Wildcats, Ironman visit Disney

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Bud Styer

Unit 5's Innovative Entrepreneur 2015-2016 class poses for a group shot in Disney's Epcot theme park.

Escaping the cold Illinois weather, Unit 5’s Innovative Entrepreneurs class traveled to Walt Disney World for a leadership conference; taking off from the General Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport on Friday, Feb. 12.

 Although their trip began with a hour flight delay, two hours of sitting on the tarmac and another hour flight delay, courtesy of Allegiant Airlines- the 24 Wildcats and Ironmen spent four very busy days in sunny Orlando, Fla. with Unit 5’s Director of Secondary Education, Mrs. Laura O’Donnell, her eleven year old twins, as well as IE instructor, Mrs. Julie Hinman and her family.

 Two of the four days consisted mainly of travel, however the IE squadron was able to spend Saturday in Epcot and Sunday in Magic Kingdom.

At Epcot, the group attended a leadership conference that was apart of Disney’s Youth Education Series. The three hour structured learning experience focused on working as a team, Disney’s “Four Keys to Success” and cultivating the three qualities that every leader has. Alex, the group’s tour guide explained that Disney measures progress by the following four criteria: Cast Excellence, Guest Satisfaction, Safety and Financial Success. Innovative Entrepreneurs Instructor Mrs. Julie Hinman found the most value in this wisdom; “I think that understanding the four keys that Disney presented to us was really important to understanding how core values in your own business will make it successful.” One entrepreneur who took this advice to heart was NCHS senior and Innovative Entrepreneur, Radiance Campbell who stated: “I loved Disney’s emphasis on kindness and courtesy, which really create a positive work culture. Since I am creating a service based business, employee excellence is a key component to its success.”

 On Sunday, thanks to various fundraising efforts and generous donors, the group was able to experience the Disney “underground” on the “Keys to the Kingdom Tour”. This tour took them “off stage” and in the tunnels beneath Magic Kingdom, revealing how the experience “onstage” is created. “My favorite memory from the trip was when we first walked through the gates to backstage disney because the sharp contrast from the glamorized fantasyland of disney to the realistic workplace that makes it happen was overwhelming,” said Hinman.

 Despite the fact that some of the enchantment of Disney World was reframed in your mind after seeing Donald Duck with no head on, the tour was incredibly insightful and revealed many of the company’s most confidential secrets.

 Mrs. Laura O’Donnell struggled to choose a favorite memory when asked: “All of it! I loved seeing the kids interact with the Disney Youth leaders and with each other.  I was so proud of the students, they represented our school district so well.”

Additionally, West senior Allyah Evans commented, “I recommend flying with Allegiant airlines, they have great ultimate frisbee space for when your plane breaks down for four hours.” Obviously a sarcastic review of the budget airline, however one that tells of the class’ friendship, light hearted spirit and innovative abilities. The trip was laden with similar tales of laughter, from wheelchair races and frisbee in the airport, to encouraging “Ferb” from Disney’s “Phineas and Ferb” to dab during a parade; West senior Brennan Auth’s fully clothed dive into the piano shaped pool for five dollars; late night PS4 tournaments; pranks that involved moving mattresses to and fro, jokes told while waiting in Disney’s long lines and many other shenanigans that, similar to Disney’s underground secrets, are confidential- only to be shared among this incredible group of Unit 5 seniors.

Senior Wildcat Innovative Entrepreneurs (left to right) Allyah Evans, Micaela Harris and Shannon Doherty pose with Disney's Mulan while in Disney World for a leadership conference.
Senior Wildcat Innovative Entrepreneurs (left to right) Allyah Evans, Micaela Harris and Shannon Doherty pose with Disney’s Mulan while in Disney World for a leadership conference.
The iconic Walt Disney statue is pictured with Cinderella's Castle in Magic Kingdom.
The iconic Walt Disney statue is pictured with Cinderella’s Castle in Magic Kingdom.
Normal West Wildcats (second to the left, left to right) Hailey Wickenhauser, Jeff Gourley, Mitch Fairfield, Brennan Auth and Whitney Irmeger are guided through an Epcot ride to kick off Disney’s Leadership conference on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016 by Alex, the group’s leadership expert (left).