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West De Pere Destination Imagination team headed to globals

By Ben Rodgers

DE PERE – Three West De Pere High School seniors with more than 25 years of combined experience in Destination Imagination are headed to the global competition, but need some help getting there.

Olivia Federman, Avrie McQuade and Brooke Bemowski have worked since September on The Nerve to Swerve, a project/presentation designed to open some eyes.

Destination Imagination is a mix between forensics and research-based solutions.

At the global level, it is a non-school-sponsored extracurricular activity.

The Nerve to Swerve is a year-long effort for the three and it aims to keep students off drugs and alcohol.

“A lot of students we find, just in the Green Bay area, they always say that they’re bored and there isn’t anything to do, so they would opt to do drugs, or stuff like juuling or vaping (e-cigarettes), partying, or alcohol,” Federman said.

The trio put together a calendar with something to do each day.

Some things are easy like baking cookies, or trying a new yoga pose, for others the girls contacted local businesses to host events.

“It was easier than we thought because they were willing to help,” McQuade said of local businesses. “We told them what our project was and they were like ‘Oh yeah.’ A couple of emails later and we had our event set up.”

The students organized an event at the De Pere Cinema, crafts at the Paintin’ Pottery and roller skating at Rola-Rena.

Then they printed 150 calendars to hand out to students, and with the help of a donation from Schneider, they were able to hand out buttons and bracelets for students who made a pledge to stay away from drugs, alcohol and vaping.

“For me personally, I feel like I’ve learned a lot not only from doing the projects, but going out and having people skills,” Federman said. “When we met with the businesses and emailing them and calling them, and I’m someone who struggles with anxiety, so doing that over and over again helped me with it and made me more comfortable.”

The planning of activities was only one part of their Destination Imagination project this year.

The three still had to write a skit, build props and convey their message as part of competitions at the regional, state and now global level.

“For me, it’s the problem solving and this program has taught me a lot about how to approach problems that I face throughout the day or in life,” Bemowski said. “It’s also taught me a lot about teamwork.”

The theme they competed in was escaping, and their category was service learning.

They built a giant brain, with lots of bells and whistles, and McQuade played an addict, trying to escape from the right side of her brain to the left, where she could communicate her struggles.

It helps that all three are in the same AP Psychology course at West De Pere High School, because the presentation is peppered with facts about the anatomy of the brain.

The skit ends with McQuade dying and a flat-line sound effect being played, because she was never able to escape her addiction.

“It’s an impact so you remember us and the skit,” McQuade said.

So far the response has been a resounding success.

“I think people are really impacted by our skit,” Bemowski said. “That’s why it made such a good impression on the judges we’ve had.”

The three took first place in the state competition at UW-Green Bay in April and earned the right to attend the global finals in Kansas City, Missouri, at the end of May.

However, to compete for the right to become global champions, they said they will need to raise $8,000.

The girls are planning a day at the high school where students who took the pledge and purchased a bracelet will be able to wear a hat, for a donation.

They also have partnered with Pool Works in De Pere and will be holding a car wash before the end of May.

People who get their cars washed will also receive a gift certificate for Pool Works. The Pool Works sign will be updated with event information as it becomes available.

An event at The Dough Shoppe on May 14 will also help raise funds for the trip.

They are also accepting tax deductible donations to help fund their trip.

Anyone interested in donating can contact the West De Pere High School office at 920-338-5200.

Along their way and for many years, the team has been managed by Patti Bemowski, who said she is impressed with the skills the three have learned.

“It’s teaching them to move beyond the ordinary to the extraordinary in problem solving, and I’m going to be happy that they’re in charge of decision making when I’m old,” she said.

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