Fossil Ridge senior Shenna Padayao has learned that sometimes dreams do come true.
Padayao is one of 100 high school students from across the United States to be selected for the Disney Dreamers Academy, a four-day event to inspire young people to dream big and to learn how to achieve those dreams.
Speakers give inspirational messages and students get the chance to talk with successful people in their field of interest and participate in career activities at the event.
And, of course, the whole thing takes place at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., where participants and their accompanying guest get to go to the theme parks.
To apply, students must write an essay on their dreams for the future and what makes them different from everyone else. They also must send in the usual scholarship application materials: grades, transcript, list of activities, leadership roles and community service. Only 1 percent of applicants are chosen.
“My dream is to become an artist,” Padayao said. “With art, you create something out of nothing. We started in America with nothing.”
Padayao was born in one of the poorest regions in the Philippines in a house with no glass windows and no indoor plumbing.
Her father abandoned her and her mother when she was a baby. When Padayao was a young child, her mother married a man from Switzerland who moved them to the United States. Although the marriage didn’t last, the pair stayed in America.
Padayao’s mother works as a certified nursing assistant with Alzheimer’s patients, sometimes putting in 70-hour weeks.
Meanwhile, Padayao works hard at school, earning straight A’s, creating 24 pieces of art her junior year and again as a senior for her Advanced Placement Art Portfolio class.
As president of the school’s art club, the Rembrandt Society, she coordinates art projects and art-related community service.
Her art teacher, Christopher Brown, said Padayao earned the top rating for her portfolio last year and also won a gold seal in the Visual Arts Scholastic Event (VASE), the state’s top award for artists.
Brown said Padayao works on her art outside school hours and is multi-talented when it comes to using different media.
“She’ll come to me when we’re trying something new and say, ‘I’m not very good at this.’ She shows me and it’s amazing,” Brown said.
Padayao has a hard time selecting her favorite medium. She enjoys digital art with the computer, drawing with graphite and charcoal, painting with acrylics. Her best works come right from her imagination, not from copying something she sees.
She’s looking forward to talking with Disney animators and artists at the Disney Dreamers Academy in early March. To have a career in art would be a dream come true.
Because art is a difficult field in which to make a living, she’s considering becoming a surgeon and pursuing art on the side.
For now, she’s looking forward to the trip to Orlando for a vacation she and her mom would not be able to afford on their own.
“I think my mom is more excited than I am,” Padayao said. “You’ve never seen an adult this excited to see Disney World.”
Sandra Engelland, 817-431-2231