Robert Hsu's imagination is not just top notch, it's great enough to have earned him a first-in-the-state honor.

Hsu, an Andover High senior, is in Tennessee today being honored as the 2012 Destination Imagination Global Finals "ValeDIctorian." Destination Imagination is a problem-solving team contest for students from around the world. Hsu will speak to thousands of international DI standouts at the event's opening ceremonies and at a formal graduation ceremony on Friday night. No one from Massachusetts has ever been given this honor before, according to Andover resident Sherry Gordon-Shulik, the DI regional director who nominated Hsu for the award. "He is the role model for all the thousands of students from around the world who will be attending Global Finals at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville," she said.

Hsu is a National Honor Society and Junior Debate team member and a mainstay on the Andover High high honor roll. He's been nominated for a slew of school and community awards. While completing 700 hours of community service while in high school, his extracurricular activities have included everything from playing the flute in the school orchestra to being captain of the Ultimate Frisbee team.

But for some of those who know Hsu, what truly stands out is his support of others. Here's part of what Gordon-Shulik had to say about Hsu:

In the day and age when many students concentrate on getting involved in specific activities that will "look good" on their college applications, this is not the case here. The proof of this was what happened last spring at the Massachusetts Destination Imagination's State Finals. During closing ceremonies the elementary team he managed placed first and won a spot to compete in Global Finals. The team ran up to get their trophy and medals. Robert was bursting with pride for his wonderful team. I have seen Robert's reaction when his own high school team advanced the year before and while he was thrilled, he did not have the physical reaction he had for the team he coached. When I congratulated him with a hug, I realized he was trembling. He had mentored these youngsters to be able to stand on their own and handle whatever was given to them during the day. The team knew he loves them and supports them. He gave them their wings and allowed them to take flight.

Robert put these little children's needs first and was not patting himself on the back because of all the time and work he had put in. His focus was completely on the team. It showed his strong leadership skills, but it truly showed what values and strong character traits he has. Watching Robert's reaction to his team's advancement was the highlight of my entire tournament experience.

Such a caring, well rounded individual deserves notice. As we inch toward graduation season, such a young man should give Andover residents a great feeling that the future will be in good hands. Congratulations to an international "valeDIctorian."

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