When Disney Housekeeping Guest Experience Manager, Maniala enrolled in college through Disney Aspire a few years ago, she could hardly have guessed the journey. From not speaking English as a Haitian immigrant in 1998, to meeting with company executives who couldn’t wait to ask the secret to her success.
A Walt Disney World cast member for 20 years, mother of three busy kids and now college graduate, Maniala found herself chatting with former Disney CEO Bob Iger at an event celebrating a new Walt Disney World study space for Aspire program participants. She also met George Kalogridis, President, Segment Development & Enrichment, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, at another cast member event. Both were impressed by all she had accomplished and wondered how she managed it while working full time and taking care of her family.
“I told them what I tell everyone – the secret is that when you set your mind to something, it will come through,” Maniala said. “That and you must rely on all the tools available: the advisors that will check in on you, the tutors who help you improve, and your fellow cast members who know more about technology than you do.”
Maniala recalls the ready source of tech support she had in Disney College Program participants, who helped her submit homework assignments online and make the most of her virtual classroom experiences. As a veteran cast member, she was used to being the one providing direction and guidance for these youngest team members – she couldn’t help but chuckle at the role reversal.
“They would sit down at my computer with me and in about 15 minutes the homework [I’d completed] was submitted. Soon, I felt like a pro,” she said. “I was finishing assignments week by week, then months and semesters went by, and before I knew it, I was ready for graduation.”
Maniala earned a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management in 2021, traveling to Bellevue University in Nebraska for a graduation ceremony with her family proudly in attendance. Now, she is working toward a master’s degree in human resources and is set to graduate in 2023.
With her passion and talent for housekeeping, knack for assessing the right roles for her team members, and her fluency in several languages – Maniala is considering a new challenge in human resources at Walt Disney World.
“I’m the kind of person who likes to try new things. I’ve worked at nearly every resort at Walt Disney World and different theme park locations,” she said. “I always wanted to go back to school, so when I saw the information about Aspire, I didn’t hesitate. I knew this was my chance.”
Whether she continues her successful role in housekeeping or makes the move to human resources, Maniala is certain of one thing – her role must always center on her love of connecting with people in meaningful ways. In the meantime, she tells all her fellow cast members to check out Aspire.
“I want to be successful, of course, but the main reason I’m doing this is to inspire and motivate people like me,” she said. “People might look at me and see one thing, a housekeeper, but through my accomplishments they will understand how much I’m capable of – helping others, being a role model and bringing the magic every day.”