While football is at the center of the upcoming MEAC/SWAC Challenge presented by Disney, the annual event is more than just a game for two Disney Cast Members. It was the spark that inspired them to follow their dreams and land careers at Walt Disney World.
A passion for sports led Derrick Johnson to play football while he was attending Grambling State University. While in school, he had an opportunity to get involved with the MEAC/SWAC Challenge in 2008. The experience was Johnson’s first exposure to Disney and it made him think about life beyond graduation. Memories from that game motivated him to seek a career in sports. Today, he is guest services manager at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports.
“Historically Black Colleges and Universities make you feel like everybody is somebody, and I know now that I can make it anywhere,” said Johnson. “Education and football have taken me above and beyond things I never thought were possible, including working here.
As head drum major for Grambling State’s marching band, Yusef Anderson shared his musical talents on the field during the MEAC/SWAC Challenge in 2008. For him, the game hit a chord with how it encouraged others to help communities of culture thrive. Impressed by the effort, Anderson sought a career with Disney after graduation. Today, Anderson is a food & beverage manager at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park.
Grateful for Disney’s support of diversity and higher education, Anderson says “I know that attending college bettered me in life because it prepared me. It has made me able to do my job, and do it successfully, without worrying about how to make it in this world.”
Another chapter will soon unfold as the 8th annual MEAC/SWAC Challenge presented by Disney takes center stage on Sunday, Sept. 2, in Orlando, Fla., at the Florida Citrus Bowl. As part of the kickoff of the college football season, Bethune-Cookman University (MEAC) and Alabama State University (SWAC) will face off in a gridiron battle that highlights teams from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Tens of thousands of fans are anticipated to attend the game, which will be broadcast at noon ET on ESPN.