SAN JUAN – Two school teams from PSJA Early College High School have the chance to compete in the world’s largest celebration of creativity after advancing to the Destination Imagination (DI) 2018 Global Finals in Knoxville, Tennessee. 

Destination Imagination (DI) is a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) International Program that provides students from kindergarten to university level an opportunity to use their creative and critical thinking skills to, explore, meet, and master short term and long-term challenges. 

The challenges the students can choose from are Technical, Scientific, Fine Arts, Improvisational, Engineering, Service Learning and Early Learning DI. Destination Imagination is actively in place in 45 states and 30 countries.  

At PSJA ISD, Destination Imagination is part of the Gifted and Talented Education Program (GT) and is run as an out of the classroom program, according to PSJA GT Coordinator Noemi Serna. This year, 5 of 17 PSJA ISD teams qualified to compete at the Texas Affiliate Tournament held in Mansfield, Texas with two from PSJA ECHS, advancing to the 2018 Global Finals. 

"We are very proud of all our teams and their Team Managers," said Serna. "Their hard work and dedication have helped PSJA ISD make its mark in the Destination Universe." 

Making history for PSJA ISD by advancing to State in two challenges, the upperclassmen team placed 4th in the Theatre Arts Challenge and 4th place in the Engineering Challenge. This team also received recognition for High Scores in the Instant Challenge.  Team members include: Sophomores, Roderique Hernandez, Brittney Mann and Kimberley Mendez; Juniors, Ariana Lazo and Jason Portillo; and Senior Sara Jo Hernandez. The team is under the direction of sponsors Minerva Lazo and Rodrigo Hernandez. 

In addition, the PSJA ECHS freshmen team earned 4th place in the Technical Challenge. Members include: Christian Hernandez, Sebastian Hernandez, Esteban Gonzalez, Melanie Garza, Jaime Leal, Andrea Moncada and Hailee Castillo. The team is under the direction of sponsor Rodrigo Hernandez. PSJA had three other teams advanced to State from Yzaguirre Middle School directed by Maria Hernandez, Garza-Pena Elementary directed by Maria I. Vasquez and PSJA ECHS directed by Chriselda Stevenson.

For Sara Jo Hernandez, a PSJA ECHS senior who has been participating in PSJA's Destination Imagination since 2nd grade, advancing to the Global Finals is a great privilege as she nears the end of her final year in high school.  

"Being in DI since elementary has helped me see how great the program is for students," said Hernandez who focused her Senior Capstone Project on the impact of Destination Imagination in schools. "DI taught me to think outside the box so I focused my project on it to raise awareness about the benefits participating in the program can have on students." 

According to the Senior, although competing one last time feels bittersweet, she is thankful for the many years and memories she has from her participation. 

"To be able to say we advanced to DI Globals is incredible," said Hernandez. "I am sad that it's my last year, but so grateful for the friendships I have built over the years."