A trip to the place where dreams come true helped a South Fayette High School junior recognize that her career aspirations truly are attainable. Junior Prerna Chakkingal is one of only 100 young people from across the country to be named to the Disney Dreamer Academy. Disney Dreamers are recognized for their intellectual curiosity, compassion, courage, positive outlook, generous spirit, and optimism. Every year, thousands of young people ranging in age from 13-19 apply to be a Disney Dreamer. This school year, South Fayette’s Chakkingal was selected.
The Disney Dreamers Academy, which started in 2008, is a four-day event aimed at broadening career awareness and creating exclusive opportunities for Black students and teens from underrepresented communities across the nation. Disney Dreamers interact with Disney executives, business leaders, celebrities, and motivational speakers. The students and a parent/guardian enjoy an all-expenses paid trip to the Walt Disney World Resort. Disney Dreamers get a behind-the-scenes tour of Walt Disney World and attend seminars where they discover career opportunities and learn how to pursue their own dreams.
Throughout the academy, Chakkingal met former Disney Dreamers and celebrities, including Halle Bailey. But she says hearing from and meeting Danni Washington, a marine biologist and television personality, had the greatest impact. In Washington, Chakkingal was able to see her career interests – science, public speaking, and advocacy.
Chakkingal, who wants to enter the medical field, has led several TED Talks and is passionate about the areas of diversity and inclusion. Before going to the Dreamers Academy, Chakkingal thought that a career that combines medicine and public advocacy may not be possible. But interacting with Washington changed that.
“Now I believe that I can do that,” Chakkingal said. “The Dreamers did a lot to get there. We were selected as the best of the best. If we do more and reach for one more thing, we can get where we want to be.”