Destination Imagination Prepares Alumna for the Peace Corps

By: Renee Smith

I was not one of those lucky ones that started Destination Imagination (DI) when they were young. I did not join the DI team until my junior year in high school. Since I only spent two years as a team member and competing at University Level wasn’t possible for my friends and me, we had to do something different. There was something about DI that had me coming back for more and I couldn’t let it go. I contacted our Arkansas Affiliate Director at the time, Mrs. Brownie Mitchell, to see if there was any way that I could volunteer—of course she said “yes!”

I was placed as an Appraiser for Instant Challenge (IC) and I never left. I started out as a Timekeeper/Announcer and this is an important role because we help keep the teams calm before going into the IC room. Later, I was responsible for photographing every Arkansas team during the Regional Tournaments. Pictures were taken in the holding room and after the photos were shot, I would talk to the teams if there wasn’t another team coming in. I would ask the teams about their Central Challenge. Had they performed yet? What did their skit include? I also helped the younger teams review their roles in the IC room. Eventually, students started to recognize me year after year. I got to know the teams and hopefully made their day at the tournaments go by a little more smoothly.

This year I was not able to volunteer with DI because I decided to join the Peace Corps. I am currently a volunteer serving in Morocco in the Youth Development (YD) Sector until April of 2016. One of its mottos is “Peace Corps: the toughest job you’ll ever love.” One of the reasons why this is true is because you commit two years to volunteering in a country assigned to you, but you don’t always see who or what you have impacted.

As a YD volunteer in Morocco, this is definitely true. I work in a Dar Shabab, or Youth House. Students come here after school and on Saturdays to hang out, get tutoring, or join the clubs that are available. In my small town, I teach English to adults and high school students. Some of my students participate in the International Youth Foundation’s Passport to Success program, which teaches them life skills—much like the skills learned in DI. While students are not forced to come to the Dar Shabab, one hopes that our classes are engaging enough for them to come back lesson after lesson. As a volunteer, one also hopes they are making a difference they can see.

DI and the Peace Corps have allowed me to contribute to their organizations and promote their goals, and I have learned so much along the way. From DI, I have learned that duct tape fixes everything (I even brought some to Morocco!) and whenever I’m solving a problem I tell myself, “If they didn’t say I couldn’t do it, I can!” However, I think what I cherish most about DI is the opportunity to be a small part of the reason why students are able to develop teamwork, creativity and problem solving skills. I truly think that this reason will be why I will complete my service in Morocco. Through my time in Morocco, I’ve learned two foreign languages and how to master the art of patience. My youth also enjoy learning about American culture as much as I enjoy learning about Moroccan culture. Even if I never see how I have benefited the youth in my community, I will have been a small chapter in their lives in trying to further their goals of learning life skills and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Because of that, I will leave Morocco knowing I made a difference.

Check out Renee’s blog here: http://livelifetr3mendously.wordpress.com/.

Are you a DI alum and want to share your story? Send us an email at [email protected] and tell us a little bit about yourself.