Kittrell Experiences Wonderful World Of Disney
Senior Cross Country Runner Talks About Her Semester Working At Disney
DENTON – Senior cross country runner Kylee Kittrell always dreamed of working for Disney as a kid but little did she know a magical opportunity would arise during college.
Kittrell had planned on running cross country and track for four years and going to graduate school. A prestigious internship at Walt Disney World interrupted her plans.
“About a year earlier I met my best friend’s cousin who worked for Disneyland at the time,” Kittrell said. “That day made me realize that it was someone’s job to work in the parks. I started researching the different careers Disney offered and kind of fell into applying for the Disney college program.”
Growing up in Texas, Kittrell has always been fond of the Disney brand and the joy it brings to so many people, so Kittrell took a break from cross country in the fall of 2014 to spend a semester at Disney.
“When I first approached my coach about the opportunity I think she could tell it was something I was really passionate about,” Kittrell said. “I knew having Disney on my resume could open doors down the road. I think it worked out really well for me since I had suffered an injury my freshman year and redshirted an indoor and outdoor track season, and this gave me an opportunity to redshirt a cross country season so that I could compete uninterrupted in my fifth year.”
After being accepted, Kittrell auditioned to become one of the character performers at the Disney Resort parks. The process is rigorous, as auditions can last up to six hours with hundreds of applicants hoping to make the cut.
“This opportunity was a dream come true for Kylee, so she found the time to audition,” cross country coach Stefanie Slekis said. “Then once she had been accepted and knew she could actually go for the semester, she came to ask me if we could make it work.”
Kittrell won a part and spent the semester as a character performer at Disney World resort in Orlando. There were long hours, but every day was a different experience.
“Character integrity is a big deal at Disney and is something that helps preserve the Disney magic in the parks,” Kittrell said. “Each character I would hang out with each day had a different process to get ready to meet guests. The Disney look is very specific to make sure I can spend the rest of my day interacting with park visitors.
“I loved spending the holidays in the parks,” Kittrell added. “Although I worked crazy hours, the Christmas and Halloween parties were always really fun to be a part of. I had a blast being in the Christmas parade that was filmed and broadcasted on ABC. Some of the most rewarding memories with guests were the Make a Wish Foundation kids. Those interactions were always very special moments. Seeing kids going through something so difficult at such a young age really puts life into perspective. Not only would they have a huge positive impact on my day, but it was incredible to realize you were bringing a dream to life for them.”
Kittrell took six online credits during her internship and graduated with an accounting degree this past May. She has been working towards an MBA with a concentration in international business and is set to graduate May 2017.
“This experience reminded me that wherever I go in my career I need to make sure I am working for a company that gives back to the community,” Kittrell said. “I think it was a wakeup call that choosing a job isn’t necessarily all about the salary. It’s really important for me to be happy with the place and feel a connection to the people I work with.”
The challenge for Kittrell was not only to fully enjoy the experience but to focus on staying in shape for the upcoming track season.
“When she left we had made an elaborate training plan that included workouts and even some races she could run unattached,” Slekis said. “However, it quickly became apparent that, with her long bus ride to and from the park and all of the hours she would be working that training was not going to be feasible. Instead, Kylee tried to get outdoors and run at least four-to-five times a week so that she wouldn’t return having done absolutely no training over the entire semester.”
Kittrell was able to accomplish her training by running around her apartment complex in Orlando. The hard work quickly paid off just five weeks later, when she set a personal best time of 2:19.67 in the 800 meter run at the 2015 Conference USA indoor championships.
During her final season in cross country, Kittrell set numerous personal bests and earned second team all-conference after placing 10th at the C-USA championships.
“This experience definitely motivated Kylee to have a great final two years at North Texas,” Slekis said. “Kylee is an overachiever in all aspects of her life so this summer she really committed to getting her mileage in and recovering even while working an internship. It has been exciting to watch Kylee improve year after year. A big part of why she has been successful is because she is the type of person that seeks out challenging opportunities like the Disney World internship and then makes the most of those experiences.”
With only one cross country race left and a full track season in the spring, Kittrell has started making career plans, but hopes to work for Disney again.
“I hope that my career path will draw me back to Disney someday, but after an internship I completed this summer I was excited to get a job offer at a public accounting firm in Fort Worth,” Kittrell added. “Until I start working, I plan to keep going to school to work towards being eligible for the Certified Public Accountant exam.”