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Finding the Happiest Place on Earth Exactly Where You Are

I met Jackie at school where we both attended Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania. Jackie is one of those people who exudes joy. Whether through a friendly smile as you shuffle across campus to class or a kind conversation in the dining hall – Jackie has the ability to make everyone feel comfortable and heard.

In addition to being a genuinely great person – Jackie is also a brilliant designer. Where I see the world in Papyrus and grey, she sees infinite opportunity for design and color. Naturally, then, when it came time to redesign The Smile Project logo, I turned to her.

Working with Jackie was an absolute delight. Not only did she have award-worthy patience for my “bounce around” brain but she gave me a finished product that I am absolutely obsessed with. I mean, have you seen the new branding?

It was after working with her on this project that I realized I wanted to feature her in a Profile of Personhood. A little over a year ago, I featured my friend Julianna Hritz, who was chasing her dreams of opening up a store front bakery. Earlier this year, she did exactly that (and let me say, as someone who has tried many of her baked goods, she is definitely a mandatory stop for your next Ohio road trip).

Every day, I am pushed to be better by the people who surround me. Without further ado, allow me to introduce one of those individuals, Jackie Shultz.

Liz: Give me a 'Happiness is..'

Jackie: Happiness is.. making magic.

Liz: Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Jackie: I'm from Erie, Pennsylvania. We got 198 inches of snow this winter; I'm often the kind of person who will refer to 37 degrees as being "warm outside." This past year I did a 180 and moved myself to the Sunshine State to call my boss a mouse.

Liz: You recently returned from working at the Happiest Place on Earth - tell me about Disney.

Jackie: Senior year, when I found myself wondering what to do with my life after graduation, I kept coming back to the Disney College Program. I'd seen several people from home and from Westminster College do the program and loved it - it seemed like the perfect way to avoid growing up. I had no idea what to do with my graphic design degree or where to go, so I applied to be a photographer at Walt Disney World. Luckily, God and the universe were on board with my plans - I landed the role I wanted at the park of my choice, Disney's Animal Kingdom.

I've always had a strong love for Disney, and I told myself I would work for the company at some point, no matter what position or for how long. Despite long work days in 90 degree heat and crabby guests, my experience only enhanced my love for Disney and its magic. I could write you a novel about all of the wonderful experiences I got from being a cast member, but I'll keep it short. I made friends from around the world, (literally, I have friends from New Zealand). I took thousands of photos for families that will stay in their photo albums forever. Popping over to Epcot for their current festival was a regular part of my week.

At work, I spent time with some of my favorite Disney characters - character interactions are where some of the best Disney magic takes place. Not only did I see them goof around, I saw them interact with Make a Wish families, which is an experience that will stay with me forever. One of the best parts of my job was seeing kids who are nonverbal or physically disabled react with joy and a smile to meeting their hero. Watching little kids meet Mickey Mouse for the first time reminded me of how much good there is in the world and how powerful imagination can be. On these occasions, I was reminded of how much magic I was helping to create for the guests I interacted with each day.

Disney is a crazy place to work, filled with challenges, adventures, and best of all, free park admission. To anyone considering the program, do it. Do it. Do it. You will never work harder, but you will never learn more about yourself or have more fun. When you see how much goes into all the magic Disney creates, you see how amazing it is that it all really did start with a mouse.

Sidenote: Jackie also shared this incredible video that she created to recap her time in Disney. I have never seen something that exudes so much pure joy. I highly recommend taking a couple minutes to watch (especially if you’ve ever considered working at Disney yourself)!

Liz: You obviously made awesome logos for The Smile Project - how did you get into graphic design and where do you see that going?

Jackie: As for now, I am trying to bring my focus back to graphic design and to building a career. My time at Disney was a ton of fun and I miss it immensely, but I am really craving a career in the field that I've worked on for four years. I had always known I wanted to get into something creative, so graphic design really stuck out to me when I was considering a major. I liked how broad it was and how many different skills I could learn, (liberal arts education, anyone?) giving me a lot of different career options. Narrowing down what I would like to do is hard, but I would love to get involved with a publication, like a magazine! I love all the aspects that go into creating a publication and the feeling of holding something physical that I helped create is pretty freaking awesome. I'm still figuring out my place in the design world, but I'm really hoping my next move can be North Carolina - my travel itch and urge to live in new places isn't going away anytime soon!

Liz: What's next?

Jackie: Running away to Disney after graduation really helped to delay the whole "post-college depression" thing people experience in the fall. As much as I missed my friends, it's hard to be sad when you can go to Magic Kingdom any day you want. I had an endless amount of exciting things to do, great friends, and a busy work schedule. Disney is a bubble that may be even more intense than the bubble of a small school - it's a whole different style of living and a culture all its own. Leaving that and returning home has been hard. Missing college and missing Disney have hit me at once - where do I go from here? Where do I belong?

Liz: How do you stay young at heart / continue to have a SPARK of joy that you carry with you everywhere?

Jackie: While I'm still not positive of either of those answers, I've found that keeping your friends close is some of the best medicine - as is remembering a few words from my favorite nighttime show at Disney: "You are the key to unlocking your own magic." My happily ever after didn't end at Disney, but it certainly started there. And maybe "happily ever after" isn't the end, or the goal, maybe it's just the beginning.

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