Columbia High School Student Admitted into Disney Dreamers Academy


Sophia Halm chosen as one of 100 high school students from across the country to participate in 4-day event

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The following is a press release from the South Orange-Maplewood School District:

 NEW YORK, N.Y.  – On the day when the nation honors a man who spoke the immortal words, “I have a dream,” one Columbia High School (CHS) student has been honored as an exceptional dreamer.

Sophia Halm, 16, a Columbia High School junior who aspires to be an engineer working for NASA, has been admitted to the Disney Dreamers Academy. The announcement was made this morning on the ABC network’s morning news program “Good Morning America.”

CLICK HERE to see the Good Morning America segment.

“On behalf of everyone in the South Orange and Maplewood School District, I want to congratulate Sophia and tell her how proud we are of her,” said Dr. Kevin F. Gilbert, Acting Superintendent of the South Orange and Maplewood School District. “Sophia is a shining example of how much a person can achieve with hard work and perseverance, and we wish her all the best as she prepares to participate in this very special opportunity.”

CHS Student Sophia Halm

Halm is one of 100 high school students from throughout the nation to be selected for the Disney Dreamers Academy, a 4-day immersive mentoring program at Disney World to help young people realize their dreams. She follows in the footsteps of her older sister Alexis, who previously was admitted to and participated in the Disney Dreamers Academy in 2022. Alexis Halm is a CHS graduate who is now a freshman at Northwestern University studying engineering.

The Good Morning America profile of Halm highlighted her many accomplishments as a District student including playing on the lacrosse team, performing with the orchestra, serving as a Girl Scout, cheerleading, and volunteering as an Achieve Foundation tutor. The story connected Halm’s work as a tutor as her way of keeping Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy by helping other students succeed in higher-level classes that usually do not have many students of color enrolled in them.

Halm is also on the math and debate teams, and she is on the Principal’s List at Columbia High School and in the National Honors Society.

“She just does a lot. I’m not always sure about how she manages to do it,” said Cynthia Halm, Sophia’s mother, in the television profile.

“She’s got this quiet confidence,” said Anna Crane, speaking about what it was like to teach Sophia when she attended the South Orange Middle School. “She’s ready to get down to work. She’s ready to contribute. She’s ready to do what she came to do.”

Halm’s father, Rodney Halm, said it was the story of Katherine Goble Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson  – the three Black women whose experiences as NASA mathematicians inspired the film, “Hidden Figures” – that sparked Halm’s dream to study aerospace engineering or mechanical engineering with the hope of working for NASA herself one day.

During the in-studio interview, Cynthia Halm was asked what she and her husband were doing as parents to have two children admitted into the Disney Dreamers Academy.

“We always encouraged them to dream big,” she said. “We’ve always exposed them to a lot of different activities. And just let them know that they can do anything if they try hard and they work hard.”

The television segment ended with a video-recorded message from the three actors who play the Schuyler Sisters in the hit musical “Hamilton,” which Sophia Halm has always wanted to see.  The actors congratulated Halm and invited her and her family to an upcoming performance.


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