From Hagerstown to Orlando, two recent community college students are on the journey of a lifetime as they take part in the competitive Disney College Program as entertainers.
“I thank my lucky stars that I’m able to live my dream at this point in my life,” said Paola Torres, 20, of Smithsburg. “I owe my ambition and success to my time in the theater and dance department at Hagerstown Community College.”
Torres gradated from Smithsburg High School and received an associate degree in theater from HCC in December. She auditioned for the Disney College Entertainment Program in New York City. She started on Jan. 22 and will be working full-time at Walt Disney World through May 17.
She plans on coming back after the program and earning her bachelor’s degree in communications from Shepherd University.
Torres said it’s a dream of hers to work in entertainment management, possibly for Disney down the road.
“I keep pinching myself,” Torres said. “How does a girl from Hagerstown get an opportunity like this?”
Ryanne Stevenson, 18, of Berryville, Va., who studied radiography at HCC before joining the dance program, also was accepted into the Disney College Program and will be working in Orlando this semester.
Former HCC student Madeline Harmon completed the Disney College Program in 2016.
Alyssa Little, an assistant professor of dance at HCC, said Torres, Stevenson and Harmon started a trend.
“Inspired by their successes, other students are already submitting applications,” Little said.
The Disney College Program is designed for college students or recent graduates from all over the world. The program provides on-the-job experience for students in Disney’s parks and resorts, as well as career development.
Students can take college-level courses for academic credit and network with senior-level Disney employees.
Little has known Torres for two and a half years and had her as a student in her musical theater, dance and dance appreciation classes, as well as in the HCC dance company.
In addition to classes and activities at HCC, Little hired her as an actor for Maryland Entertainment Group’s productions of “An Evening with Poe” and “If Only the Lonely Were Home.”
She is looking forward to seeing what Torres does following the Disney program.
“I honestly hope that Paola makes the connections necessary to continue doing what she loves as a profession,” Little said. “Obviously, there are many benefits to the college program, including meeting new people, gaining self-confidence, résumé building, and options for taking classes, but Paola is one of those students who could really take this opportunity and turn it into a career. She is that charismatic.”