Learn How to #OwnYourFuture with Tips from Disney’s Top Leaders

The Disney Youth Education Series (Y.E.S.) is a program in which students, ranging from elementary school to college, are given an opportunity to enhance their classroom education with learning experiences that take place inside the Walt Disney World theme parks.

Disney currently offers about 25 of these unique programs. Participating schools and students are able to choose from a variety of topics such as leadership development, history, applied sciences, and environmental studies.

I recently was given an exclusive opportunity to travel to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., to meet with Disney cast members (Disney’s term for employees) who coordinate these sessions, and I was able to see first-hand what it is like to take part in a Youth Education Series program.

A large portion of my time at Disney was spent discussing DECA, Disney, and the Y.E.S. programs during “meet and greets” with some of Disney’s executive leaders.

Read below to learn a little bit more about some of the cast members that I met and to read what advice they had for DECA members:

Tim Hill | Director of Youth Special Programs
As a 26-year veteran of working for the Disney company, Mr. Hill is viewed in his office as a visionary leader who is known for giving people a chance to make a name for themselves. Unlike many other companies where job stability in a specific role is key, Mr. Hill explained how Disney aspires to have leaders who have held many different jobs within the company, as it shows a desire to learn and a dedication to the brand. A great piece of advice he had for students our age is that there is no such thing as a wrong move in life, and what is truly important is how we build on all of our experiences and how we learn from them.

Wendy Snelson | Sales and Development Director-Disney Youth
When Ms. Snelson first joined the Disney team 28 years ago, she was brought on to help open some of Disney’s resorts, because at the time, only three resorts existed on property. She was a part of the team which helped write leadership standards for cast member training, and two of the skills which she feels are extremely important for any cast member to have are impeccable writing capabilities as well as the ability to communicate in a second language. She highly recommends that students our age seek internship opportunities with companies that we appreciate, as it can set us up for future success in that industry.

Gino Iavarone | Manager of Group Sales Development and Integration
Mr. Iavarone is tasked with leading a team of 17 cast members who coordinate group sales at all of Disney’s resorts. The three primary group types that his team works with are weddings, youth groups, and leisure groups. This is a challenge for his team, as each of these groups require sometimes very different needs. He feels that it is important for aspiring leaders to be self-reliant and to be able to make decisions on their own. Many cast members on his team aspire to rise to the management level, so he empowers his team to make decisions on a daily basis, as it prepares them for the roles which they hope to fill.

Barbara O. Blake | Manager of the Disney Youth Education Series
The entire Disney Youth Education Series is overseen by Ms. Blake, and she has over 35 years of experience working at Disney with youth educational programming. She was able to teach me in detail about the programs offered by Disney, such as how they impact between 35,000-45,000 students annually! She understands the importance of innovation, as she has helped to develop the Y.E.S. program into what it has become today.

Brian Head | Financial Analyst
Mr. Head is someone who many of us can best relate to, as just last year he graduated from the business school at the University of Virginia. He was fortunate to find his way to Disney nine months ago, and he credits much of his success so far to becoming very actively involved with multiple student organizations while attending UVA. Looking back on the past few years, Mr. Head’s biggest piece of advice to students our age is to not be afraid to fail as you aspire to achieve great things.

As you can tell, many of these Disney leaders are passionate about the opportunities that have been afforded to them by working for Disney, and they all believe that DECA’s partnership with the Disney Youth Education Series is a perfect match.

Be sure to take advantage of these incredible opportunities which are available to all DECA members at Disney’s parks!

You can learn more about the Disney Youth Education Series and specific program offerings by clicking here.

Follow Donald on Twitter @DECA_Donald.

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