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Destination Imagination contests enable FCPS team to experience creative process, hone improv skills

By Tammy L. Lane
Special to KyForward

When these half-dozen lively sophomores get together, they produce a mixed bag of creativity, quick thinking, problem-solving, performance arts, and smiles. Their team’s name, “We need more tape,” also speaks to their collective sense of humor.

“Teamwork is the biggest part,” said Shamik Chandrachood, who got involved in Destination Imagination or DI back in fourth grade. “You have to work well together in a short amount of time. It’s like having the same brain.”

Destination Imagination is a nonprofit, volunteer-led organization that offers standards-based challenges in STEM, improv, visual arts, service learning, and early learning. The open-ended contests enable teams to experience the creative process from imagination to innovation to brief presentations for judges.

Front: Shamik Chandrachood and Adam Telechbush. Back row: Elyse Halwes, Hannah Broomhall, Brenden Talbert, and Neal Rekhraj (Photo Provided)

In competition, the Instant Challenge can be absolutely anything, so it really tests the students’ improv skills. They can, however, somewhat prepare for the Central Challenge or 3-Peat, which calls for using three different stock characters, plots, and genres to weave an improvisational story. At a recent practice, for instance, one challenge (pulled out of a hat) involved a lost shoe, walls closing in, and the genres of fairy tale with a perfectionist, horror with an explorer, and action with a pessimist.

The students brainstormed from 30 seconds to a minute and then presented their fast takes – using simple props such as a blue scarf to represent water and pointy birthday party hats as princess slippers. It was reminiscent of the television show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” hosted by comedian Drew Carey.

“It gives you a lot of freedom to express yourself. You’re not confined in a box to act a certain way,” Shamik explained.

“DI has really shown me there’s a whole world of gray area you have to learn to explore to be successful in life,” added teammate Hannah Broomhall.

Shamik, Hannah, and their cohorts won this spring’s state championship and will compete in the DI Global Finals, set for Memorial Day weekend in Knoxville, Tenn. In fact, this group has qualified for the past six years, though they haven’t always traveled for the international showdown.

Good friends since kindergarten at Rosa Parks Elementary, Shamik and Adam Telechbush form the backbone of the only DI team fielded by Fayette County Public Schools. It has helped that Adam’s mother, Kelly Telech, is the team manager along with colleague Mona Azeem.

When both teachers left Rose Parks for The Lexington School and all their team members moved up to Beaumont Middle, the students asked if they could keep competing together. Since Beaumont is down the street from the private school, it was easy for them to walk to practice on Friday afternoons.

Then the group split – with Adam, Hannah, Elyse Halwes, and Neal Rekhraj heading to Paul Laurence Dunbar High School last year, while Shamik and Brenden Talbert enrolled in the STEAM Academy. Unfazed, the close-knit friends are now looking again toward Knoxville, where some 16,000 students from around the world will compete.

“They love DI and are very passionate about it. They more they do this, the more their creativity is stretched,” Azeem said. “They’ve learned to be great as a team,” Telech added.

Tammy L.Lane is website editor for Fayette County Public Schools

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