Olivia Jones, a heart transplant recipient from Silver Spring, Maryland, counted among the 100 chosen for the 2022 Disney Dreamers Academy (NNPA)

Olivia Jones recalled how her mother introduced her to the Disney Dreamers Academy program.

And as the Hubert Black High School student continued her story, she soon captured the imagination of her fellow program participants. 

“I researched the program further on the internet, and to apply, I used my heart transplant story as my essay,” Olivia, 13, remarked.

Soft-spoken and brilliant, Olivia said it didn’t take long for Disney officials to reach out to her with the news that she’d been invited to join 100 students worldwide out of thousands of applicants. 

Established by Walt Disney World in 2008, the educational mentorship program’s mission remains to inspire young leaders to dream beyond imagination. The program provides lifelong access to personalized support for the Disney Dreamers, their caregivers and their communities through insightful content and talented experts, mentors and sponsors.

Olivia, one of three students from Maryland in the 2022 program, said the mentors and academy classmates serve as inspirations.

But she quickly recognizes those who continue to care for her new heart.

“I think all my hospital procedures and my donor are what inspire me,” Olivia remarked. “That’s what keeps me going every day.”

She noted that she has regular hospital visits which help her remain healthy.

“The Disney Dreamers Academy helps a lot because you get the support you need and you make a lot of friends,” Olivia said.  

During the four-day academy, Olivia sought to learn life lessons from mentors and she said she looked forward to returning home with new memories and friends.

“I was so excited and surprised when I heard the news [that Disney had approved her application to attend the academy],” Olivia recalled. 

A frequent visitor to the District’s Smithsonian museums, Olivia said she prefers the Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

“I like the Air and Space Museum because they have the astronaut ice cream that I enjoy,” she said with a laugh. “I grew up going to all of the Smithsonian Museums and I attended a camp at the National Museum of African American History and Culture and had access to the whole museum.”

Olivia added that her experience has driven her to dream of creating a system for better healthcare for everyone.

A National Honors Society member and co-captain of her school’s color guard, Olivia serves as an ambassador for the Children’s Miracle Network, the Washington Regional Transplant. 

“I enjoy raising money and awareness for kids with complex cardiac diseases. My favorite class is AP Art History which I plan to study in college,” Olivia said. “Ultimately, my dream is to become a museum curator with a focus on African and African American Art.”

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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