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January 19, 2023

AHA Junior Elise Tao to Attend 16th Annual Disney Dreamers Academy

 Elise Tao of Upper Saddle River is one of four New Jersey teens chosen to attend the 16th Annual Disney Dreamers Academy. She and 99 of her peers from across the country will attend this event (March 23-26) at Walt Disney World in Florida. Participants, who range in age from 13 through 19, will attend career workshops, interact with mentors, and learn how their dreams can ultimately change their lives. 


Tao, a junior at the Academy of the Holy Angels in Demarest, was delighted to see her name in lights on the “Good Morning America” billboard in Times Square on January 13.


“I feel truly honored to have my dreams and accomplishments thus far recognized on this scale,” Tao said, adding that she looks forward to heading to Florida and learning from the best of the best.


“I decided to apply to this program because I wanted the opportunity to take tangible steps to realize my dreams (and of course, I admire Disney’s efforts to inspire young people through their initiatives) with like-minded peers,” Tao said. “I’m ecstatic to be going to Disney World in the spring, but I’m even more excited to be in the presence of incredible change makers who will be among the DDA Class of 2023 and attending as guest speakers. In my application, I discussed my business (“Synthesis Publications,” a digital magazine for talented young writers and artists), my unique experience as an Asian American, my time volunteering for Everytown Students Demand Action, and how I’m championing change every day.”


Tao was inspired to join Everytown Students Demand Action, an anti-gun violence organization, while she was representing Holy Angels at the 2022 Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Conference. It was at HOBY that Tao heard from panelist Sophie Kozub, Everytown’s digital national campaign specialist.


“After the events in Uvalde, Texas, earlier in 2022, I knew that I had to take action,” Tao said. “I have contributed to the AAPI division of SDA and I have attended national leadership calls with high profile activists and politicians.”


Tao explores her interests in business, politics, and international relations as an award-winning member of Holy Angels’ DECA Team (short for Distributive Education Clubs of America) and AHA’s Model United Nations organization. She is a member of the AHA Student Council and is founder and president of Student Mathletes, the Academy’s competitive math team. She is also a member of Mu Alpha Theta, the national honor society for students who excel in mathematics.


Tao is also a Mother Caroline Scholar and maintains an excellent grade point average. Last year, she earned two Gold Keys in the regional leg of the Scholastic Art & Writing Competition. She received keys in poetry and journalism, and brought home two Honorable Mentions in the poetry and critical essay categories.


In the fall of 2022, she attended the UN’s International Day of the Girl.


Founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1879, the Academy of the Holy Angels is the oldest private girls’ school in Bergen County. While AHA is steeped in Catholic tradition, this prestigious school serves young women from a broad spectrum of cultural and religious backgrounds. Over time, thousands of women have passed through AHA’s portals. Many go on to study at some of the nation’s best universities, earning high-ranking positions in medicine, government, law, education, public service, business, arts, and athletics. The Academy’s current leaders continue to further the SSND mission to provide each student with the tools she needs to reach the fullness of her potential—spiritually, intellectually, socially, and physically, by offering a first-rate education in a nurturing environment where equal importance is placed on academic excellence, character development, moral integrity, and service to others.