I looked over my shoulder to see Main Street USA lit up in the pitch black, with Cinderella Castle glowing in the distance. “When You Wish Upon A Star” was playing loudly, echoing in the empty night. An hour and a half after Magic Kingdom closed, the only people left in the park were me and my three best friends. In the farewell message, Mickey Mouse’s voice proclaimed a cheerful, “See ya real soon!” It was the last time I would see Walt Disney World as a Disney employee.
I’d been dreaming of the Disney College Program since I learned about it in high school. The program allows college students to move to Florida or California to work full-time in the theme parks, participating in a paid internship. As a public relations major, I thought nothing could be more perfect; I’d be working with the public every single day!
I applied for the DCP Fall 2012, and after two interviews and many conversations with my Kent State advisors, I was accepted into the program as a character attendant in Animal Kingdom. My job allowed me to speak to Disney guests and help create magical experiences when they met our characters. I had to look out for the character’s well-being, assist with photography, and keep the guests happy and safe. I was fortunate to have worked with such classic characters as Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Goofy, Pluto, and more!
In addition to working full-time as an attendant, I also chose to take a Disney course called Corporate Communications. I knew most of the information presented thanks to my Principles of Public Relations class with Michele Ewing and my Public Relations Case Studies class with Tim Roberts. I was thrilled that the final in the course was a group case study on a corporation of our choice. My group presented on DreamWorks Animation, ending the semester with a press kit and a ComicCon panel planned for the company’s theme parks opening in Russia in 2015.
The DCP offered several alumni speaker events for students, depending on their interests. I attended a panel on social media and marketing where I met John Rogers, leader of the Walt Disney Parks & Resorts digital marketing team. I told him that my dream was to practice PR for Broadway shows one day, and he was able to connect me with Greg Josken, head of digital marketing for the Disney Theatrical Group. Disney Theatrical Group oversees all live shows that Disney is affiliated with, such as Disney on Ice and Disney on Broadway. After a few emails and an informational interview, Greg invited me to send in my resume and tour the offices and theaters Disney is currently occupying in New York. I plan to visit sometime in August, and I can’t wait!
My favorite part of my DCP was the friends I made while I was there. I now have friends from all over the world: Australia, New Zealand, England, Scotland, Japan, and everywhere across the United States. I plan on keeping in touch with all of them, and I hope our paths cross again!
My program ended May 17, and I’m suffering from some serious Disney withdrawal. I hope more CCI students take advantage of the Disney College Program in the future, especially if they’d like to network in a Fortune 500 company that owns such groups as ABC and Marvel. I would never give up my college program experience; it was an amazing opportunity with amazing people and an amazing company.