GLENVILLE, WV – In September 2019, Glenville State College student Jessica Digennaro learned she would have an opportunity to experience something she had only dreamed about. The Music Education major had been accepted into the Disney College Program.
Disney College Program participants gain on-the-job experience working in Disney parks and resorts, participate in college coursework, and meet and live with people from all over the country. The program allows participants to network, take part in personal and career development classes, and build skills such as problem-solving, teamwork, guest services, and effective communication.
“It was a dream come true to be accepted into the Disney College Program. I have always loved Disney growing up and the cast members would make the magic come alive whenever we would visit Walt Disney World. I knew that I wanted to be a part of the magic to create memories that last a lifetime for families,” Digennaro said.
She departed for Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida in January 2020 for what should have been a six month internship. However, she would spend just around two months there before the Coronavirus outbreak brought nearly every aspect of daily life to a grinding halt. In early March, Disney College Program participants were informed that the park would be closing and they were being sent home. Disney also recently announced that it would be extending the suspension of its College Program until further notice due to COVID-19.
“When I found out the news that the DCP participants were being sent home, I was actually working in Epcot at the World Showcase. My management came and got the other College Program participants from my area and gave us all the news. It was absolutely heartbreaking to hear…I worked for so long for this opportunity and it was devastating. We also learned that we had to have everything packed and out of our company housing apartments in just four days. So it was hard to deal with the news of us being sent home, but also being sent home that quickly. Disney cast members from all over tried to help us all before we were sent home. I absolutely love how supportive our fellow cast members were of the College Program participants. They were able to give us some of the best memories from our programs that will last a lifetime. They truly made it feel like family,” she said.
Despite the disappointment of the internship that did not come to fruition, Digennaro says that she still enjoyed the experiences that she was able to have.
“Even though it didn’t work out like I had planned, I was still able to experience so many things! Not only did we have the perks of going into the parks every day, we were also able to take the classes that Disney offered to the College Program participants. These were classes that were all about leadership, hospitality, guest relations, resort operations, attractions, operations, and many more topics. I was able to learn from my leaders and co-workers while gaining connections within the company. I made a lot of connections within the corporate side of the Walt Disney Company and also within the park operations,” she said.
Digennaro says she plans to apply for the College Program again. “I made friendships that will last a lifetime, friendships with people from all over the world and each of us shared the same love for Disney that I do. But my favorite thing about the College Program was the memories and magic that I was able to create. I truly felt so happy during my time in the College Program and I hope to be able to go back one day again,” she added.
Her advice for other students looking for internship opportunities is simply to apply.
“Most internships with the Walt Disney Company are highly competitive but you never know until you try. My best advice is to definitely do research about the particular internship you may be looking at. The College Program offers a wide variety of roles that are available. Some roles are a better fit than others. Disney also offers professional internships in many different fields. Just find which ones you may be interested and give it a try. It never hurts to just apply and see what happens. Follow your dreams and take the chance!” she said.