner aspires to one day be a movie director/producer, a dream she has held since she was a small child. She had been putting off applying for the Disney Dreamers Academy for several years but finally submitted her application after receiving encouragement from her mother, Gennetter Smith.
“I was prepared not to be selected,” Turner shared. “Then I got the letter in that mail that said I was chosen and I ended up crying happy tears to my mom because I was so proud of myself.”
Turner said when she got to the event, she was surprised to be surrounded by all these other kids from around the country who are just like her.
“We were all very passionate about something and have big goals and aspirations,” Turner said. “We got to talk to so many great speakers who changed my outlook on life, and our alumni leaders were so supportive and really poured their whole hearts into us.”
“Being surrounded by so many like-minded people at DDA was refreshing and inspiring,” Turner added. “There was a big presence of positive energy from the second we walked in. Everyone was supporting each other and I made amazing friendships and connections. Going to DDA changed me in ways I never thought possible and the whole experience felt like a dream that I never wanted to wake up from.”
Turner is actively involved in various activities at Helena High School including track, FBLA, and DECA, and is currently studying cosmetology. She works with the Junior United Nations Assembly students at Helena Middle School and also volunteers with her church in the children’s ministry.