LEXINGTON, Ky. (9/12/2013)— Many people in their 20s are encouraged to take chances, chase their dreams, and do things that nobody thought they’d ever do while they are still young. Niki Whalen, 20, has accepted the challenge and is now working at the place “where all your dreams come true.”
Niki just received her associate’s degree from Eastern Kentucky University when she heard about the Disney College Program. As a Disney lover and a die-hard Alice in Wonderland fan, Niki decided that she would take the chance and sign up.
“I am a lot like Alice in Wonderland,” said Niki. “I’m curious about everything and always wanting to do new things.”
The Disney College Program would allow Niki to live in Disney World and work as a character performer for college credit.
“Before I got the role as a character performer, I thought everyone here put on a show to look so genuine and happy,” said Niki. “I was pleasantly surprised to find out that everyone really is so nice and welcoming.”
As a character performer they matched her height with characters’, and if “the hat fit” she would “become friends with them,” and take on their persona. To save the characters’ identities, and keep the magic alive, the actors never say what exactly they do as character performers.
“I am friends with Winnie The Pooh, the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, and yesterday I was friends with Bashful,” Niki said laughing. ”While being friends with the White Rabbit I was able to go around the park with Alice and meet the guests, it was just so much fun.”
Out of the 2,700 people that auditioned all over the nation and Puerto Rico, Niki was one of the lucky 200 students who are getting the once in a lifetime college experience.
“I am the only one from Kentucky that I have met so far,” she said. “Disney has taught me that there are really great people out there, that having a job can actually be fun and I have learned so much about myself.”
Not only is Niki working 40 hours a week and becoming friends with so many people and Disney characters, she also makes time to do what she loves most and that is bettering herself.
“Six of my friends and I started doing Rilla Hops, which is also known as parkour,” she said. “They do it to train and become stunt doubles, I do it all for fun.”
Parkour involves moving rapidly through an area, typically in an urban environment, negotiating obstacles by running, jumping, and climbing. Niki and her friends have traveled, even across the world, to get the best parkour experience.
“My boyfriend got me started with Rilla Hops and I couldn’t stop,” said Niki. “We just got back from Singapore not too long ago. We went to learn more techniques of the sport.”
While there are competitions and thousands of people across the world that take part in the sport, Niki just does it for fun and mainly to keep her strong and in shape. To see a video of what Rilla Hops consists of, see Niki in action here.
Niki’s has a strength, motivation and curiosity similar to Alice In Wonderland’s and is in the right place to make all of her dreams come true.
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