Charity Spotlight: Modern Princesses

Disney on Ice brings powerful women to DC charter schools to educate and empower young women.
By Tyler Sullivan

Ken and Bonnie Feld and their daughter Juliette of Feld Entertainment brought Princess Tiara to a Southeast DC school last week. Photo by John Arundel.

The nation’s entertainment czar Kenneth Feld, his daughter Juliette, and wife Bonnie, brought four of Washington’s most powerful women to a Southeast D.C. school on Oct. 20, to talk about growing up, dreaming big and the responsibilities of being a female leader.

Their Dare to Dream talk, inspired by Feld Entertainment‘s Disney on Ice, targeted the unique journey of being and growing up female, bringing a panel of successful and dream-minded women to a wide-eyed audience of young girls striving for just that—achieving their dreams.

The panel, making a midday appearance at Excel Academy Public Charter School—the first-ever public charter school for girls in Washington—featured Debra Lee, the Chair and CEO of BET Networks; Fox 5 Anchor Laura Evans; Dr. Rhonique Harris, director of the Child Health Advocacy Institute at Children’s National Medical Center and Kaye Savage, the founder and CEO of the school.

The discussion was even capped off by a surprise appearance by a Disney princess—Disney on Ice star Princess Tiana.

Questions provided for the discussion came from the students themselves. Lee was blown away by the preparedness and intelligence of the girls’ questions, repeatedly calling them “very smart girls.”

Some of the panel’s answers were enlightening.  Savage urged the girls to be honest: “Be honest with yourself and be certain you don’t have anything to hide about what you’re doing with your life.”

Dr. Harris explained that “success is defined by you.” She told the girls to let “No” be their inspiration: “Work harder to prove that you can do it. ‘No’ should make you work harder for your dreams,” she said.

The hit question, however, seemed to be an inquiry of the panelists’ favorite Disney princess. Although some were torn, the overall consensus seemed to be the recent and dream-driven Princess Tiana, of The Princess and the Frog, who pursued her career dreams of owning and operating a restaurant.

Other panelists commented on the success of Princess Tiana as a princess of color, although Dr. Harris stole the show, telling the girls that each one of them was her favorite Disney princess.

Afterwards, Feld brought in a special treat, introducing Disney on Ice’s Princess Tiana to the exhilarated girls.  Screaming and giddy, the schoolgirls were out of their chairs and fidgety with excitement.

However, each of the girls showed extraordinary restraint in waiting for each homeroom’s turn for a photo opportunity with the princess, in front of a fuchsia Princess and the Frog backdrop. The girls sang songs directed by their teachers, bellowing soothing melodies such as “we will live in peace,” presenting their knowledge of all fifty states and chanting schools mottos such as “Integrity, Discipline, Enjoyment” and “Educate, Empower, Excel.” The girls even jumped at the chance to yell “COLLEGE!” when prompted with a fill-in-the-blank future goal from their teachers.

Juliette Feld, Disney on Ice’s Dare to Dream producer, served as the moderator for the empowering discussion. Her youthful and uplifting attitude brought a serenity to the room, mirroring the hopeful and happy innocence of the girls in the audience.

When I asked Juliette of her own favorite Disney princess she exclaimed “them all!” but commented on her admiration of the more “contemporary Disney princesses who chase their dreams.”

Lee was ecstatic about the event’s success. “It reminds me of the impact we [BET Networks] have in our community,” she said, “even to such young girls.”

At the end of the hour no one could deny the smiles of the little girls as they left the room and proceeded back to their daily classes, nor the smiles of the adults who helped organize the event.

Screaming and giddy, the students were out of their chairs and fidgety with excitement. Photo by John Arundel.

The panel featured Debra Lee, Chairman and CEO of BET Networks, and Kaye Savage, Founder and CEO of Excel Charter School. Photo by John Arundel.

The heart-to-heart was capped off by a surprise appearance by a Disney princess—Disney on Ice star Princess Tiana. Photo by John Arundel.

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