Imagination can take you to far away lands, fond memories, and future dreams. But the imaginations of three Hyman Elementary students are taking them to state competition. Elizabeth Gaitan, Belen Osegueda, and Alexandra Mendoza, along with Merrywood Elementary students Lilyanna Armstrong and Rosalynd Galliher, make up the Duncanville Lil’ Pantherettes Destination Imagination (DI) team. Winning First Place in their division at Dallas’ Regional Destination Imagination Tournament in February, the girls will advance to the Texas DI competition being held in Corpus Christi on April 13-14.
Teaching creativity, teamwork, and problem solving, Destination Imagination is a program offered to students of all ages all across the US. It typically begins every August and culminates in regional, state, and national competitions. Teams are issued critical thinking and performance-based challenges. They must also prepare for improvisational instant challenges. Duncanville ISD students have participated in DI as an extracurricular activity for the past several years. Teachers Mike and Melissa Gaitan have coached many of those teams. “I still remember my first Destination Imagination Team from Fairmeadows Elementary,” commented Mike. “That team has since graduated, and we hear great things through their parents.”
This year, Duncanville had seven competing teams – five from Hyman and two from Kennemer Middle School. Mike and Melissa coached Hyman’s Lil’ Pantherettes. “This team is no different than any other team we have coached,” said Mike. “They are smart, dedicated, and willing to take risks.”
While the Lil’ Pantherettes work ethic may be the same as teams in years past, their competition outcome is anything but. Hyman’s quintet is the first Duncanville team to advance to the Texas DI in more than 15 years. “We work well together because we use each other’s ideas,” said Mendoza. “We try not to say negative words. We just do our best and have fun,” added Elizabeth.
Choosing the News to Me challenge, the Lil’ Pantherettes have spent the school year researching current events across multiple news types. During regional competition, they were given a second current event and required to create a cause and effect relationship between the two in a five-minute presentation. That presentation also had to incorporate a human scenery and creative glitch. The Texas DI competition will follow the same format. The Lil’ Pantherettes will also be issued an improvisational instant challenge on the day of competition.
Practicing on Mondays, Thursdays, and an occasional Saturday, the girls say that they are nervous but ready. “Even if we don’t win, we’re still the mighty Pantherettes,” said Osegueda. “We wish them the best in their life-long journey of learning how to be creative problem solvers,” added Mike. And the girls plan to be just that – they all say they want to become actors.