Discover the ways in which Disney Aspire can help Cast Members shape their careers and futures.
Working with Disney as a Cast Member in the theme parks, resorts, and other areas within Walt DIsney World Resort seems like a total dream – and for many, it is! In addition to creating magic every day for others, Cast Members are vital in bringing the resort to life. But here’s something you likely didn’t know: There’s a special educational investment program available just for Disney’s Cast Members, and it’s one that can have a big impact on their careers. This program, Disney Aspire, is making even more dreams come true.
Below, we’re sharing some insight into the Disney Aspire program and the stories of two Cast Members for whom the program had a significant impact.
What is Disney Aspire?
Disney Aspire is an educational investment program just for hourly Cast members and employees. Those who join the program have access to resources designed to help them achieve their educational goals, whether that’s continuing their education, purchasing books, or participating in career mentorship and development. Designed to break down barriers to higher education, Disney Aspire inspires career mobility and helps Cast Members advance their educations and careers forward.
Some of the benefits of the Disney Aspire program include 100 percent upfront tuition coverage for a network of schools and universities as well as reimbursement for books and educational fees. Program participants can join undergraduate and master’s degree programs as well as high school completion, English language and learning, and college prep.
How Disney Aspire Makes a Difference for Cast Members
WDW Magazine spoke with two Cast Members who’ve participated in Disney Aspire to learn more about the program and how it can help individuals achieve their goals: Manila Lucien, a current Disney Housekeeping Guest Experience Manager, and Patrickson Lume, who works in Sustaining Engineering at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Lucien, who began working with Disney as a Haitian immigrant who spoke little English, was able to earn her bachelor’s degree in hospitality management in 2021 with the help of Disney Aspire. Now, she’s taking her education even further as she works toward a master’s degree in human resources.
“I started working part-time for Disney on October 26, 2002, and a few months later I transferred to full-time because I was in college at the time,” Lucien explains. “At that time, I had a lot of family members working at Disney, and I was referred by my auntie, who is now retired. I worked in numerous positions in different parks and resorts because I always wanted to learn more and meet new guests and cast throughout the property.”
While Lucien worked in a number of different roles, she was able to fully dive into the career she’d always wanted once she learned about Disney Aspire. “A little over five years ago, I received a little postcard in the mail about the Disney Aspire program, and the very first phrase that captured my attention was the part that said 100% free tuition upfront. A second later I got on my computer to sign up for the hospitality program,” she says.
“I had always wanted to go back to school and I knew exactly what I wanted to take, but I just couldn’t afford it before. I signed up because I wanted to be promoted as a leader in the housekeeping department, because I loved being able to connect with Cast Members from different walks of life. I thought going back to school would motivate and inspire them to do the same.”
Once she enrolled, Lucien found that her learning tied directly into her everyday work at Walt Disney World. “The Aspire coursework helped me tremendously in my current role and everything I was taught in class made my job easier. Pretty much everything that I do at work today are things that I learned in class,” she says.
However, she also developed entirely new skills: “Before Aspire, I didn’t quite understand what networking was and I didn’t know anyone, but now I have built a huge network of so many people within Disney. I wouldn’t have been able to do that without the Aspire Program.”
Lume, who joined Disney back in 2013, always wanted to become an engineer. He started his career at the company as a quick service cast member at Magic Kingdom Park, and after just six months transitioned over to EPCOT where he became a Mission: SPACE attraction host. When the opportunity to participate in the Disney Aspire program became available, he took advantage of it and began working on his bachelor’s degree–which he completed in Electrical & Computer Engineering in 2021.
He was interested in the Aspire program because, as Lume explains, “it offered me the chance to further my education and improve my societal standing.” Before enrolling, Lume says he’d already started trying to take advantage of other Disney opportunities, like the Educational Reimbursement Program. “When the Aspire program became accessible to all non-salary employees, I was thrilled. The transition was seamless, especially for me as I was already attending Valencia College,” he notes.
When it came to learning, Lume points to the skills he developed as a particularly important piece of the coursework he was able to participate in. “The skills and experience I gained from the Aspire program have had a profound impact on both my personal and professional growth,” he says. “These newfound skills and experiences have significantly benefited my current professional role, allowing me to broaden my skillset, anticipate future challenges, and prepare for increased responsibilities.”
Disney Aspire Leaves a Lasting Impact for Cast Members
Both Lucien and Lume credit the Disney Aspire program with helping to influence their careers. Most importantly, though, they note that they might not otherwise be in their current roles without its influence.
“Being a graduate of the Aspire program has significantly influenced my role as an entry-level electrical engineer. The knowledge I gained through the program has been instrumental in my current position,” Lume says. “Without the Aspire program, I wouldn’t have had the chance to continue my journey at Disney, pursuing a career I’m passionate about.”
Lucien says the program was particularly meaningful for her: “I am living proof of Aspire’s success. As a graduate, I put everything that I learned in school into practice at work. Before Aspire, I didn’t know anything about HR. Aspire broke so many barriers for me, even as a child of immigrants and a mom of 3 children, anything is possible if you put your mind to it,” she says. “I still can’t believe I don’t have to pay anything back.
Plus, the Disney Aspire Program showed Lucien there was so much more potential – and many more career possibilities – than she’d initially thought. “Disney Aspire is a gift of a lifetime for me, and I’m grateful to be part of such an amazing program. Before Aspire, my dream was to become a housekeeping manager. After going back to school and learning about HR and hospitality, I now want to be an assistant director in housekeeping or make magic in the HR department,” she notes.
And when she thinks about the future, she knows the Aspire program holds even more potential for her family. “I can’t wait for my son to be 18 so he can follow my path, become a Cast Member, and go through Aspire,” she says.