Let’s just say Julia Shepherd is a bit of an over-achiever.
Shepherd, a 16-year-old sophomore at Apopka High School is a straight-A student taking advanced placement (AP) courses at Valencia Community College, and with an astounding 5.4-grade point average, is on target to graduate as valedictorian of her class.
Admittedly ambitious, Shepherd also aspires to earn the Gold Award in Girl Scouts, an organization she’s been actively involved in since age 10 and sees Eagle Scout within reach now that girls too can be scouts.
But most impressive is her selfless contributions to the Lupus Foundation of America.
“My aunt Laura passed away from lupus when I was five,” Shepherd said. “I was too young to understand everything but committed myself to be involved when I got older.”
Shepherd founded Lupus Outloud, a nonprofit organization that has raised $1,000 annually for the past six years to benefit “Walk to End Lupus Now” held in Tampa. She is also writing a children’s book about lupus.
“I have a passion to help people and want a career where I can do that,’’ Shepherd said.
It’s an impressive resume’ for a 16-year-old, but last month, she added yet another experience to her young career.
Shepherd was selected to be part of the 2019 Disney Dreamer’s Academy with Steve Harvey – which chooses only 100 teenagers from across the United States from approximately 10,000 applicants.
Disney Dreamers Academy has been described as a magical weekend of education and exploration for dynamic high school students from around the country. The event’s theme was “Be100” encouraging the 100 teens selected to be “all in” and to implement what they learn in their community.
“These students are in for a life-changing experience,” said Tracey D. Powell, Walt Disney World Resort vice president, and Disney Dreamers Academy executive champion. “Our goal is to help them see the unlimited possibilities and to inspire them to achieve their full purpose- to become the heroes of their own stories.”
Disney Dreamers Academy provides inspiration and education for future leaders nationwide by fueling their dreams and showing them a world of possibilities. Each year, students participate in hands-on, immersive career workshops, ranging from animation to zoology.
Past speakers include Patti LaBelle, Mary J. Blige, Magic Johnson, Yolanda Adams celebrity chef Carla Hall and “Good Morning America’’ co-anchor Michael Strahan. More than 1,000 students plus a guardian have participated in the all-expenses-paid annual program that gives dreamers hands-on experience in their area of interest from zoology to law and communications.
Additionally, students participated in immersive career-oriented workshops that range from animation to zoology. Each student was given important life tools such as effective communication techniques, leadership skills, and networking strategies.
Editor’s Note: essence.com and the flcourier.com contributed to this report.