Since 1955, Disneyland Resort has welcomed guests to experience fully immersive stories and imagine the possibilities within them. That same commitment continues into the community, as the resort has been focused on empowering underserved youth, finding hope in the future and emboldening leaders to build the workforce of tomorrow.
To accomplish this important mission, Disneyland Resort continues to invest in a workforce development initiative, partnering with multifaceted nonprofit organizations that serve a diverse set of needs in the community for youth and job-seekers. In addition to financial support, Disney VoluntEARS build meaningful relationships with these nonprofits by sharing their time and expertise. Over the last four years, Disneyland Resort has donated $4 million to expand the services these organizations offer so they can create even more opportunities for their clients.
These efforts are part of Disney’s broader commitment to developing the next generation of storytellers and innovators. “For decades, we have been a proud community partner, working with local nonprofits to make a difference and address critical needs,” said Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock. “The resort’s commitment to investing in workforce development brings our renowned career skill training and leadership development directly to our area youth. We are excited for what the future holds for this initiative and its participants.”
This community workforce development initiative supports three pillars: mentorship, career skills development and community program support.
- Mentorship: Cast members, through the Disney VoluntEARS program, have the opportunity to mentor youth one-on-one through school and community initiatives.
- Career Skills Development: Disney VoluntEARS lend their time and business expertise to lead career sessions with topics such as resume writing, interview skills, business etiquette, engineering, guest service and speaker sessions.
- Community Program Support: Disneyland Resort offers grants to organizations that specialize in helping students and adults enter or re-enter the workforce.
Here are stories from three organizations that exemplify the far-reaching impact that is possible when working together.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County & the Inland Empire
“The number one intervention to success in a young person’s life is a positive role model,” shares Sloane Keane, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County & the Inland Empire as she reflects on the impact of student career coaching and development programs. In 2017, the organization began connecting high school students with Disneyland Resort cast members to be “Bigs” or mentors, in order to build positive relationships and showcase the different possibilities they could have for their future careers.
“What has been really special is the amount of magic that is infused within the curriculum,” Sloane said. “It was very eye-opening for our Anaheim students to see what types of careers they would have exposure to underneath the Disney umbrella.”
Continuing this momentum, Sloane is excited about the launch of a second phase of the program, which helps students after high school make the connection between academic achievement and meaningful employment. With funding from Disneyland Resort, and in collaboration with Cypress College, students who are about to graduate are paired with Disneyland Resort mentors during a semester for one-on-one support and coaching for the next step in their journey.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Anaheim-Cypress
On the subject of mentors, the power of positive influence is strong throughout Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Anaheim-Cypress as they develop programs to enhance career-building skills in youth starting as young as 11 years old. From academic tutoring to health classes and music enrichment, Boys & Girls Clubs aim to develop youth holistically, and their programs evolve to meet the needs of their students, including recently opened STEM labs. With support from Disneyland Resort, Boys & Girls Clubs have launched “Geared Up!” in which students can learn skills such as business etiquette, resume writing and interviewing from Disney VoluntEAR facilitators.
“What we really appreciate is that Disney identifies itself as not only a business partner in the community but a real asset for making life better for those who live in the community and surrounding area,” said CEO Anne Hertz on how both organizations have continued to change lives together.
One student landed her first job using the knowledge and skills that she learned from Disney facilitators and was even connected to a Disney Imagineer for mentorship. “So, when we say ‘life-changing,’ we’re really not kidding!” shares Erika Gary, chief operating officer.
Anne hopes those who participate in the programs “are going to self-identify as being more than capable of achieving their goals.” With Disney’s continued support, she is looking forward to opening more sites this year in order to reach even more kids and families in need.
The third pillar of the workforce development initiative supports nonprofits like Chrysalis that help adults who may be facing obstacles to successfully re-enter the workforce. Disneyland Resort was one of the first supporters in Orange County and provided Chrysalis the resources to expand and open a center right down the street in Anaheim.
“Disneyland Resort opened up the world for us from a community standpoint,” said CEO Mark Loranger, noting that support from the Disneyland Resort has made a difference between poverty and self-sufficiency for over 1,000 clients since opening. “When Disney says ‘this is a partner that we trust, that we invest in, someone that we have our cast members volunteering at’… that is a huge endorsement, and it gave us that jumpstart and credibility—I couldn’t have asked for a better partner.”
Disney VoluntEARS like Kim Sims, senior security manager at Disneyland Resort, offer their time and talents to help clients build resumes, practice interview skills and learn business etiquette. Some clients have even become cast members at the Disneyland Resort.
Over the next several months, we will be sharing the life-changing accomplishments of these organizations through the eyes of our cast members who dedicate their time and talents to developing future leaders of the workforce. Keep following the Disney Parks Blog and Disneyland Cast and Community on Instagram for more inspiring stories!