In 2015, Owensboro native Hallie McCarty left the pre-nursing program at Kentucky Wesleyan College after accepting a paid internship in the Disney College Program, a five- to seven-month program that allows participants to network, take part in personal and career development classes and learn important skills such as problem-solving, teamwork, guest service and effective communication. Participants live in housing complexes and enroll in classes that can earn college credit.
McCarty’s first job was in Outdoor Vending at Walt Disney World where she sold ice cream and popcorn.
Since then, she has worked as a part-time coordinator at the Haunted Mansion in 2016, a full-time coordinator in Adventureland in Liberty Square in 2017 and in 2018 and moved to Tomorrowland as a full-time coordinator. Being a coordinator, which she said is like a shift supervisor, has been rewarding to McCarty.
“I love being able to help guests get the most out of their vacation,” McCarty said. “I know that sometimes Disney can be overwhelming, so it’s nice being able to explain our processes and help when I can.”
McCarty’s desire to help others is what led to her being a recipient of the 2019 Walt Disney Legacy Award, a global acknowledgement at Disney parks.
“[Award recipients] create magic for guests every day, inspire others by being inclusive and represent the best of Disney’s heritage,” according to the Walt Disney World website. “The Walt Disney Legacy Award recognizes Cast Members, Crew Members and Imagineers around the world who embody the values behind the award of ‘dream, create and inspire.”
Legacy Cast Members are nominated not by guests for this award but rather by their co-workers, which makes the award special because it is co-workers recognizing another’s hard work, McCarty said. Nominations are then sent to a local panel of executives, Cast Members and park leaders to pick the best recipients.
Since nominations are private, McCarty was unaware that the scheduled meeting she was walking into with one of her leaders was the moment she would find out about winning the award.
“[My leader] said that our boss wanted to speak to us,” McCarty said. “We walked into our boardroom and as soon as I walked in, the whole room yelled ‘surprise.’ I immediately was very confused. Then I was told that I was the Legacy Award Winner for this year. I was very taken aback and shocked and immediately started crying because I had no clue this would ever happen.”
As she looked around the room, she recognized some of her current and previous coworkers and leaders, Cast Member friends and two of her roommates.
“The people in the room were some of the people that truly influenced me to want to succeed. I was overwhelmed with everyone there,” McCarty said.
McCarty, now 25 years old, said that her love of Disney began when she was 2 years old and visited the park for the first time with her mom.
“She decided to take me when I could tell her where Mickey Mouse lived,” McCarty said. “My mom is really responsible for my passions and it’s truly amazing. I wanted to work here so I could be a part of making memories and magic for others, just like the Cast Members made for us on our trips.”
McCarty received an iconic blue Legacy name tag that distinguishes her from other Cast Members. She will wear this name tag for the duration of her Disney employment.
“The blue name tag is a symbol, not necessarily status, but it shows that we have worked hard at being magical towards guests and Cast Members,” McCarty said.
Recipients attend a Walt Disney Legacy Award Celebration with a guest, and McCarthy has invited her mom, Evelyn Miller, of Owensboro, to the gala.
McCarty said that the company offers a variety of options for employment and she hopes that in the future, when the Tron Roller Coaster, the highest-rated attraction at Shanghai Disneyland, opens for the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World in 2021, she would like to be on the opening team.
“They say the sky’s the limit, but people have been to space,” McCarthy said.