Over the past four months, I’ve been living at the Walt Disney World Resort and I can say that it’s truly a dream come true. My name is Gisel and because of Destination Graduation, I’ve had the opportunity to intern for one of the greatest entertainment companies in the world.
My journey last left off on the start of my sophomore year in college, where I reflected on my growth since my rocky home life in high school. Through Destination Graduation, I had mentors and teachers who supported me through my hardships and if they didn’t give me a chance, I most likely wouldn’t be where I am today.
Through their continual support, I earned an acceptance to my dream school, New York University, where I major in Business with two minors in Film Production and Psychology. The courses I took my first year sparked an interest in marketing and once again, Orange County United Way stepped in to support me by offering me a summer internship in marketing and communications.
I can say that the skills and values I learned through my internship with United Way are what prepared me the most for my opportunity with the Walt Disney Company. Thanks to the team there, I learned necessary business skills needed to make an impact in a large organization, how to utilize a professional environment to pursue my passion of helping underprivileged children prosper, and most importantly, how to live in service to others to ensure a better, healthier community.
With these assets, I was able to impress my interviewer and accept an offer that allowed me the opportunity to take a semester off college at NYU to take business courses at Disney University, live in company-sponsored housing, and have a job at the parks. At Disney University, I was a full-time student taking courses in marketing and hospitality. I got to learn the “Disney way” of business and the secrets behind what makes millions of people return to their parks and resorts year after year. One of my favorite memories was when I was allowed the opportunity to visit one of Disney’s most luxurious resorts, the Grand Floridian, where I was able to access the most expensive room on all property and got to learn about the special amenities and all the work that goes behind the success of this resort.
While my courses taught me the structural aspects of what makes the Walt Disney World a successful business conglomerate, the activities I participated in with my coworkers on our days off allowed me to access the “magical” aspects. Because of our high guest satisfaction scores, our leaders were able to set us up with a backstage tour of the Haunted Mansion ride, where we got to hear about how the ride was developed and all the little details that go into making it a magical experience for our guests. I also went on a backstage tour of my home park, Animal Kingdom, where I went on a privately guided expedition of the African wildlife at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Even after learning all the backstage information about what makes Walt Disney World so magical, for me the most magical part of it all is that what started off as an extraordinarily valuable experience has now transformed into a possible reality for my future. After only a month and a half in, I accepted an offer for a promotion as a trainer at my location, a rare opportunity for interns since we’re temporary cast members (employees). I was also a top performer in my courses and have already been in several career development meetings with my leaders to discuss my options with moving up with the company after graduating.
I have always admired the Walt Disney Company for the unforgettable memories it helped create in my family’s lives and I’m so honored to have had the opportunity to create magical moments for other families during my internship.
The next step in my journey is attending NYU London for the Fall semester, where I will study a broader range of business classes and be exposed to a completely different environment. I feel lucky to have received this opportunity because my goal is to become the strongest candidate possible when applying to jobs in the future.
My path is clear but I won’t stop challenging myself. Wherever I go, I bring with me who I am and those who have changed my life. I’ll always carry Orange County United Way in my heart and in my mind.
My story continues, stay tuned.