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Miles Separate Disney Tour Guides, but Love of Storytelling Bridges ‘Aspiring’ Education Goals

As a Disneyland park tour guide, storytelling is part of J’Amy Pacheco’s DNA. So when she neared completion of her bachelor’s degree requirements through Disney Aspire, J’Amy asked her professor for permission to design her own elective that fused her passion for storytelling with its application at work. Even better, she built the independent study class with her Walt Disney World counterpart, Tour Guide Haylee van Dalen, whom she met in online classes as they pursued the same communications degree.

“We had so much in common; we were both Guest Relations VIP tour guides and we were both facilitators

in Traditions,” J’Amy said, referring to their roles in orientation classes for new Disney hires. Taking many of the same online classes since 2019 through the University of Denver, the two women first became “study buddies” and then friends.

In the elective class they designed together called “Leadership and Storytelling,” they explored the anatomy of storytelling and developed techniques to help leaders strengthen communication and teamwork. While it was designed to be applicable to a variety of industries, they focused on their work at Disney with the hopes that the course could eventually be adapted for cast training.

“Our goal is to encourage others to use storytelling in leadership as a way to enrapture their audience,” said Haylee, who proposed the topic.

Haylee recently graduated in June and hopes to one day work in training and development at Disney, while J’Amy is set to graduate in August and has already started coursework toward a master’s degree in professional creative writing, also through Disney Aspire, which pays full tuition up front and reimburses fees for eligible hourly cast. They hope to celebrate together in person soon and plan to keep in touch when school is over.

“It’s hard for me to explain how much Disney Aspire has meant to me,” J’Amy said.

She had always wanted to go back to school, but marriage, work and family always seemed to move it to the back burner. When she first heard about Disney Aspire, J’Amy was in her late 50s and initially felt it was too late for her. But she couldn’t be happier she took the leap, becoming one of the first students at Disneyland Resort to enroll.

J’Amy has dreams of using her degree to write tours or classes, entertainment content or books, but she can already see how her schooling is making her better at her job, from improving her communication skills to creating effective presentations. And she loves being able to share her Aspire story with incoming cast in Traditions classes.

“I let them know that no matter where they are in their lives, dreams really are within reach with Disney Aspire,” she said. “And you can immediately see the energy in the room change when you suggest that they think about going back to school. It’s beautiful to see.”

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