Earning their ears

The Disney College Program allows students to study and gain work experience at Walt Disney World and Disneyland.

Cameron Resnick, a Temple student, stands with Mickey and Minnie Mouse after graduating from the Disney College Program. | COURTESY CAMERON RESNICK
Cameron Resnick, a Temple student, stands with Mickey and Minnie Mouse after graduating from the Disney College Program. | COURTESY CAMERON RESNICK

Matt Scarano likes to describe his job as “working at a playground.”

Last year, the senior media studies and production major had the opportunity to participate in the Disney College Program, an internship he said he was interested in for years.

“[My family] started going to Disney in 2003,” said Scarano, who worked in the merchandise department at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. “We went back year after year, and two or three years into high school, I noticed that the people working there were about my age or college age. I started asking them and they told me it was a college internship.”

Students who are accepted to the program can spend their fall or spring semester working in either Disneyland in Anaheim, California or Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Each participant is offered a role with the company prior to their arrival, including hospitality, attractions and food and beverage. Students are provided with housing just off site, and the rent is taken out of their paycheck each week.

Students come from all over the world – including Temple – to participate in the program.

“I had roommates from London, so seeing the impact that Disney had on people was pretty impressive,” said senior advertising major Megan Bankard.

Bankard, who lived with seven other students during her eight-month stay, said she was inspired to participate after seeing how much her sister, a Temple alumna, enjoyed her time in the program. She said, however, the program isn’t exclusively for people who are “Disney-obsessed.”

“When you go down you find out there are people that have never been to the parks before and are committing to six months down there,” she said. “Then there’s people that are like ‘Oh, we come down four times a year.’”

While Bankard worked part-time in the recreation department at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, she was also enrolled in courses like the Exploring Disney Heritage, which she said was a great opportunity for students to continue their education during their participation in the program.

There are also courses offered in fields like tourism and hospitality and engineering, some of which can be used to fulfill credit requirements.

Like Scarano, Cameron Resnick discovered the program while on a family vacation, but was interested in getting involved for a slightly different reason.

Resnick, who had previous photo experience, worked for five months as as PhotoPass photographer at the Magic Kingdom but said the opportunities exceeded his expectations. During his College Program, Resnick served as a batboy during the Atlanta Braves’ spring training season. The Braves play their home games at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

“They took five people out of the whole giant program that got to do that and just being able to do that,” the junior media studies and production major said. “I’ll probably never get to do something like that again, just being involved [with] players and managers. It was a very valuable experience.”

He said one of his main reasons for getting involved was in hope of getting his foot in the door at ESPN, a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company’s media network.

Resnick, Bankard and Scarano agreed that even if their job in the program was unrelated to their field, just having the word “Disney” on their resumes is valuable.

“To work for a company like Disney that’s so massive, no matter where you’re applying, that goes a long way,” Scarano said.

The work experience is a plus, but Bankard said experiencing Disney “behind the scenes” was also fascinating.

“I did the backstage stuff, so you get to see everything,” Bankard said. “They would tell us that the Halloween show is planned like six years in advance. You go and think, ‘Oh, they put up decorations.’ But no, that firework show was planned four years ago.”

Now that Scarano is older and has had the opportunity to visit the parks many times, he said that he feels lucky to be “preserving the magic.”

“Whether it’s a good day or a bad day, I’m really proud of [my job],” Scarano said. “I’ll see a lot of families having a good time and a lot of families won’t get to come back for [a while]. Some can’t afford to come at all. I can make or break their experience, so I hope just being able to be a part of an experience families plan years ahead of time – it’s kind of giving back.”

Alexa Bricker can be reached at abricke1@temple.edu

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