Huron after-school program helps ESL students showcase skills, talents

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HURON, S.D. An after-school program in Huron is helping English As a Second Language (ESL) students showcase their talents and skills. The club is called Destination Imagination and was started back in 2012 by two teachers.

Huron Middle School teachers Colleen Jensen and Bobbie Matthews started Destination Imagination to help out ESL students.

"They were brand new to the country, brand new to Huron, very little English language and yet they have all the skills and potential and talents. So we wanted them to be able to showcase what they could do and pick up a little language, too," Huron Destination Imagination Director Jensen said.

The program has been growing over the past 6 years, but currently, there are 35 students split into groups to work on different challenges.

We have students in the scientific challenge, in the technical challenge, in the structure challenge and then we have two in project outreach, which are community outreach challenges," Jensen said.

Destination Imagination allows students to expand their knowledge in many different ways. Some students are also adding in a bit of their culture to the challenges.

"Our culture is with the Karen people and we want to tell people what's happening back in Thailand or just the Karen people by the Burmese government," 6th grader Htoo Ray said.

The Constellation Project Outreach has already held one meeting for the Huron community and are now teaming up with a new diversity community organization.

For other teams, their challenge is more centered around building.

"We're building a structure. It's called a crusher board and we build a structure and the crusher board goes on top and we have to drop weights on it and then we see how much weight we can get onto our object," The A Team 8th grader Steven DeGeest said.

The program is teaching plenty of new skills to students.

"I've learned how to drill. I've never used a drill before, but we did it last year," The Changeables 8th grader Gaby Escobar said.

Team managers of the groups are all volunteers, who also get a little learning out of it. Huron Destination Imagination is always looking for adult and kid volunteers to help out as well as donations to keep it going. For more information, you can call the Huron Middle School at 605-593-6900 and ask for Colleen Jensen.

All of the group members will compete at the Southeast Regional Tournament next month. It's one of the first steps to qualify for the Global Finals at the end of May - a competition Huron Middle School has attended four years in a row.