Disney Aspire is a program that offers hourly Cast Members opportunities to participate in certification and degree programs that are 100% paid for by Disney in an effort to help them further their career and achieve their dreams. Disney Parks Blogs showcased one of the latest Cast Members in the program, Jamal Ward. Jamal is a cook at The Wave… of American Flavors, which is located at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. He has gone back to school to pursue a law enforcement career. We have more about his amazing story below!
Jamal grew up in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Jamal developed a passion for cooking when he spent time cooking and baking with his mom. “She passed on her love of food and cooking to me,” said Jamal.
Jamal says that the best part about being a cook is, “getting to make different dishes and working directly with the chefs as the menu changes. I love how the chefs treat me as a student and help me to grow in my career. They are always willing to share everything they know and help me get better.”
Jamal had his first child at a young age and didn’t finish high school so that he could start working to provide for his family. “At that point, I felt that working and earning money was more important than pursuing my education. I attempted to go back to school in 2007 before working at Disney, but I didn’t have the support I needed to be successful. After joining Disney, I not only found the Disney Aspire program, but the support I needed from my leaders to be successful in earning my education.”
Jamal wasn’t sure at first if he would be able to juggle school, work, family, etc. “However, with everything paid up front by Disney, I had every reason to do this, and do it now,” he explained.
He enrolled in Disney Aspire’s High School Completion Program after his younger brother convinced him to enroll. He was set to graduate in 2020 with his GED, but worked extremely hard and was able to graduate the program in only four months!
Jamal didn’t stop there, either! Through Disney Aspire, he is now enrolled at Valencia College where he is actively pursuing a career in law enforcement. He is hoping that his journey inspires his children, “If I can go back at my age and do it, they definitely can.”
Congrats to Jamal for his amazing accomplishments and we wish him the best of luck throughout his program!
Photo and Source Credit: Disney Parks Blog
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