A professor speaks to a group of students sitting in the film viewing room with black and white film on the screen over his shoulder.

Back to List

Hospitality Management grad learns how to make Disney magic

Sarah Crippen poses with Mickey Mouse at Disney World.

Sarah Crippen had five of everything: five pairs of blue dress pants, five crisp white button-down shirts, five red vests, and five blue bowties. Her costume had to be perfect so each time she stepped on stage, five days a week, she’d look the part. The stage was Disney’s Magic Kingdom, and the part was a parade and audience control.

Disney College Program

After graduating from York College of Pennsylvania, most students are looking for a full-time job in their field. But when Sarah graduated with a degree in Hospitality Management in 2018, she knew she only had a short window to take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: the Disney College Program.

For four months, she lived and worked with students from all over the world who wanted to learn all that Disney could teach them. She worked full-time, first as a slide operator at Blizzard Beach, then at Magic Kingdom in parade and audience control. She attended trainings, programs, and workshops to further her Hospitality Management skills.

And, of course, she was hoping to learn how to make some of that Disney magic. “The magic is definitely there,” she says. “During trainings, we’re taught that we’re there to make the magic. We’re not just employees; we’re part of the show.” What others might call a uniform, Disney calls a costume. And when you’re working in a park, you’re really “on stage.” 

Sarah is a pretty cheerful person to begin with, so smiling all day as she assisted Disney guests wasn’t out of her comfort zone. Learning to hold her ground as she pleasantly told people where they could and could not stand on the parade route, though, was a little daunting at first. But she learned how to do her job and keep guests happy at the same time, an essential skill for anyone in her field.

She came out of the program, which ended in January 2019, with a ton of new experiences and skills to help her in her career, new friends, and a respect for the Disney way. “They really are prepared for anything,” she says. “Disney does it best.”

A weaving path

Sarah got her start in hospitality at 17 when she was a costume character at Hersheypark. At the time, it was just a high school job. “When I started as a character, I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” she says, “but I loved that I was making a special memory for these people.”

When she looked ahead to life after high school, she felt a little lost. Without a clear plan for what she wanted to study, she decided to start at Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC), to figure things out. “I felt like there was so much more exploring I needed to do,” she says. After two years, she’d decided. She moved on campus at York College to study Hospitality Management.

Part of the draw to York College was its strong transfer program with HACC, so she knew she’d graduate on time. She also liked the small class sizes and connections with professors. “I knew that if I ever needed anything I could call any of my professors up, and they would help me,” she says. “It’s a really great feeling.”

Sarah also appreciated that all the transfer students were put into an orientation on their own. It helped her feel comfortable — not being lumped in with first-year students and meeting other students who were going through the same transfer process. It’s where she made her first friends on campus, many of whom she’s still friends with today.

Moving up in Chocolate Town

A week after returning from Disney, Sarah started her new job as a recreation coordinator at the Hershey Lodge. She plans activities like crafts and bingo and supervises Water Works, the lodge’s huge indoor water park.

Having the experience working at Blizzard Beach in Disney really helped her with the knowledge she needed to step into that new position. She loves Hershey, and she’s excited to see how far she can go there. But, she says, she’ll always feel a connection with Disney now. “Working on main street in Magic Kingdom,” she says, “that will always be a special place to me.”

Explore the opportunities through the hospitality management program at York College.