College students intern for their dream job at Disney

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Ashley Santore’s last day interning with the Global Marketing and Sales team at Walt Disney World. Now she works with Disney Cruise Line as an agent. Photo courtesy of Ashley Santore.

Mardelís Viera, from Puerto Rico, begins her day at 7:30 a.m. checking emails and submissions. By 9:30 a.m., her team discusses what’s on the agenda for the day. After the meeting, they begin editing and making sure HTML code is up to date through Disney’s HR website.

Mardelís Viera, along with Ashley Santore and Joey Kalwat, dreamed about working for the Walt Disney Company. But little did they know their dreams would become a reality when they landed their Disney Professional Internship.

Santore, a graduate of Ashland University completed her internship with the Global Marketing and Sales team. Her team traveled around different events to produce video content around The Walt Disney World property. Santore wrote tutorials, scouted film locations and partnered with other Disney affiliated businesses. She spent hours editing video content using Adobe Premiere Pro after recording at each location.

“I was the only intern on my direct team, but that allowed me to collaborate with others,” she said.

Santore grew up in Pennsylvania. As a kid, she never had the chance to experience the Disney parks. Instead, she attended other theme parks like Cedar Point and Kings Island.

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“I knew from a very young age that I wanted to work in the theme park industry,” she said. “In fact, in sixth grade I said that I wanted to be a roller coaster engineer.”

Santore’s passion for theme parks followed her all the way through college. When Santore attended college, she majored in integrated marketing and worked at Cedar Point. Her friend from Cedar Point suggested Santore apply for the Disney College Program. Santore completed the program, working in attractions in 2012.

Disney offers many internships. An entry-level internship like the Disney College Program, allows students to receive college credit for working within the Disney parks. Students can also take Disney classes to learn about how to move up within the company.

“After my Disney College Program, I knew I needed to come back to Disney,” Santore said. “When I completed my program, nothing else felt right, everything I did in college was to ultimately return to Disney.”

Santore worked with Horticulture, Resort Operations, Disney Reservation Center, Casting and Park Event Operations. Before Disney, Santore interned at a public relations firm called Media Source where she spent countless hours editing in the lab. She also worked in radio and scored a paid campus job with the newspaper.

Santore suggests doing what you can do to stand out from other candidates. The more skills you put on your application, the better. The Disney Professional Internships are very competitive. Less than 4% of candidates receive an internship offer.

“I think the biggest thing is to prepare yourself. Disney is a company that attracts the best of the best and it’s highly competitive,” she said.

Kalwat, a graduate of Illinois State University participated in two professional internships with The Walt Disney Company. Kalwat interned with ESPN in Connecticut and ABC at “The View.”

“I had no contacts or anything and I was one of the three people they hired for production operation out of over 6,000 who applied at ESPN,” he said.

Kalwat received an offer with the Disney College Program during freshman year of college. He declined because he didn’t want to get behind a semester.

Kalwat majored in mass media and worked for an arena where he produced eight live news broadcasts a week which he was a director and manager. Even though he didn’t have experience working for Disney, he was grateful to receive a 10 week internship offer at ESPN.

“I applied the Sunday after I graduated in May and had my first interview two days later,” he said.

After Kalwat completed his ESPN internship, he immediately went to “The View.” Kalwat spent various days a week on set.

Viera, a senior at the University of Florida partnered with the Global HR Content Management and Delivery department with The Walt Disney Company. She studied creative writing.

“I always felt inspired by all the achievements, the movements that the company creates for its audience and the way it inspires others to reach for the stars,” Viera said.

Viera started her journey in June 2019 and completed her internship in January 2020.

Prior to working for Disney, Viera completed two internships in Puerto Rico for small newspapers.

Viera assisted with many articles on Disney’s human resources website. Viera answered questions that employees may have and made sure the HTML coding is correct for the websites. She edited and translated articles to Spanish.

“I’ve always loved everything Disney and one of the reasons I speak English is because of Disney movies and books,” she said.

Once the internship ends, it depends on the department whether or not the intern can stay on the team full time.

Santore is working on the Disney Cruise Line as an agent. Viera’s management team helped her locate more opportunities within the company after her internship.

“I loved that I was able to partner with different lines of businesses and learn about the different areas within Disney,” Santore said.

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