Walt Disney World Resort was centerstage Sunday at the ESSENCE Festival of Culture to announce the opening of applications and nominations for the 2024 Disney Dreamers Academy.

Gospel singing star Pastor Mike Jr., joined Disney on stage during the announcement that was part of an informational session on the Essence stage in front of thousands of spectators.

The transformational program, which includes a four-day annual event in March at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, is designed to broaden career and personal development for a select group of 100 teens from Black and underrepresented communities across America.

Students looking to achieve their dreams can apply and, for the first time this year, be nominated for the program at www.DisneyDreamersAcademy.com. The application process opens Monday and runs through October. The 100 selected students will receive an all-expense-paid trip along with one parent or guardian to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida to experience a combination of inspiration, education and fun at The Most Magical Place on Earth.

“We’re seeking the next generation of big dreamers to bring to Walt Disney World for the 17th year of this life-changing program,” said Disney Signature Experiences vice president Tracey D. Powell, who is also the program’s executive champion. “Any teen in your life who aspires to achieve their goals should apply. You never know where it could take them!”

Pastor Mike Jr., dubbed “The New King of Urban Inspiration,” is an 11-time Stellar Award Gospel Artist, best known for his songs “I Got It” and “So Good”.  As one of several celebrity speakers who took part in last year’s Disney Dreamers Academy, he motivated the students through his inspiring storytelling and musical performance.

“Inspiring others is my passion, and it is also the core of Disney Dreamers Academy, which is why I’m so proud to affiliate myself with this program,” said Pastor Mike Jr. “I’ve seen how passionate these students are and I would encourage all students to apply or nominate a fellow Disney Dreamer for this once-in-a-lifetime transformative event.”

The impactful Disney program introduces the teens to an array of new opportunities, such as sessions teaching valuable life tools, leadership skills, effective communication techniques and networking strategies.

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.

In her role as Disney Dreamers Academy Ambassador, actor and singer Halle Bailey, who plays the lead role as Ariel in the live-action remake of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” was part of many special moments during this year’s event, sharing her own personal struggles and lessons on her path to success. She also personally hosted two aspiring filmmakers from the class at the world premiere of “The Little Mermaid.”

Over the years, Disney Dreamers Academy has inspired more than 1,500 students from across the country. Each year, graduates have gone on to become doctors, engineers, performing artists, entrepreneurs, Disney Cast Members and more, and some have transitioned into mentors to the Disney Dreamers who followed them.

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

For more information, visit DisneyDreamersAcademy.com