Disney Education Program Celebrates Five Years and Thousands of Life-Changing Stories

“The Aspire program changed my life.”

That’s Daniela, who works in Global HR at Disney. She is just one of the thousands of people who have had their lives transformed because of the Disney Aspire program.

The Walt Disney Company’s groundbreaking education investment program—which is celebrating its fifth anniversary this week—is turning dreams into reality for eligible cast members and employees who do the same every day for guests and fans around the world.

For Daniela, Disney Aspire helped her achieve something she never thought was possible: a college education.

“Growing up in an immigrant family, I didn’t think attending college was possible,” Daniela said. “The financial burden was always subconsciously there. But when I came to work for Disney that was no longer an issue.”

Daniela—who works in Global HR at Disney—is just one of the thousands who have had their lives changed because of Disney Aspire.

The program—which is designed for busy adults who may be balancing home, family and work obligations while pursuing their education—offers a myriad of program options in a variety of subjects and levels. That could open doors for cast members and employees to learn a trade, improve their English language skills, and earn a high school or college diploma.

Daniela said that Disney Aspire changed her life because “it opened doors of opportunity for me to grow both academically and professionally.”

Disney started the Disney Aspire program in 2018 with the goal of giving our 90,000 hourly cast members and employees the life-changing opportunity of a 100% tuition paid education. The program was launched with a commitment of $150 million in five years, and it exceeded that goal in half that time.

Disney CEO Bob Iger Surprises Aspire Students & Grads 

Following the commemoration of Disney Aspire’s anniversary earlier in the week, Bob Iger—Disney’s CEO—surprised some employees and cast members in the program at Disneyland in Anaheim, California on Wednesday.

When Iger announced the program in 2018 he said that he “always believed that education is the key to opportunity” and “it opens doors and creates new possibilities.”

Disney CEO Bob Iger with cast members Brian Truong, Cheyenne Greenwood, Scott Wilson, Bob, Bellanid Tobon, Matt Loboda at Disneyland in Anaheim, California.
How Disney Cast Members are Reaching their Dreams

Ongoing support and guidance—such as personalized coaching—is also built into the program from start to finish. That means that Disney Aspire is the most comprehensive program of its kind since it’s with employees and cast members—like Daniela—from application to graduation.

And Daniela isn’t alone.

Maniala—a Housekeeping Guest Experience Manager at Walt Disney World’s Fort Wilderness—is a 20-year veteran of the company, mother of three and through the Disney Aspire Program, a graduate in hospitality management.

“People might look at me and see one thing, a housekeeper, but through my accomplishments they will understand how much I’m capable of–helping others, being a role model and bringing the magic every day,” she said.

Maniala—a Housekeeping Guest Experience Manager at Walt Disney World—is a 20-year veteran and through Disney Aspire, a graduate in hospitality management.

Maniala—who is working toward her master’s degree in human resources—added that she’s not just a leader in her work, but also wants to mentor others who want to follow their dreams at Disney.

“Disney Aspire is a gift of a lifetime for me,” Maniala said. “Because of Disney Aspire, I inspire other people. You’re not alone. You can do this; you have all the support you need. Follow your passion. That’s what Disney is all about.”

Disney Aspire removes barriers to education and contributes to the Company’s strong pipeline of talent by:

  • Covering 100% of tuition upfront, as well as reimbursements for required books and fees
  • Offering an enhanced program and degree catalog that aligns with predicted future of work trends
  • Providing individual student success services from start to finish through Guild
  • Enabling students and graduates to prepare for career growth through the extensive career development learning and networking opportunities

For more information about Disney Aspire, visit Aspire.Disney.com.