Princeton Parker walked back and forth across the stage, pouring out words of encouragement to the listeners like the preacher he is.
“Find your purpose in life… find it in playtime; find it in pain. Show me the place you hurt the most and I’ll show you where you can make the greatest contribution…” he said.
He spoke at the opening session of the 2019 class of the Disney Dreamers Academy (DDA), held March 21-24 at Walt Disney World, and all eyes were on Parker, who is a DDA alumni. He was selected for the program in 2010, when he was a senior in high school. Now, he works for the DDA, helping to motivate young people who have come to the academy from across the country.
“...Find your purpose in relationships, in our destiny moment. Your destiny moment is not your ordinary moment — your destiny moment can take you from searching to being sure. Your destiny moment has the power to seat you next to the people you need to look up to. So, accept the moment. Know that you belong here, and take advantage of, and appreciate the moment…”
The youth and parents/chaperones listened eagerly as Parker spoke. Among them were Miamians Anthony Taylor, 17, and his mom Angela, and Jonathan Nabaka and his mom Audreya. They were among the 100 young people who attended the academy, selected from more than 10,000 applicants from throughout the U.S. In addition to Anthony and Jonathan, 11 other Dreamers were from Florida.
For Angela Taylor, her son being accepted to the Academy was one more of the challenges she encourages her son to participate in. A single mom, Taylor knows that raising a child alone can be filled with the unknowns.
“It has been hard,” she said, “not because he has been a difficult child, but because of his surroundings. I have always tried to place him in good schools; to give him that extra push. That’s why I started him off at a Christian school at New Jerusalem Primitive Baptist Church when he was 4. I wanted him to have a strong foundation. It worked.”
Anthony, who is a senior at the Young Men’s Preparatory Academy, has been on the honor roll throughout his school year. He is in the school’s dual enrollment program and takes advanced prep classes. He has played basketball and was on the swim team at one of the schools he attended.
When he graduates in the spring, he will have from 18 to 20 college credits and plans to attend Howard University in Washington, or Florida A&M University in Tallahassee.
“My mom stressed education to me and it is because of her that I also wanted to do something to help other students like myself,” he said. So, Anthony is starting a STEM program for youth who were not given the head start that he had. “Right now, I am laying the groundwork; putting people in place who can help me with the project,” he said.
Being reared by a single mom has never been a problem for Anthony. He said he believed her when she said education is important. And he was aware of how hard she worked to get him in and keep him in the right schools. In fact, it was his mom who saw the information about the DDA while she was researching Steve Harvey’s summer mentoring camp for boys.
“I signed him up for the camp, and then I saw something about the Dreamers. I clicked on it and learned how to apply…” Taylor said.
Jonathan Nabaka, 14, is growing up in a two-parent home, surrounded by other siblings. He is being home-schooled and is in the ninth grade.
Like Anthony, he learned about the DDA from his mom.
“She came to this country from Jamaica when she was 16,” he said. “And she started her own business, so I have a great role model.”
Jonathan said his mom decided that homeschooling was best for him to “maximize” his time. Jonathan is in all honors classes and wants to attend Stanford University.
The Disney Dreamers Academy started 12 years ago, when Steve Harvey said he approached the executives at Disney World to get help for his summer mentoring camp for boys.
“They told me they already had a similar plan on the books, but needed help in putting it in action.“
The plan became a reality and in 2007, the first Dreamers made their way to Disney World, picking up information to help them on their trajectory through life. Over the years, many of the former Dreamers have come back as alumni, to help motivate the newest crop of Dreamers.
Chef Jeff Henderson shared his story: “... In prison, I learned that my life was worth saving,” he said. “The older black men in prison with me were my mentors. I had never been called ‘son’ by anyone. When one of them called me ‘son’, it made me feel worthy. One of them took me into the kitchen and said, ‘Have you ever thought about being a chef?’”
Henderson said the question changed his life.
“That’s when I took my skills as a drug dealer to the corporate world. I discovered that the family unit is important, and my wife helped me to understand the power of family.”
And where costume designer Ruth Carter told them to “... seize the moment” even when it seems that all odds are against you. She said just before starting the costumes for “Black Panther,” nearly half her crew of workers left to work on another movie.
