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Immaculata Grad Cleo Hoey Creates Magical Moments at Disney

Young woman in front of movie theater at Disney World

Cleo Hoey ’22, graduated from Immaculata with a double major in elementary education with special education certification and communication with a concentration in digital media. After graduation, she spent seven months as an intern in the Disney College Program at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, where current and recent college graduates can gain further leadership opportunities. Her academic experience, along with the leadership roles she held as a student, helped prepare Hoey for her internship.

Hoey explained that while at Immaculata she explored and interpreted combined layers of theory and philosophy through project-based learning. Those discussions prompted her to develop her own definition of professionalism, which she then utilized as chair of new student orientation during her junior and senior years. In that position, she led a group of her peers and leaned on her academic background to establish and communicate a level of trust with her teammates and to convey that she valued each member of the team. These traits would serve her well during her internship.

Young woman with Mickey Mouse at graduation ceremony

Cleo Hoey and Mickey Mouse at the Disney College Program “Final Bow”/Graduation.

When Hoey was young, she and her family vacationed at Disney as often as they could. Their neighbor’s daughter completed the internship program, and Hoey was determined to do the same. To her, Disney is truly the happiest place on earth—full of magical moments. However, her internship helped her realize that it takes an entire team to create those magical moments. She also learned that her leadership roles at Immaculata paved the way for her future success and her affinity toward continuous learning.

Bringing her desire to learn to her internship, Hoey worked at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and Hollywood Studios.

“What I noticed is that several of my coworkers could speak Spanish and were talking among themselves and I couldn’t join in,” she shared about her experience at Animal Kingdom Lodge. “I always loved learning languages, so I started to ask them if they could teach me.” Seven months later, Hoey was holding conversations with her coworkers and interacting with Spanish-speaking guests. She admits that her desire to learn Spanish was twofold: to correspond and bond with her coworkers and to be able to communicate better with visitors.

After her first internship assignment was over, she reapplied and was chosen to work at Guest Relations at Hollywood Studios. She admits that her two assignments were very different, but her ultimate goal was to create “magical moments.” In guest services, she assisted patrons with tickets, disability services and general questions.

“I was able to draw from my education for this because you have to recognize that each person who comes in is a unique individual,” she stated. “You have no idea what it has taken for them to come to Walt Disney World, and for a lot of people, this is their one and only trip.”

Adhering to her desire to make magical moments, Hoey recognized opportunities for relationship building with guests. On the last day of her internship, she was walking the Hollywood Studios grounds when she encountered a Spanish-speaking family sitting on the curb. One of the children was upset that he was too small to go on one of the rides, and a parent was having difficulty finding the preferred snacks of the child. Immediately seeing an opportunity to spread a little magic, Hoey offered—in Spanish—to find the snacks for the family and to cover their cost. They were grateful. She remembers the smiles the family gave her, especially when she spoke with them in Spanish.

Name tag from Disney World

“It was a beautiful moment because it was the culmination of everything that I had been working towards,” she stated. “I went down there with the intention of learning. I went down there with the intention of working with kids, and along the way, I learned another language.”

Hoey plans to take the lessons and skills that she learned, including how to lead and connect with a team, and use them in the classroom when she begins her teaching career. She also plans to continue her education and is interested in earning her master’s degree in international relations and Spanish.



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