“Wonka” Actress Calah Lane Visits Disney Elementary for Q&A With Students

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Disney Elementary students interviews Wonka actress, Calah Lane, a mentor from the Saving Our Daughters organization. Photo by Ashley Erikson.

Wonka actress, Calah Lane, visited Walt Disney Elementary school for a Q&A on behalf of the Saving Our Daughters organization, meeting with a group of 4th grade girls interested in the performing arts.

Saving Our Daughters (SOD) is a non-profit organization that works to eliminate social barriers by utilizing celebrity mentors that educate multicultural girls beyond the classroom setting and breaking down social constructs around bullying, mental health and low self-esteem.

Founders Debbie and Curtis Benjamin lost their youngest daughter to a cancerous brain tumor when she was just 12 years old, and the Benjamins have used SOD to inspire young girls of color in the performing arts, a subject that was near and dear to their daughter. “My wife and I knew the organization can really help so many young girls from multicultural backgrounds that may be battling low self-esteem but still loved the arts though music, acting and writing,” said Curtis Benjamin. “Her memory will live on through the programming work of Saving Our Daughters.”

Calah Lane being interviewed by students at Walt Disney Elementary school. Photo by Ashley Erikson.

Keke Palmer joined the organization in 2014 and co-founded a programming branch under SOD called Saving Our Cinderellas. Palmer performed in the Broadway musical, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella and was the first African American actress to play Cinderella on Broadway.  This particular programming branch aims to build confidence and leadership in girls within the BIPOC community. 

Calah Lane joined as a “Little Cinderella Reporters Initiative” mentor after her breakthrough role as Noodle in Wonka. The 15 year old visited Walt Disney Elementary on Monday, April 22, 2024, and met with a group of about 25 fourth graders in the school’s STEAM room, all wearing a SOD shirt gifted to the students by the organization.

The “Little Cinderella Reporters Initiative” is in partnership with WABC-TV community partners in New York (a Disney Company), and collaborated with students ranging from 3rd to 5th grade. Girls with a diverse background participate in the initiative, asking interview questions to their assigned mentor which boosts confidence, and allows them to explore and learn journalism skills.

Disney Elementary student prepares to ask Calah Lane her interview question. Photo by Ashley Erikson.

Lane’s energy and smile radiated over the room as the Disney Elementary students approached one by one with their reporter microphone and interview card in hand They each took turns asking Lane questions about her time working on Wonka, how she started in her acting career, her likes, inspirations, and hobbies. One 4th grade reporter approached Lane at the front of the classroom and asked “Were there any funny bloopers when you were filming the movie?” Lane shared a story from filming Wonka where she was in a harness and was suppose to glide down from a lamp in the scene, but accidentally let go. “I didn’t really fall to the ground, I fell gracefully, but it definitely looked weird,” laughed Lane, which sent giggles through the room of girls, melting their nerves and making them feel more comfortable through the interviews.

“Calah was amazing with the students. She was so patient, kind, and thoughtful with her answers,” said Disney Principal, Rebecca Harris. “At first, some students were nervous to ask questions, but they relaxed into it all. They also had fun chatting with Calah as they got autographs and captured photos and videos. They did not want it all to end.”

Harris was connected to the organization through a local parent whose child is a regular on General Hospital and mentor in the program. The Burbank Unified School District was extremely excited to bring the program to the city and matched Harris and her students, due to their high interest in the performing arts. “For me as an educator, this was a very special event that reminded me of one of the many reasons it’s important to provide a variety of opportunities for our students,” added Harris. “You just never know what it may spark in a child!” 

To learn more about the Saving Our Daughters organization and all of their other programs, visit www.savingourdaughters.org.

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