Walt Disney World Resort Plays Supporting Role in Local Students’ Fine Arts Success

Filed in: About WDW, Beyond the Theme Parks, Cast Members, Making a Difference, Walt Disney World Resort

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., May 12, 2017 – What does it take for a fine arts student to make the leap from Osceola County to The Juilliard School in New York? For St. Cloud High School senior Frank Zwally, it’s the combination of talent, hard work, and guidance from the teaching artists who lead StArt, an intensive art program for local students.

Through its support for the School District of Osceola County, and fine arts programs throughout Central Florida, Walt Disney World Resort has played a supporting role in helping local arts students like Frank to realize their full potential.

“Having the chance to work with Juilliard-trained artists has been a huge part of my direction and the mentality that ‘I can do this,’” said Zwally. “When I first started, I was shocked at how rigorous the program was, but also accessible, because it’s in our own backyard. They don’t just teach you the skills and the craft, they show you how to get your foot in the door at the big schools.”

With a teaching staff that combines Osceola County instructors with teaching artists from Juilliard and professional groups, the program guides 150 students through two weeks of rotating classes in acting, movement, singing, poetry, dance and improvisation. Students and their parents also get practical information about preparing for auditions, applying to fine arts programs, and making connections that can lead to careers in acting, musical theater and music.

As he looks ahead to pursuing a degree in acting and drama, Zwally credits Osceola County’s program with his successful navigation of Juilliard’s extensive application, audition and interview process. His acceptance to the prestigious art school was especially gratifying for Debbie Fahmie, fine and performing arts resource specialist for the School District of Osceola County. She noticed Zwally’s talent and enthusiasm for the arts when he was at Cypress Elementary School.

“Frank was in my music class throughout his elementary years, so I’ve watched him walk an amazing path and am so proud of what he’s accomplished,” Fahmie said. “Without the support of Disney and the investment the School District of Osceola County has made in this program, these opportunities would not be possible for our students.”

Walt Disney World supports StArt through Disney Grants, which help fund programs and organizations that have a positive impact on local children and their families. For StArt’s leaders, the community’s investment in the program has paid off in Osceola students’ success. In addition to other students who have attended Juilliard, the program has trained students who have gone on to attend prestigious art programs such as the Massachusetts Institute of Art, the FIRST Institute for Recording Engineering and Pace University.

“Here at Walt Disney World Resort, we applaud the creativity and passion of Central Florida’s fine arts students,” said Nancy Gidusko, director of corporate citizenship for Walt Disney World Resort. “We’re proud to help provide them with a creative space to explore their talents and pursue their dreams at the highest level.”