Steve Harvey has a God-given talent: he is belly aching funny, and it is this raucous humor along with an ability to extend his brand that has made the one-time college dropout wildly successful.
With this come obvious peaks, such as fame and fortune: a burgeoning media empire that cuts across book publishing and syndicated on-air shows.
But the 58-year-old isn’t content to sit back and relax. He uses his celebrity to push his philanthropic efforts just as much as cracking jokes.
Indeed, Harvey is passionate about inspiring teenagers to dream big and fulfill their untapped potential. “Education is not the most important thing in your life: it’s your dream,” says the comedian-turned-talk show host.
Every Father’s Day weekend, Harvey and his wife Marjorie, invite boys from single-parent households to their Dallas ranch to teach them to be the best they can. With the help of male mentors, the teens are taught the principles of manhood, leadership and community empowerment.
This idea has morphed into a spectacular mentoring and educational program at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. Now in its 8th year, Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine, took place last week over an extended jam-packed four-day weekend.
A group of 100 high school students, identified as Dreamers, were invited to an all-expense paid trip to Disney, along with a parent or guardian, to learn important character building and career development skills.
Handpicked from 10,000 applicants nationwide, the boys and girls participated in hands-on, full-immersion workshops, led by industry experts in a bevy of career paths, ranging from engineering to animation.
“If you understand the principles you get to be successful,” Harvey said during Sunday’s commencement ceremony. “Your career is what you’re paid for, your calling is what you’re made for. It’s my obligation to teach as many people as I can to prosper and to flourish.”
For most, if not all, of the youngsters who attend Disney Dreamers Academy (DDA) the program is a life changing experience with unprecedented access to a host of celebrities, motivational speakers and experts at the top of their fields.
“I’ve learnt that a dream is only a dream if you don’t work at it,” said Bianca Benett, a high school senior from Bronx, New York. “One of the speakers said ‘a door becomes an entrance once you walk through it’.”
“So when you’ve a dream you’ve to mold it, you have to create it, you’re to develop it, you’ve to fall in love with it, and that’s how you create the full product,” she adds. “And the big thing they’ve been saying is follow through to make your dream successful.”
This year, media personalities who shared their stories and provided insight on how to achieve success included, host Steve Harvey, Bishop T.D Jakes, gospel singer Yolanda Adams, TV host Michael Strahan and Essence Communications President Michelle Ebanks, among others.
“It does not matter where you start,” said Bishop T.D Jakes during an inspirational speech at Dreamers Academy. “It matters where you finish. You will win if you don’t quit.”
TV host/correspondent Rocsi Diaz also hosted conversations with self-made tech multimillionaire Jaylen Bledseo, actress and singer Coco Jones, E! News’ Terrence J, actor Lamman Rucker and filmmaker Will Packer.
Prospective dreamers must be in a U.S. high school and aged between 13 and 19. To win a place they submit an application and essay about their personal stories and life dreams. Since its inception, 800 students have passed through the program.
This year’s group of scholars was selected by a panel of judges, including Steve Harvey; Disney’s Tracey Powell; Mikki Taylor of Essence Magazine; celebrity chef Jeff Henderson; and Jonathan Sprinkles, an award-winning motivational speaker.
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