RIO RANCHO, N.M. — A Rio Rancho teen is headed to Orlando, Fla., next month for a conference after winning a Walt Disney essay contest.
The program, Disney’s Dreamers Academy, is hosted by actor and current Family Feud host Steve Harvey and will take place at the Walt Disney World Resort on March 8-11. The conference is meant to inspire motivated students to pursue their dreams, according to a Disney news release.
For 15-year-old Cathleen Daly, that dream is to become a missionary in her home country of China. Cathleen was adopted by Alice Daly of Rio Rancho when she was 18 months old.
“I want to go back to China where I was born,” she said. “I want to work in an orphanage and help children who are in the same position I was in before I was adopted.”
Daly, who is home-schooled, is the only applicant from New Mexico to earn a spot in the academy. She was among 100 chosen from an applicant pool of 4,700 nationwide.
Daly and her mom will get an all-expense paid trip to Orlando, and the younger Daly will attend the academy. She will hear guest speakers and participate in workshops that will introduce her to various fields.
Daly had to write an essay describing who she is, her plans after high school and an experience that changed her life. Judges looked at the students’ display of curiosity, compassion and leadership skills.
Daly said the event that changed her life was a recent missionary trip to Phoenix with her church, Harvest Fellowship. The group bagged and handed out groceries to needy families and helped build and paint a local church.
“It made me realize that a group of people can come together and get stuff done,” she said. “It fueled my dream of wanting to become a missionary.”
Daly participates in the Master Dance program at Rio Rancho High and is active in her church youth group. She said she hopes the Dreamers Academy will encourage her to reach her dreams.
“I’m looking forward to meeting other families,” she said. “And I’m excited about meeting other teens at the same place in life that I am.”