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JC students experience Disney's Culinary and College Program

JJC students selected for a program that will help enhance their skills in the field they have chosen for a career path

Once in a lifetime opportunities don't come around all the time and for 12 Joliet Junior College students - they did not pass theirs up. The Walt Disney Company selected 12 students from the junior college to work at its Orlando, Florida location theme parks and resorts next year through its culinary and college programs.

"For me it's pretty special because I'm a graduate of the Disney College Program myself," said JJC career advisor and Disney College coordinator Christen Mazura-Morris. "Through the experience I was able to develop amazing skills, and I tell my students in every interview I have ever been in, this has been at the top of every conversation."

With more than 16,000 cast members employed in Disney's award-winning food and beverage program, the chance to go was just too much to pass up for Brandon Perez, who was selected for the Disney culinary program for bakery and pastry.

At a young age, Perez started making cookies and other pastries with his father and he said that's where his love for the field started.

"It all just progressed and I fell in love with it after that," Perez said. "All my classes and any chance I've had throughout my schooling I've always taken culinary classes."

What started off at the Joliet location, ended at the Romeoville location where Perez said he learned he wanted to become a master pastry chef.

"I definitely plan on studying a lot more, go to different schools and travel around the world to learn as much as I can," Perez said.

The 12 students selected were: Alyssa Stonesifer (merchandise), Emilio Gaytan (cook), Kellie Jarose (front desk), Emily Nichols (watercraft), Thomas Neises (specialty beverages), Tyler Doughty (cook), Alexandra Craig (baker), Alexis Carlson (quick service food and beverage), Bryce Herron (cook) and Lexy Martin (lifeguard) and Emily Ferneau (fashion merchandise), and Perez said because it was selective the interview process was not easy, and it was nerve-wracking.

"I made a new resume with Christen and I got told what I have to dress like and how I should speak to the chef I spoke to," Perez said. "When I walked into that interview I was immediately intimidated.

"He asked me questions on how to make certain things and I told him how, I was shaking but I think he understood that I was aware of what I was doing and talking about."

Before the trip, students at the Romeoville campus got together and collaborated with alumni who previously were selected for the program.

During the meeting, the students that were recently selected learned more about the internships, the JJC and Disney Company expectations and received advice and tips from the alumni. Out of the 12 members selected, five of the students will participate in the six-month Disney Culinary Program, where they will work at one of the park's 300 restaurants as a cook or in a pastry or bakery role.

The other seven students were invited to the Disney College Program, which allows the students to build transferable skills through personal and career development opportunities.

For the program, paid internships will include on-site housing and transportation to and from work locations, where students will also receive discounts on food and souvenirs as well as free entry into theme parks, water parks and other Disney properties. 

Most JJC students will begin their internships in January, and Mazura-Morris said she's felt each of her student's excitement for this trip, and can't wait for each student to gain the experiences she once did from the program.

"I can't even begin to say how excited I am for all these students to have life changing experiences at the program that they will never forget," Mazura-Morris said. "The Disney Program helped changed my life in so many great ways, and I know it will also do the same things for these students as well."


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