Local scholarships lighten the mood at HBCU Week at Walt Disney World Resort

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — As Juliana Tellez stepped off the bus with her classmates onto the ESPN World Wide of Sports grounds at Walt Disney World Resorts, she couldn’t help but think about the future.

“We’re growing up and starting the next chapter of our lives,” she said.

For Tellez, the next chapter is about going to college. She and thousands of other students have taken steps toward that goal by participating in college expo HBCU Week, being held at Disney World for the first time.

It’s a college fair that gives students much more than just information about their school of choice.

“You could literally get a scholarship right there,” said Samantha Salcedo, a high school senior.

“I’m the first in my family to go to college,” said senior Kemani Thompson. “My parents didn’t leave … so I would be the first generation.”

Approximately 7,000 students attended the college fair, filling the booths of more than 40 historically black colleges and universities sending representatives to the HBCU Week College Fair.

Delaware State University was among the schools that offered on-site scholarships.

Keith Forman received one of them.

“It feels great,” he said after receiving a full scholarship. “Thank you guys. Oh my God!”

Just one hour into the HBCU expo, Livingston College had already awarded six full ride scholarships.

With all the students, schools and celebrations, the scene was almost unbelievable for the woman who founded HBCU Week 2017 in Wilmington, Delaware.

“This is something we could not have dreamed of or asked for,” said Ashley Christopher, Founder/CEO of HBCU Week. “It’s incredible.”

Christopher watched the HBCU week grow from 700 students to now Disney on the Yard, a program designed to authentically connect with HBCU communities.

“As I bring this college fair to Walt Disney World Resort, words fail me to say that my heart is filled and that we are changing lives,” said Avis Lewis, vice president of human resources, The Walt Disney Company.

A desire to spread culture and appreciation for HBCUs is also why ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith began supporting HBCU Week years ago. He’s now a brand ambassador, bringing his show “First Take” first to the original HBCU week and now to Disney World Resorts, where the show aired on Friday.

“It will open the doors to higher education for a lot of people who might not have thought they would ever have this opportunity,” Smith said.

The most emotional moment of the day occurred on the main stage of the college fair when high school senior Djahnel Reid was presented with a check for $50,000 from Disney on the Yard and an additional $25,000 from Bethune-Cookman College. She burst into tears, overwhelmed by the fact that some of her college dreams were coming true.

“I can only thank God,” she said. “I come from a disadvantaged family…I can go to college with no debt.”

Christopher is excited that her work to found HBCU Week is continuing so strongly through the partnership with Disney, which will help make even more college dreams come true.

“We’re in Disney World,” she said. “We do magic here.”

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https://abc13.com/hbcu-week-historically-black-collage-and-university-walt-disney-world-resort-college-scholarship/12303415/ Local scholarships lighten the mood at HBCU Week at Walt Disney World Resort

Russell Falcon

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