Yuma native Dani Duran, 24, is discovering a whole new world in Orlando after her recent acceptance to the Plant Science Disney Professional Internship at the Walt Disney World Resort.
Duran, a 2005 graduate of Cibola High School and an agricultural student at Arizona Western College, will be training at the Epcot greenhouses located at The Land Pavilion from June 14 to Jan. 8.
Upon learning she was accepted, Duran said she was shocked because she didn't think that she stood a chance, partially because she applied the day before applications were due and also because she knew that a lot of people applied for the program. Duran said that she was at the Yuma County Fair when she received the call.
“It feels good to be accepted to this internship,” she said, noting that she was overwhelmed by the excitement and support from her family and the community. “I was told in the interview that this is the hardest internship to get into. So I'm proud of myself.”
While at Disney World, Duran will live in apartments on the premises and work alongside scientists and other interns in subject areas including plant culture, which consists of seeding, transplanting and pruning greenhouse crops. Additionally she will gain knowledge about show quality maintenance, harvesting and distributing produce and pulling food crops.
“Dani will learn the operations of the Epcot greenhouses and growing facility as well as the concepts of integrated pest management, biotechnology, hydroponics, aquaculture and sustainable agriculture,” stated a news release. “This internship/work experience is focused specifically on the development of sound greenhouse operation practices and crop management techniques for over 150 different agricultural crops, as well as enhancing communication skills.”
Duran explained that she initially found out about the program from a local farmer, Todd Mellon, whose cousin had attended a previous Disney World internship. She said it was helpful to speak with someone who had been an intern at Disney World to learn what to expect.
One thing she knows she can expect is to get homesick, she said, although she is confident that she will be able to rise above it.
“I'm most nervous about leaving Yuma,” she said, noting that she has never been to Disney World before. “It's been my bubble and safety blanket for all my life. It's weird to be leaving, especially going to the other side of the country where I'll know no one.”
Duran noted she is excited about learning things she can bring back to the local community, though.
“I am excited about the opportunity of learning the cutting-edge agriculture technology such as hydroponics gardening and having the opportunity of networking with people around the world. I'm excited about the overall experience, the knowledge I'll gain in the industry and to meet the interns I'll be working with.”
After returning from her internship, Duran plans to apply for the agriculture program at the University of Arizona-Yuma branch campus.
Sarah Womer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6858.