BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Joseph Stevenson, a senior at McKinley High School, says his life will never be the same.
"I just feel inspired," Stevenson says. "I feel motivated. I started motivating others from the day I got home."
He is one of two Louisiana students who participated in the Disney Dreamers Academy last week at Disney World. The event is sponsored by Comedian and TV Personality Steve Harvey and Essence magazine.
The program selects 100 high school students from across the country and brings them to Disney along with their parent or guardian for an all-expense paid, four-day weekend. During the program, celebrities and other leaders share their stories and tips for success. There are also career workshops. The goal is to inspire the kids to follow their dreams. It was held March 6 through March 9.
Miguel Black, a student at Northlake Christian School in Covington, also participated in the program.
"We got 10,000 applications," Harvey told the students. "You are the 100 that got picked. I mean really trip on that for a minute. How are you the 100? Don't you understand? God has a plan for your life."
Speakers included Sports Journalist Stephen A. Smith, Singer Yolanda Adams, E! News Host Terrence J, Motivational Speaker Jonathan Sprinkles, Educator Steve Perry, Essence Communications President Michelle Ebanks, and NBA Legend and Businessman Magic Johnson, among others.
"I'm the only person outside of Starbucks to own a Starbucks and I grew up in the hood just like you,' Johnson told the students. "I don't want any excuses from any of you. Failure is not an option. I didn't make any excuses. You have to keep moving forward and being successful."
Stevenson applied to the program when he was a freshman at Baker High School. He decided to give it another try before he graduated. He found out he had been selected right before Christmas.
"That was the highlight of my Christmas," Stevenson says. "That was the biggest Christmas present I ever received."
The school raised more than $100 for him to use as spending money and his principal Armand Brown bought him a suit to wear for the Dreamers' graduation ceremony.
"No one had ever bought me a suit before," Stevenson says. "I felt loved, happy, and appreciated. I felt like I was not only doing this for myself but for my school, my city, and my state."
Since returning home, he says he has shared the knowledge he gained with others, hoping to inspire them to participate in the program and follow their dreams.
He uses the motivational quotes he heard from the various speakers to keep himself going when he feels less than inspired.
"It has changed my life tremendously," Stevenson says who plans to become a lawyer then run for public office. "I have a new approach. I wrote down a lot of things that were said so when I get down I'm going to go inside my book and find a quote."
He paused, looked through his book, and found one that he thought was perfect.
"I chose this quote –'the road to success is under construction, but the road to failure is a four-lane highway," he says.