Graham Ling isn’t a Super Bowl MVP riding the roaring current of a celebratory grape Gatorade-cooler shower into the sunset.
Football glory or not, the Beacon College senior still can utter the famous catchphrase: “I’m going to Disney World.”
A memorable catch didn’t clinch his trip to Disney, but rather his application that caught the eye of Disney judges tasked with picking the best college students for the Disney College Program. Ling is among the latest crop of collegians selected for the competitive paid internship that steeps students in corporate leadership and exposes them to the global culture.
“When I was selected for the Disney College Program I was very happy that I got in,” Ling said. “I knew that I was going up against some competitive people and I knew that it was going to be a challenge. I wanted to be the best they had.”
The Disney College Program, according to the program’s website, affords “students from across the country the opportunity to participate in our one-of-a-kind Living, Learning and Earning experience. Professionals from every field agree that an academically oriented work experience provides students with the tools they need to compete effectively in today’s job market.”
The program requires applicants take a semester-long sabbatical from their college studies to participate in the residential program.
Interns live in one-to-four bedroom apartments on the Disney College campus with people from around the U.S. — and potentially from around the globe.
Interns learn about potential careers, leadership strategies and business fundamentals through Disney courses offered for their edification.
Interns earn money working at Disney attractions as photographers, character attendants, bellhops, custodians and in other roles.
Disney bills its parks as “The place where dreams come true.”
For Ling, the slogan proved prophetic.
“When I was a little kid I always wanted to work at Disney,” says Ling, 21, a senior from Atlanta, Ga. majoring in hospitality. “When I heard about the [Disney] program, I knew that [it] was a step to working at my dream job.”
He follows in the footsteps of Andrew Fields and May graduate David Stenzler, who is currently in the program.
“This is a great opportunity for students in the hospitality track in Business Management,” said Susan Ward, Beacon’s coordinator of the Boven Center for Career Development and Outreach. “It also allows them to add the experience on their resume or return to work in the parks in a management position and either become employed in the park and move to higher positions within the parks. With the program on their resume they can apply to affiliates such as ABC [network] and have a decent shot at being hired.”
Even more important to Ling, who has ADHD and other learning disabilities, and other students at Beacon College — the first college or university accredited to award bachelor’s degrees to students with learning disabilities, ADHD, and other learning differences — Disney sees inclusion as central to its mission.
“Disney welcomes diversity on many levels,” Ward said. The entertainment giant “understands Beacon’s mission and [presents] the opportunities that our students deserve.”
Even before starting his Disney stint, Ling, a first-semester senior, is thinking about life after earning his sheepskin, plotting his path into the hospitality industry. He’s targeting an entry-level gig manning the front desk at a quality hotel.
And Ling knows that like a compass, the Disney College Program can point the way.
“I look forward to working at Disney because it is a great place to spend time,” Ling said. “The people who work there put in a whole lot of effort in making millions of people’s day feel magical.”