At Destination ImagiNation, students think outside the box 

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Chicago Regional Rally Leader, Diana Baldi for Chicago Construction.

Help yourself

Illinois Destination ImagiNation is always looking for volunteers, including the following:

Team managers: Adults age 18 and older who facilitate teams. The organization will train you for this position.

Coordinators: Help form teams, coordinate with and support team managers, register team memberships with the local organizations, and communicate information to teams.

General volunteers: Plan and implement training events and workshops for teams, and for innovation tournaments.

Appraisers: Appraisers watch the teams’ Presentations at Destination ImagiNation Tournaments and award points for Challenge solutions.

For more information about Illinois Destination ImagiNation visit www.illinoisdestinationimagination.org.

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Diana Baldi once gave up a full-time salaried job to focus solely on volunteer work for Destination ImagiNation. The global nonprofit organization, also known as DI, provides educational programs to young people, encouraging creativity, teamwork and problem-solving.

Baldi is now the far north regional director of Illinois Destination ImagiNation and Chicago Rally Leader for the AEM Construction Challenge. This event, which DI sponsors, provides participants with real-world experience that will inspire them to explore and pursue careers in the construction industry.

“The DI volunteers share an intense passion for the students and affirming their success,” the Libertyville resident said. “It is like no other group I have known.”

Having made large strides in expanding information about DI, and creating many meaningful relationships in the area, Baldi is positioned to run her online business, Innovation Training & Consulting, as well as continue her service with the organization.

Baldi became involved in the organization 14 years ago when, based on a teacher recommendation, her oldest daughter was invited to participate in the program. At the time, they needed a parent team manager, and Baldi volunteered. Her whole family has been active in the volunteer-run program ever since.

“Seeing the transformation of the children in the program over time compels me to do more,” she said. “Children are faced with pass/fail and right/wrong in the classroom, but in DI, there are no correct answers. Everything we do is open-ended and creativity is encouraged, both inside and outside of the box.”

As part of Baldi’s position as regional director, she has recruited teams and networked with after-school providers, educators and parents. She has written funding grants, recruited volunteers and helped provide training to new groups, as well as run tournaments for large groups. Through funding from the Motorola Foundation, DI has collaborated with after-school providers on Chicago’s south side, Waukegan, North Chicago and near west suburbs such as Melrose Park. This funding allowed DI to provide stipends for team managers, provide transportation to events and cover membership fees, tournament fees and supplies.

The expansion of the program has been impressive, but the organization always needs more volunteers. Typically, suburban families have become involved as team managers and sometimes hold meetings in their homes. Underserved areas need locations and adults. Important community partners include Boys and Girls Club of Lake County, YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago and Metro Family Services.

An event requires from 30 to 150 volunteers, so we have an opportunity to inspire many adults as they see the progress and transformation of the students,” Baldi said. “The adults also have a great time using their talents in meaningful ways.”

Schools, church groups and neighborhood groups can encourage children to participate in DI as an extracurricular activity. Baldi has watched children grow from their experiences with DI, even over a few hours time.

“We have had shy kids on the teams who wouldn’t talk to anyone, or let anyone look at them,” she said. “To see them taking on speaking roles in front of an audience of 100 people at the end was just amazing.”

When Baldi isn’t busy running DI events and helping with the advancement of the organization, she consults with private clients through her company. She works with businesses on management systems and innovation consulting, training and systems audits to verify effectiveness.

“My business also conducts youth camps focused on building creativity and innovation skills, developing science interests and of course, having lots of fun,” she said.