I was a participant in the Disney College Program for my STEP Signature Project. Through this, I worked at Walt Disney World for about six months. I was placed as a Quick Service Food and Beverage Cast Member at Captain Cook’s in Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Some of my duties included taking guests’ orders, cleaning up after guests, and preparing and serving food. Through my experience, I learned some of the standards of one of the largest companies in the world.
This program helped me grow as an individual. One of the greatest things about this experience is that I was able to meet others from all over the world. Some of my best friends in the program were from Spain, France, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico, and many other places. I have never left the country and personally didn’t have many interactions with people from different countries. This experience allowed me to learn about many different cultures and practices of all over the world. Also, since Walt Disney World is such a large and well known place, it attracted guests from all over the world. This allowed me to expand my knowledge of people from different places.
I have a few personal experiences that stand out in my mind about this program. The first interaction that stands out is meeting Florence. She was one of the International College Program participants. She started working at my location around April 2017. One of the most interesting things I found out about her is that she was from Paris, France. I had never met anyone from France before or learned about the culture. I immediately started to ask her questions and learn the similarities and differences between our upbringings. For the most part we seemed to have similar childhoods. We grew up in a household where our parents both worked. We started school around five years old. We both were on our school’s swim team. But, when we started talking about secondary schooling, our opportunities seemed to differ. Florence was told which school to go to from a younger age due to her track in school. This track was determined by her academic potential. This was very different to me because choosing which school to go to was one of the biggest milestones I have had to face in my life so far. Florence didn’t have a choice as her secondary school was linked to her high school. I thought this was very interesting because in the United States individuals have the opportunity to go to many schools if they meet the qualifications. Florence taught me so much about France that I had never known before and she has encouraged me to take a trip there someday.
Another experience that sticks out in my mind is working with Theomene. Working at Disney gave me the opportunity to not only be introduced to people of different cultures, but also of different ages. Theomene was one of our stewardesses at Captain Cook’s. Now, I usually worked the night shift, starting work around 3 or 4 in the afternoon and leaving as late as 1:30 in the morning. This allowed me to get to know many of the other people who worked in the evenings. For my first couple of weeks I just observed Theomene. When our restaurant closed around 11, I watched all of the cast members load all of the dishes onto carts for Theomene to wash. She would clean them thoroughly, load them onto the machine, and unload them to be put away. As I observed, I saw no one interacting with her. I didn’t see anyone tell her thank you, or even just tell her hello. I told myself that I was going to change that. So, I started talking with Theomene. At first, I just introduced myself and told her my name. She smiled at me and said hello. Then, every time I would bring her a dirty dish I would make sure to say hello and ask her a question. I quickly learned about her family. Theomene was 68 years old. She emigrated from Haiti to try to get a better life for her family. I asked her why she was working at the age of 68 and she told me that she had to in order to pay for her daughter’s school. When she told me this I had to hold back my tears. This poor woman works so hard every night making minimum wage because she loves her daughter so much and just wants her to be able to get through school. This experience opened up my eyes. It made me want to be able to help these people as much as I could. I am still trying to figure out what I could do in the future to help these people. When it came time for my program to end, I told Theomene that I was going back to Ohio to finish up school. She looked up at me and said, “Kayla, you have been one of my only friends here. You are the only one who is nice to me and talks to me. I will really miss you.” I gave Theomene a big hug and started to cry. I will never forget this woman. She has truly touched my life forever.
The final person who greatly impacted me was Jacob. He was one of my coordinators at Captain Cook’s. His job was to make sure all of his cast members were doing well and that everything was running smoothly. One of my main reasons for going on the college program is that I didn’t know what I wanted to do as a career. I did know, however, that one of my dreams was to work at Walt Disney World. Jacob was a participant of the Disney College Program a few years earlier, and he had slowly worked his way up and received a few promotions. Jacob gave me advice on how I could advance in my future opportunities with Disney. During my program, Jacob was going through the process of becoming a leader or manager within the company. He told me the different things he had to do as far as applying and interviewing for a position. One of the biggest tips of advice he gave me is to develop a network of people who will let you know if there is a position opening in certain departments. A few weeks before my program ended, Jacob received news that he was going to become a leader in Quick Service Food and Beverage somewhere in Walt Disney World. Jacob gave me so many pieces of valuable information that I now have if I ever decide to return to the company.
This change has been extremely significant in my life. It gave me an opportunity to meet people from so many different walks of life that I might not have ever met otherwise. Florence taught me so many things about France. We developed a lasting friendship. If I had not done this program, I would’ve never met her. Theomene opened my eyes up to a different culture. She showed me what it means to work hard and to truly love others. I have grown personally through both of these as I believe I will be able to live my life as a better individual. Jacob was able to help me with my professional goals and future plans. He showed me different opportunities and ways I could progress through The Walt Disney Company. This program has opened many doors that were once closed. It has provided me with tools that I can use in the future. I am forever grateful for this opportunity and I am changed because of it.