Mickey U: Lifelong fan studies at Disney

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

One of the clearest childhood memories Ohio University Southern student Susanna Harding has is leaving Disneyland in her native California.

“I remember walking out of the park everyday saying ‘Wouldn’t it be fun if I could work here … if I could live here?’” Harding said. “Nobody could have told me that when I would go to college someday I would get my chance to work at not Disneyland but a bigger park: Walt Disney World. It’s been my life’s dream to work for Disney.”

The early childhood development major is one of the thousands of students who have participated in the Disney College program, where students can not only work at the happiest place on earth, but they can also pick up a couple of hours of college credit.

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The park will be interviewing its latest round of potential “cast members” April 10 and 11 at Ohio University’s main campus in Athens.

“We have had a number of students participate in this program and have found it to be extremely educational and a wonderful experience,” said Steve Call, OUS Travel & Tourism program director. “It a competitive application process but the rewards are worth it.”

For Harding, a lifelong Disney fanatic, the experience of a summer working in Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn and Caf/ — one of the Magic Kingdom’s busiest restaurants — is hard to put in to words.

“It was so wonderful, it truly is where magic lives,” Harding said. “The magic that we created for every guest every day was totally what I needed. It made me happy, and I learned so much from it.”

Harding spent most of her 100-degree-weather days serving up Kit Carson Chicken Salad and Slue Foot Sue’s Sweetheart of a Deal in her floor-length blue skirt, floral apron, and frilly white shirt.

“I looked like I took yodeling classes in the afternoon,” Harding said. “I looked like a Swiss person.”

In between her shifts as a server, Harding was also educating herself with a class in experiential learning — a study in the way that different sorts of people process information— for which she earned three college credits.

Although she was learning at Walt Disney World, she said that the classes weren’t for the mousey.

“I’m not going to lie, they were not easy,” Harding said. “I had to write at least eight different papers in the time I was there.”

Although her classes (and her costume) may have been difficult to handle, Harding said that she wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

“It’s not just an internship, it’s really the experience of a lifetime,” Harding said. “It changed me, it really did.”

Harding said that she loved her summer so much, she plans to head back. She’ll be trying out for an alumni program later this year.

Anyone who’d like to see if they’re cut out to be some of Mickey’s finest can reach Steve Call for additional program details at (740) 533-4559. Information is also available at http://www.wdwcollegeprogam.com.