Destination program builds valuable skills for students

When educaTIONAL analysts are asked to rank the competencies in shortest supply among today’s public school students, deficiencies in critical-thinking and problem-solving skills most often top the list.

Academic study after academic study reinforce those failings. Findings show that most students do poorly on simple logical reasonings tests, few can write well-organized and clearly thought-out essays, and even fewer can make informed critical judgments about texts.

Those deficiencies, however, are among those that a highly successful international program has been tackling with great success.

Destination Imagination, a nonprofit organization that runs a global student-centered program of the same name, has been sharpening the thinking skills of young people in 30 nations for 20 years now.

Each year, an estimated 150,000 third- through 12th-graders take part in the program. In it, students develop projects (skits, productions, presentations) that blend science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) with the arts and business.

In building their projects, participants also build invaluable life skills in creative and critical thinking, team building, problem-solving, risk taking, project management, perseverance and self-confidence.

Those student teams then present their projects in a series or regional and state tournaments. Those that excel rise to the top to compete globally.

In the Mahoning Valley, DI teams from Youngstown East, Campbell Memorial and Howland high schools all have risen to that prestigious top this year.


To its credit, the DI team from East High decided to take on the gnawing problem of bullying. Team members Kaysonn Madison, Talasia Vazquez, Brianna James, Marquan Stevenson and Santajah Douglass focused their problem-solving skit on preventing that aberrant behavioral pattern.

The resulting project is dramatic and empowering. Readers should seize the opportunity to view it on

The planning and hard work among DI students from East, Campbell and Howland proved worth the effort as the teams are now heading to the Global Finals in Knoxville, Tenn., in May. There they’ll be joined by 17,000 people, including 8,000 student competitors, from15 countries and 45 U.S. states.

To help defray costs of the four-day finals, the teams are sponsoring various fundraisers that deserve public support. Contact each high school for more information on how best to do so.

As DI grows, so, too, does its myriad benefits that reap lifelong rewards.

But don’t take our word for it. Researchers from the University of Virginia Curry School of Education studied the program intensely. Its principal finding: “Students who participated in the activities and tournaments provided by DI outperformed comparable students who had not participated in DI on assessments measuring creative thinking, critical thinking and collaborative problem-solving.”

With so much going for it, we strongly encourage more Mahoning Valley schools to establish and embrace more DI teams.

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