“I was so scared. I thought my boss would think I said something to them to make them leave. But from that experience, I learned that if you need help, just ask for it. Before long, I had people stepping up for the challenge.”
Ruth Carter won the Academy Award for her costume designs, the first black ever to receive the honor.
The highlight of the weekend came on Sunday morning at the graduation ceremony. It’s where parents are given a class ring and asked to stand with his or her child, and place the ring on their finger. Dreamers are asked to tell their parents/chaperones/guardians what they mean to them.
And then, it was time to say goodbye to the representatives who had been assigned to the parents and media, making sure their every request was met, and to Disney World, where indeed, dreams do come true.
Temple Judea to honor Holocaust survivor
Holocaust survivor David Schaecter, and his wife Sydney, will be honored by Temple Judea at the temple’s premier fund-raising gala at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, April 13, at the synagogue, 5500 Granada Blvd, Coral Gables.
Schaecter is a founding member of the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach, and speaks throughout the world recounting his “Choose Life” story.
Born in a small village in Czechoslovakia, Schaecter was just a boy when the Nazis rose to power in Germany. He is the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust.
He is the subject of the 2017 documentary, “A Call to Remember” by Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum. The documentary tells of Schaecter’s struggle for survival in Auschwitz, his escape, and how he pieced his life back together following the war.
Sydney Schaecter has served on the board of the South Dade area office of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation and the Alper JCC. Most recently she served as associate director of Major Gifts for the Greater Miami Jewish Federation.
Gala tickets are $250 per person for a “L’Chaim” ticket, and $180 per person for a “To Life!” ticket. For more information, email Danielle Spiegelman at email@example.com or call 305-667-5657, ext. 2119.
Racial healing session
The South Florida People of Color will partner with the Adult Education Ministry at Universal Truth Center to present a racial healing workshop from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 13, at Universal Truth Center for Better Living, 21310 NW 37th Ave. in Miami Gardens.
The event is based on the book, “Rock My Soul: Black People and Self Esteem” and is free and open to the public. Tawnicia Ferguson Rowan, licensed UTC teacher and an assistant professor of English at Florida Memorial University, will lead the workshop. Jordana Hart of South Florida People of Color will facilitate.
Milestone for Jewish Genealogical Society
Congratulations to the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Miami, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in February.
Members will celebrate the event with a brunch at 11 a.m. Sunday, April 7, at the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, 4200 Biscayne Blvd. The Society will honor all the founders and first-year members and past presidents.
The organization meets monthly and has guest speakers at each meeting, who speak on research techniques. JGS also coordinates with Temple Beth Am’s Sunday Salons, where its extensive library is housed, and works with the Genealogical Society of Greater Miami.
Miami Woman’s Club event
You are invited to an evening to “Celebrate Conservation and Trees” at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 10, at the Doubletree Grand, 1717 N. Bay Shore Dr.
Sponsored by the Miami Woman’s Club, the program will include guest speaker Rachel Mazyck, who received her Girl Scout Gold Award for her project, “My State, Your State, Our State,” which raised awareness of the dangers of shoreline erosion.
Mazyck is a freshman at Florida Atlantic University studying environmental science. The event is complimentary, but you need to RSVP by calling 786-615-3313 or by emailing, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Young Patronesses of the Opera/Florida Grand Opera, will present its 30th National Voice Competition at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, April 13, at the Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Rd. in Miami Beach.
Competing will be 34 young opera singers from throughout the country. From the 34, 10 finalists will be invited to participate in the semifinals. The finalists will perform in front of an audience and a panel of judges made up of opera company professionals from around the country.
The top prize is $10,000 and the audience selects the winner of the Audience Favorite Award. Tickets are $25 each. Tickets may be purchased at the Colony Theatre box office by calling 800-211-1414. Rates of $10 per ticket are available to students and for groups of 10 or more.
Concert at Temple Moses
The Education Department of the Inter-American Chapter of Hadassah will present Jessica Wald in concert at 2 p.m. April 14 at Temple Moses, 1200 Normandy Dr. in Miami Beach. The Argentinian-American soprano and cantor is coming to Miami from Israel and will sing songs in Hebrew, Yiddish, in Spanish as well as Broadway songs.
Tickets are $25 at the door. Make checks payable to Hadassah, Inter-American Chapter, P.O. Box 546166, Surfside, FL 33154.