Disney World in Orlando, Florida has long been known as the “Happiest Place on Earth,” where many people love to vacation, often more than once. But for three local Disney lovers, being able to live, work and learn at Disney World is truly a dream come true.
Eva Cash, Jessica Gillim and Joy Beth Whitmer are three Owensboro residents who have all recently been accepted into the Disney College Program. Considering that the program receives 40,000 to 50,000 applications from all over the world each round and only accepts 10% of the applicants, to have three participants accepted from the same hometown is astounding! But combined with the fact that Jessica and Eva both graduated together from OCTC in December and Eva and Joy Beth work together at Chick-fil-A, the odds are even more impressive.
While in the Disney College Program, these women will spend five to seven months working at Disney World, living in a safe, gated apartment complex reserved only for those in the program. For a nominal program fee, participants receive their first two weeks rent along with housing events designed to allow them to mingle and get to know others. After those first two weeks, participants are responsible for weekly rent, which includes a furnished and fully-equipped apartment, all utilities, public transportation, access to a pool and gym, and free Wi-Fi. Disney takes the rent directly from the paychecks of each individual, and Program students are promised a minimum of 35 work hours each week in one of the many areas offered. This ensures they can easily afford rent and other living expenses.
Eva, age 21, just completed her Associate in Arts degree at Owensboro Community & Technical College. After her time in the Disney College program, she plans to return to Kentucky to attend WKU and complete her bachelor’s degree in Secondary Social Studies Education. Eva had applied to the Disney College program two times previously, not even telling her parents, Greg and Vicki Cash, the first time. It seems that the third time is the charm for Eva, though.
After submitting her application online, Eva didn’t learn until the very last day of notifications that she was moved on to the next step of application, the web-based interview, which Eva describes as a “personality test.” Next, Eva was invited to complete a phone interview and she learned on November 16 (once again the very last day of acceptances), that she was going to be part of the Disney College Program.
Eva sees Disney as a place where you can “Leave your problems at the door.” She hopes to cultivate that same philosophy in her future classroom, allowing students to forget any stressors they have when they enter her classes in order to learn and be successful. This future educator is also excited about the different cultures she will experience while working at Disney World. “I am excited to be around and work with kids from different cultures and see the diversity that we don’t have in Owensboro. This will help me if I decide to teach in a bigger city.”
While in the Disney College Program, Eva will be working in Quick Service Food and Beverage. While this was not her first choice, Eva says, “I am happy I worked at Chick-fil-A so long, so I am used to the routine of food service.”
Jessica Gillim, the daughter of Bill and Lisa Gillim, also recently graduated from OCTC, where Jessica earned her Associate in Applied Science in Computer and Information Technologies-Programming degree along with seven additional Information Technology (IT) certificates. Jessica, who often travels to Disney, was accepted to the Disney College Program the very first time she applied. At age 27, Jessica is certain she wants to be a software programmer. So she decided that combining her passion for Disney World with her career goals would be ideal. “To do software programming and work for Disney would be a dream,” Jessica explains.
While in the Disney College Program, Jessica intends to enroll in seminars on resume building, networking and other work-ready skills. Her goal for her time there is to “build professional relationships and get a feel for how the company runs in general.” She hopes the program will allow her to “get my foot in the door and help me to network.” After conducting exhaustive research since April, 2017, Jessica hit the ground running by applying to the Disney College Program on the very first day the application window opened. Then while vacationing, at Disney World of all places, Jessica learned she had made it to the next step in the application process.
During the last wave of acceptances, Jessica learned she had been granted entrance to the program. She will attend the program from February to August, and will be working in attractions which could indicate she will operate a ride or work in a parking area. After the initial program period, Jessica plans to stay in Orlando to, hopefully, work full-time in attractions for Disney World and continue her education toward earning her bachelor’s degree in IT.
As a full-time employee, Jessica can take advantage of the Disney Aspire program, which offers those who have been employed for 90 days or more a chance to attend college with Disney paying for tuition and books. Then she would love to obtain an internship in software engineering at Disney, eventually working her way up to a full-time career with the company.
Joy Beth Whitmer
Joy Beth Whitmer, age 20, is currently a student at Campbellsville University studying business. However, she hasn’t chosen an emphasis area yet. After visiting Disney World for the first time when she was 2 years old with her parents, Rick and Carrie Whitmer, Joy says she has, “Loved it ever since.” After a senior trip in high school, she decided that, “It would be a dream come true to be able to create magic for people just like other Disney cast members.”
An employee at Chick-fil-A, Joy Beth has worked alongside Eva Cash and considers having more than one person from the same hometown participating at the same time to be a “huge blessing.” As a matter of fact, the two girls will be roommates while in the program.
Joy Beth will be working in merchandising while at Disney World, and she hopes to take advantage of this opportunity to “gain more insight into the marketing aspect of the business.” While she is part of the Disney College Program, Joy Beth will continue taking classes full-time though Campbellsville University’s online platform.
According to Joy Beth, “Disney is admired for their exceptional business model. As a business major, I am excited to learn all they have to offer.”