BY Krislyn Miyashiro
Junior Alycia Lape told her mother as a 9-year-old that she was going to work with Disney. Ten years later, she got the job.
Lape’s mother had grown up going to Disney World, and it was something she wanted to carry on with her own children. Since Lape’s birth, Disney has been an integral part of her life.
Her nursery was Mickey and Minnie themed, and her family goes on Disney vacations each year.
“It’s a family tradition,” Lape said. “It’s all I’ve ever known.”
While on the annual family vacation to Disney World in 2012, Lape met a student who was in the Disney College Program (DCP). Prior to this meeting, Lape had hoped for, but did not think that she would ever have an opportunity to work with the Disney Company.
The DCP is a paid internship open only to college students who meet the application requirements. Students must be enrolled as either part-time or full-time students, meet their schools’ criteria to participate in the program, be at least 18 years old by the time the program starts and possess unrestricted work authorization.
Students make a certain amount each week to cover the cost of the apartment complexes.
When she applied, Lape was a freshman at MSUM. She said that if she were accepted, she would have no second thoughts about taking a year off from school.
“I knew that it was a difficult company to work for,” she said. “It gets hundreds of thousands of applications a year, with 60,000 applicants for the DCP alone. I knew it was competitive going in, so I studied. I did my research, and I wasn’t going to let anyone or anything stand in my way of accomplishing my dream.”
Of the 60,000 applicants, about 10 percent, 6,000 students, would be accepted.
During the application process Lape had to go through many interview steps. She was given a Disney dashboard to track her position in the interview and application process.
On March 1, 2013, a little less than two weeks after her interview, Lape’s dashboard read congratulations, for she was accepted into the DCP.
“I started crying in my dorm room because I was so happy,” Lape said. “I didn’t believe it at first. I pulled up the dashboard again just to make sure it was real. I kept crying for five minutes.”
She and another MSUM student were accepted the same day. Together, they worked with their professors and other faculty members to ensure they would not lose their spots as students upon returning to school.
At the beginning of August 2013, Lape left her home in Woodbury, Minn., and flew south to Orlando, Fla. She and her family had a mini-vacation before her program officially started on Aug. 5.
When the program began, she became an honorary cast member. All Disney employees are called cast members because they play important roles in putting on the show that is the Disney World parks.
Before Lape was able to work in the parks, she had to go through rigorous training to “earn her ears.”
“Traditions” was a mandatory class that cast members had to take. In the course, Lape learned the history of the company, about Walt and his vision, what the Disney company is and what it stands for.
“Cast members learn what is expected of them and how they play a part in making magic for millions of people throughout the year,” Lape said.
After traditions, Lape took two more classes inside Magic Kingdom.
Her first class was an overall tour of Magic Kingdom so that she could learn locations, ride schedules and mechanics. Her second class was specific to the land “Storybook Circus.” She learned the layout of the area so she could better direct guests.
After a couple more weeks of training, Lape earned her ears and was considered an official Disney cast member. Her role was to work the closing shift for attractions in “Storybook Circus.”
At the end of her first day on the job, Lape was absolutely exhausted.
“I had to wake up at 4 in the morning to get to my shift on time, but it was so much fun that I didn’t care,” Lape said. “I am incredibly blessed to have the job that I have, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Magic Kingdom hosts Halloween and Christmas parties for its guests. During these holiday parties, the park reaches full capacity less than an hour after opening.
One day around Christmas, Lape was a greeter at the roller coaster “Barnstromer.” While a family of four was waiting in line, she grew particularly fond of them.
Cast members have “no strings” secrets, such as free passes and coupons, that they can use to create magic for guests.
“We want our guests to have as wonderful of an experience as possible, and we will do anything within our power to make that happen,” Lape said.
Since “no strings” secrets are unlimited, Lape used them to give the family fast-passes to skip the long line and golden tickets for free Mickey ice cream bars.
After thanking her several times, the family left. Returning 15 minutes later to chat, the father told her that it was their last day in Disney World and that she had made their entire vacation.
Like any job, not every guest is warm, but Lape is considered an expert at dealing with angry guests.
Sometimes the parks close early for parties, and it was Lape’s job to get people without tickets for the party to stay out of the park. A man, already upset that he was being asked to leave, grew irate when told that the train he was trying to catch had closed. Taking his frustrations out on Lape, he punched her in the face and gave her a black eye. He was quickly escorted off Disney property.
Lape still believes her job is magical.
“I love what I do. I love where I work. I wouldn’t change it for anything,” she said.
Having spent her entire sophomore year in Florida, Lape returned to MSUM this fall. She is a communications major and a health and medical science minor. Even though she is back in school, she flies down to Disney World as frequently as she can. She left for her most recent trip on Oct. 20.
“I work as often as I can or as often as they need me,” she said. “I typically stay for week, but sometimes I will stay for just a weekend.”
Being in the Disney College Program has helped Lape gain a level of confidence that she did not have before. She is confident about who she is, and she believes that her ideas and self as a whole are worth something.
Lape’s favorite quotation by Walt Disney is: “Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
This quote inspires her to believe tomorrow will be better. If she feels like giving up, it keeps her moving forward. After graduation, Lape will be promoted to a management position in the Disney Company and she couldn’t be happier.
“Disney to me is everything,” Lape said. “It’s my childhood; I grew up with it. It’s my sense of innocence, my way to stay young. It’s family. It’s my number one source of friendship.”