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Local ‘Full Hearts’ Destination Imagination team finishes 38th in Global Finals

Katherine Sparger, from left, Amber Shayeb and Ethan Cahill sit inside the Selah Theatre in Front Royal. They were part of Destination Imagination Global Finals competition held in Knoxville, Tennessee, recently. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Selah Theatre’s “Full Hearts” Destination Imagination team didn’t place among the top winners of this year’s Global Finals competition. However, the group members said they found it a rewarding, educational and exciting experience. They placed 38th out of 67 in their overall challenge.

The team included Amber Shayeb, 17, Katherine Sparger, 17, Ethan Cahill, 13, all of Front Royal, and Prince Doz’a Early, 13, of Winchester. The coach was Dee Sparger, of Front Royal.

“Destination Imagination, or DI, as a whole event is a competition in different STEM categories – a term used to group science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” Katherine said. “So they have everything from engineering and robotics to the fine arts and theatre.”

Destination Imagination Global Finals draws thousands of students from 15 countries to Knoxville, Tennessee each May. The  attendees gather to showcase their innovative challenge solutions. Scheduled activities include interactive exhibits, skills workshops, international events and the Destination Imagination Tournament.

“Our challenges are student-driven and directed and are designed to teach us to think,” Katherine said. “Which allows us to really look or think outside of the box.”

The team competed in team and instant challenges along with an Inside Impact challenge in which they had to choose an issue that impacts their local community.  The group selected domestic violence.

“We had no idea how widespread domestic violence was in the Northern Shenandoah Valley,” Amber said. “Until we started this project, it just wasn’t something that I can honestly say I thought about because it wasn’t something that affected me.”

Amber and Katherine both said they think there is a stigma associated with domestic violence, and it’s something people are uncomfortable talking about or acknowledging publicly due to shame or judgment.

Their hope, no matter how difficult the challenge, was to shed a light on the stigma and help others understand it better.

The team members spent their time leading up to the  Global Finals learning about the causes and underlying issues of domestic violence in Warren, Page, Frederick and Shenandoah counties. After uncovering the staggering statistics, they collected necessary items including sheets, toothpaste, trash bags and soap for local domestic violence shelters in each county, including The Potters House, Response, Choices and the Laurel Center.

“More than anything, I think we took away how traumatic domestic violence really is,” Ethan said. “Many of these women and children flee with sometimes only the clothing on their back.” 

“Other times it could be less,” Katherine added.

To compete in the Global Finals, the team members created an eight-minute-long theatrical performance about what they had learned during their community project.  Amber played the role of the supporter, Katherine was the victim and Ethan portrayed the abuser as well as the media. Prince Doz’a Early was unable to attend.

“It was in that moment I truly felt like I understood what a women or child goes through when they choose to flee,” Katherine said.

“Standing on that stage allowed us to shed some light on a cause that we thought truly deserved those eight minutes,” Amber said.

The team members said they felt like even though they had picked a difficult conversational piece, they had put their hearts and souls into the project. Something they all said made them winners.

Dee Sparger said that this was the first time a team from Selah Theatre has advanced to the Globals.

“It was pretty awe-inspiring for them I think,” Sparger said. “By getting to the Globals, they are among the best of the best in the world in something they truly love and appreciate. This experience is something that will never be taken away from them.”

When they were not performing, the team members were participating in challenges, making new friends by swapping pins – something all the kids did  – or attending special workshops with NASA or Disney.

“It was such an amazing experience,” Ethan said. “I really had no idea how big DI really was.”

But more importantly, the group said they left Knoxville feeling like they could continue to fuel joint creativity in and outside of the theater.

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