DI Alumna Discusses the Importance of Creativity, Community and Self-Reflection

By: Tina Shaffer

I have been involved with Destination Imagination since 1995. I have seen this program grow and change over the last two decades. I have seen kids I knew in elementary school graduate high school and rejoin the program as alumni—on the other side of the table, as I like to call it. But I have also seen how this program has changed me. Over the last two decades, I have seen how the lessons and skills I learned that first year have shaped the course of my life. 

While Destination Imagination was not the only thing that pushed me to become the woman I am today, it has been a major influence. From my time as a participant to the lives I have touched and those who have touched me during my volunteer roles within the organization, I have learned so much about myself. This program teaches creativity and teamwork, but it also teaches self-reflection and self-assessment. It teaches confidence. It helps you build more than just a balsa wood structure or a walking device by introducing you to new people and new ideas.

Today, I am a college professor, teaching a generation of students about other cultures, both past and present. Creativity is a major part of my classroom, even if my students don’t know it. I am comfortable in front of an audience and I can project my enthusiasm to a room. I am a potter, molding clay into works of art. I am a writer who takes pleasure from a clever turn of a phrase. I am a confident, capable woman who knows how to use power tools as well as a sewing machine. I am secure in my abilities and I don’t fear asking for knowledge I lack. I can think on my feet and roll with the punches. I am flexible and I am strong.

     Erica volunteering as a Technical Challenge Timekeeper/Announcer at Global Finals 2015. 

When someone asks me why I do DI, I smile. I smile because I think of all of the friends I have made over the years. Like-minded people who value creativity. People who, like me, have given their time and energy to making sure that the next generation learns more than just math and reading; that they learn how to think outside the box, to explore their world, and to make mistakes that might take them to greater levels. I smile because I think of all of the kids whose lives I have touched, even for the brief moments when our paths cross, and I know that they will be better for having been a part of this program. That, like me, they will take those lessons into the world they will soon inherit. A world where people create and learn and make this planet a more interesting place. I smile because I want to live in that world. I smile because Destination Imagination teaches something they will never learn in school. It teaches them self-reliance, independence, innovation, and the joys of duct tape.

It teaches you who you might become.

Erica Begun-Veenstra is a member of the 2015-16 Alumni Ambassador Council. For more information on becoming an Alumni Ambassador, click here