FORT MILL — Some dreams really do come true.
At least, one did for Disney fan Caitlin Montgomery, 17. She found out about a student leadership program through Twitter. A couple months later, she presented her passions to celebrities and business leaders at Disney World. Add in a few more months, and she described it all on national television.
“It was really surreal,” said the Nation Ford High School junior. “I had never been through anything like that before.”
There were about 10,000 applications for the most recent Disney Dreamers Academy. Only 100 high-schoolers got the all-inclusive trip to Disney World in March. Disney Dreamers aims to promote leadership and service among young people. Comedian and talk show host Steve Harvey partnered with Disney to create the academy seven years ago.
“There has been so, so much,” Montgomery said. “The main thing I learned is that to actually pursue your dream, you actually have to do things.”
Of those 100 students, four had TV crews following them during the four-day event in March. Montgomery joined students from Chicago, Miami and Montana on the April 2 “Steve Harvey Show.”
“There’s nothing more important in your life than the value of that dream,” Harvey said in the opening of that episode segment. “And my own mission is to help others, especially young people, get to where they want to be in life.”
Montgomery wants to study psychology and become a counselor. She told Harvey that a family bout with cancer inspired her to help others. She is part of a Special Olympics unified cheerleading team, where special needs and non-special needs students participate together. She has gone on mission trips to Jamaica and Kenya, and she plans to take a year off after high school for a six-month mission program in Australia.
Montgomery’s mother, Kiersten Cummings, is a technology specialist with the Fort Mill School District. Cummings doesn’t need convincing that her daughter is a rock star of a person, but the academy showed her what other people thought of Montgomery, too.
“I was curious, as a parent, to see why they thought she was amazing,” Cummings said.
Montgomery met students through the academy who want to create their own clothing line, as well as those who want to become renowned scientists, dancers and TV journalists. Her dreams aren’t as entrepreneurial as some, but the whole point of the Academy is to pursue your own dream.
“Through this program, I’ve kind of seen what makes it possible,” Montgomery said.
She also has an answer now for others who may want to pursue something but wonder whether or not they’re cut out for it.
“Never lose faith,” Montgomery said. “Dreams can come true. As long as you can keep up that attitude, you can do it.”
John Marks • 803-831-8166