Wednesday, August 25, 2010

College Kids Making Fun at Disney World

Disney World makes magic for millions of people per year. This magic is often created by the cast members themselves. During my last visit to the World, I was amazed just as often by the cast members as I was the attractions. I found that the cast members that had the most enthusiasm had college names under their names on their name tags instead of their city of origin. My sister is currently enrolled as a College Program participant so I knew that this meant that these individuals were members of Disney’s College Program.


If you have not heard about Disney’s College Program, you will be interested to find that the company employs thousands of college students annually to gain work experience in a variety of roles. When enrolled in the College Program, the participants have the opportunity to gain a role in all four parks, over 20 resorts, two water parks or in a variety of other dining/entertainment/retail complexes. Current skills held by the participants help the Corporation determine the best role for the participant in roles such as attractions operator, retail sales clerk, etc.

You will find that many of these College Program participants are overjoyed with the opportunity to bring magic and smiles to the faces of the guests at Disney World. However, most of these participants only make $7.45 per hour! And in addition to this just-over-minimum-wage rate, these College Program participants have their payroll checks automatically reduced for payment of their fully-furnished apartments. While these apartments are located a short distance off the Disney World property, the payroll reduction includes all utilities, amenities, maintenance and transportation to various areas of interest.

I must admit that with my sister being in this College Program, I was a bit more in tune with looking for her fellow College Program participants’ name tags indicating the participation and College of origin. (Sort of akin to when you buy a pair of shoes, then notice that so many others also own those same shoes!) My son and I experience our first magical moment with a College Program participant when we rode Peter Pan’s Flight. We boarded our flying galleon. To my four-year old son’s dismay, the safety bar had not lowered upon sitting in the galleon. He was just about to panic with safety concern as we approached the end of the people-mover and a College Program participant dressed in the Fantasyland attire when this cast member held up his hand-full of Pixie Dust and sprinkled it over the safety bar. Seconds later, the safety bar lowered to the correct position. My son was so excited by this bit of magic that the entire first portion of the ride he deliberated as to how this cast member had found the Pixie Dust, how the Pixie Dust works, and if we could also get us some Pixie Dust from a gift shop.

My son and I moved on to The Haunted Mansion. Once we had escaped from the Octagon Room (as you know, it has “no windows and no doors!), we lined up to approach our Doom Buggies. As you may be aware, when you start the line to the Doom Buggies you go through a huge funnel towards the more formal line. This formal line to the Buggies includes one stretch which moves to the left, then turns and proceeds to the right. The line that proceeds to the right moves directly along a half wall which separates the line from the people-mover onto the Doom Buggies. But to our bewilderment, on this trip the half wall holds a lying-face-down dead Butler. Always looking for new spins to the attractions, my son and I were highly interested in watching this dead Butler as he not only lain on this half wall, but was sliding down the wall towards the end of the Doom Buggy people-moving platform! Right before my son and I rounded the left moving line to the one that moves to the right when this dead Butler smacked the half wall with his hand and screamed a short, “Whew!” The yells, screams and surprised faces of horror from the group of unsuspecting teen-agers in front of us in line was priceless! Moments later, he helped my son and I into our Doom Buggy and I noticed his name tag indicating that he was a College Program participant. He was busy making sure that he had not scared my son while I made sure to let him know that the dead Butler scene was appreciated!

There were several other notable meetings with these College Program participants but found that witnessing my sister’s roommate as one of the performers in the Disney’s Electrical Parade was the most fascinating! Always wanting to be a dancer by profession, I can only dream about being a performer in a Disney World parade! My sister’s roommate looked as though she was having the time of her life and was really playing the part well! I learned that many of the performers in the parades and shows are College Program participants whom have tried out for these parts. They simply sign up for the tryouts for these roles, and then show off their best impression. Not only do these roles offer great opportunities for these participants, but they also offer nearly twice the pay!

I hope you have the opportunity to meet some of these enthusiastic College Program participants. Their approach is refreshing and spirited! Look for these participants at the Disney World Resort area and let them know that their work there is appreciated as many of these participants are taking time from the scholastics to bring magic to you and your family! For additional information on the Disney College Program, visit www.disneycollegeprogram.com.

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