I am sure I am not the only one who once dreamed of being a Disney princess when I “grew up.” Don’t get me wrong, the whole elf thing is certainly awesome, but just imagine spending all your days in the most magical place on Earth! For one lucky group of Elfster users — and Disney lovers extraordinaire — that dream really did come true, as they were once lucky enough to spend their college days with the ultimate job opportunity. And for some of these motivated college kids, it became the “day job” they never want to quit.
This group of Disney dreamers, who all hold the distinction of being alumni of the Disney College Program (DCP), celebrate their shared passion by hosting Secret Santa gift exchanges several times a year using Elfster.
“The Disney College Program is an opportunity for college students, or recent graduates, to work and live at Walt Disney World in Orlando or Disneyland in California,” explains exchange co-organizer Jamie Meadows. “I personally got involved because I have LOVED Disney as long as I can remember. I knew some people who had done the program before me, [and since I] never got the ‘going away to college’ experience attending a community college in Michigan, I felt like this was the greatest opportunity for me to take a break from school, work at the most magical place and come back to school refreshed and filled with Magic.”
And what does the job description look like for such a life-changing opportunity? Well, according to the DCP website, “As a Disney College Program participant, you’ll become part of the magic that is known worldwide. You’ll get valuable, on-the-job experience in our parks and resorts, and expand your knowledge in a classroom with international diverse students from all over the country and potentially the world. Discover new worlds and create long-lasting memories. Because here, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will change your life forever.” It really is a dream job come true!
According to co-organizer Emily McGilvray, “The Disney College Program is a paid internship through the Walt Disney World Company. Opportunities are available on both coasts and in a variety of different area (or roles as we all call them). Some schools offer college credit. You must be a currently enrolled student at the time you apply and you can participate up to 6 months after graduation from college.”
Roles within this amazing program vary by resort, but by working in Operations, Entertainment, Lodging, Food & Beverage, Retail/Sales, as well as Recreation, all have one common goal — to ensure that Disney guests have the most enjoyable vacation experience possible. In her role, Jamie worked in merchandise at World of Disney in Downtown Disney. Emily held six different positions in a variety of programs, including Main Street Operation at Magic Kingdom and Character Attendant. And lucky Emily now works full-time in the Magic Kingdom!
And it was this love and devotion to all things Disney that has brought together Jamie, Emily, along with many members of the thousands of men and women from all over the country, who are connecting several times a year for Elfster exchanges.
“I originally heard about Elfster because my family was looking for a new way to do Christmas,” explains Emily. “We decided once the kids were all older that we do a secret Santa and so I Googled ‘secret santa websites’ and Elfster came right up!”
“The group was created because two Christmas’ ago someone started a Secret Santa exchange within the Disney Alumni Association (another title for the group), but there was a lot of miscommunication and people missed the first sign ups. I started a second round and had a ton of fun with it. There was feedback on the Alumni Association page that there was too many posts about the Secret Santa, so I created a separate page.”
Jamie says she heard about the Elfster website and got involved with organizing the group from another member of the group who ran past exchanges. “[Emily] had the idea to make a separate page on Facebook apart from our main 14,000+ DCP Alumni page and needed another person to help her out. Having no idea who she was, I stepped in to help!”
“[Emily and I] connected through, well, wanting to make connections!” Jamie adds. “We both love the idea of connecting DCP Alumni since the program has been running from the early 90’s to today and obviously love Disney! Our group, double checked with the DCP Alumni page, has a little over 100 members and consistently growing. We required our exchange participants to like our page to keep them updated with exchanges we run throughout the year.”
“When we have a new idea, Jamie or I become the point person and we create the event on Elfster, then advertise on the Gift Exchange page, as well as the Alumni Association,” Emily explains. “We try to only advertise once or twice for each new exchange on the Alumni Association, so that we don’t get too annoying!”
So what is the biggest expectation for participants in gift exchanges with the group? Both organizers will agree — communication.
“Our expectations are following through and communication. Emily and I have only been running exchanges for about a year and a half and although we have come a long way, we have far to go. We hope when people sign up they actually send their elf a gift and if they are struggling and are sending late, they will communicate with us and their elf,” explains Jamie.
Additionally, Emily says she and Jamie create a list of guidelines that every member must read and acknowledge before they are able to join a new exchange. “These include saying that you have an up to date wish list, you know when the gifts are due by, you’ll update tracking information as it comes, etc.,” she adds.
This month, the group is hosting two themed gift exchanges, including “Sharing My State” and “Disney Art.”
“Personally, my favorite ones are the Christmas ones — and it is our most popular with about 130 participants. I love shopping at that time of the year, wrapping the gifts off the person’s wish list and KNOWING they will love them!” says Jamie.
“Elfster has helped our exchange [to be] way more fun!” she adds. “Our group loves the wish list (and updating them!) because you can get to know that person better and pick from so many items. We feel that Elfster forces – in the best way! – the exchange participants, with cute and friendly reminders, to interact and connect with one another and that was our goal with the group – to connect.” Love it!
“We couldn’t do this without Elfster!” Emily adds.
And I’m pretty sure I know Jamie’s favorite feature of the site…
“Personally, I think I use the wishlist too much,” she says. “I’m guilty of having 70+ items, but the members of our Gift Exchange group find and love so much cool stuff! We hope some people use the secret question/answer part of Elfster. I know I do when wanting to get more specifics on a person’s relation to the Disney College Program Alumni page.”
Even though you have to be an Alumni of the DCP to join these exchanges, more information about this unique program may be found on the DCP Facebook page. If you’re part of an amazing group that shares a common bond, why not take a note from Jamie and Emily and connect on Elfster with a Secret Santa gift exchange. It’s easy to get started and stay connected. Need help? You can reach us via Facebook here. Tweet us @elfster or catch us on Instagram at #elfstergram.
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