Abraham (Abe) Vasquez, a senior at Colorado State University, is a bright and bubbly character gleaming with charm. Upon first impression, it is clear that this small town kid from Lyons, Colo. is destined for big things.
No surprise, then, that he was accepted into the Disney College Program at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla.
The application process was highly competitive, but Vasquez attributes his experience as an Eagle Scout and his enthusiasm to be a part of the Disney team as the keys to his success.
“Working for Disney had been a dream of mine and I wasn’t shy to express that!” he said.
Then, at one of the most well-known amusement parks in the world, Vasquez’s trajectory took a major turn.
It was 2012 and Vasquez, a sophomore and civil engineering major at the time, spent fall semester at the Walt Disney World Resort earning college credits and working with the smartest engineers in the world, or as Disney refers to them, Imagineers. The project on deck: designing the Shanghai Disney Resort, which opens June 2016.
Ever since he was a kid, Vasquez wanted to be an engineer. He was good at math, great at science and loved to build new things. He thought for sure that’s what he would do for a career. About halfway into the Disney College Program, Vasquez had a surprising epiphany.
“I got to see the early drawings and everything [the Imagineers] were doing, and I hated everything about it,” he said, laughing. “There’s actually a moment when they take you to the costuming section where they clean all the costumes that the cast members wear. It’s this highly mechanized system where all these things go flying around the room and everybody there was like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe it!’ Their engineering minds were just turning and I was sitting there like, ‘Get me out of here.’”
Engineering wasn’t for him after all. While the Disney College Program had closed a door, it opened others. At the resort’s “Boneyard Fossil Fun Park,” Vasquez had experiences that illuminated his passion for people.
Between classes and work, he volunteered as a “paleontologist,” helping visitors dig up bones. Often times, he encountered children with Make-A-Wish buttons who were in poor health. Knowing that this could be the family’s last trip, Vasquez was determined to make them feel loved.
“I had parents come up to me who’d be crying and say, ‘You’ve been so wonderful to our kid. It’s so hard, but we’re having the best time ever.’ To see that an organization, especially in its work with Disney, can make families feel that way, and can bring those families together, was amazing. To be a tiny, tiny part of that made me feel better than I have in any job I’ve ever worked,” he said.
Back at CSU, he dropped his civil engineering endeavors and plunged into communication studies based on a recommendation from his friend and second year communication studies grad student, Seth Willden. After his first year in the major, Vasquez was hooked.
“There’s something different about the staff and students. I felt like I finally found a place where I belong,” he said.
Vasquez has continued to thrive in many ways. He’s added business and history minors, participated in Greek life, organized charity events, and joined the Center for Public Deliberation. He works with Apple Care and plans to join a men’s choir.
Now in his final semester, Vasquez’s sights are on the future with Disney still on his mind. Drawing upon skills from his communication studies and his zeal for human connection, he hopes to use his talents to give back. He would love to work forMake-A-Wish or in corporate communications for Disney.
He’s submitted several applications for the even more competitive professional internships at Disney and anticipates hearing back within the coming weeks.
Fingers crossed and mouse ears upright.