From Tomorrowland to Wilmington: Disney Aspire graduates will collect diplomas together

When longtime friends and fellow Disneyland Resort cast members Haley Hernandez and Joshua Cook traveled from Anaheim to Delaware last month to walk to their start, it marked the goal of a journey that began in 2018 when everyone two signed up for the Disney Aspire show.

“I had no plans to go to graduate school, but when I learned about this opportunity, I couldn’t pass up it,” said Haley, who earned her MBA in Organizational Leadership from the University of Wilmington in 2020. “I talked to my family when I was hesitant at first and they encouraged me to use the benefits that Disney offered.” Currently the leader and head trainer of Tomorrowland Attractions at Disneyland Park, Haley hopes to one day be able to teach business college courses.

Josh, who worked at Tomorrowland with Haley, had put his higher education on hold until he met Disney Aspire. He also graduated last year from Wilmington University in Computer and Network Security, and now works in the field of his dreams of integrating and analyzing data at the complex.

“Everything was handled perfectly by Disney,” Josh said of Disney Aspire, which pays full tuition in advance and reimburses fees for eligible hourly distributions and employees who run a variety of programs in more than 10 schools in the network. “I didn’t have to think about sending emails to different people or being kicked out for forgetting steps. They definitely took a lot of stress out of me because I didn’t have to worry about those things.”

For Haley and Josh, Disney Aspire represents a breakthrough opportunity and opportunities to better position themselves for future dreams and goals. “The main reason I did it is because I wanted to be able to grow and develop even more within the company, and I knew that higher education would open more doors,” Josh said. “Disney offers something you probably wouldn’t have another chance at, so I’d say you do.”

“After my degree, I was very exhausted, but I started thinking about how I could continue to improve, not just for myself but for my team,” Haley said. “It meant a lot in the form of, ‘Your company cares about you to give you a chance.’

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