Going For Gold

Award program lets kids set their own goals.

Going For Gold


While working individually to reach the gold level of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, Caroline and her sister Louisa also discovered their life’s passion. To receive a gold pin, young people must set and attain their own goals in five areas: community service, personal skill development, physical recreation, adventurous journey, and residential project.

Caroline, 17, decided to volunteer at a local veterinary clinic as part of the community service component. The experience was a great one. “I loved walking the dogs, cleaning out kennels, feeding, and doing the laundry for the animals,” she says. And now, “I’ve decided that I want to become a veterinarian!”

Sister Louisa, 19, is now in her second year of university studying kinesiology, the mechanics of body movements. She developed her interest in the subject during her high school years while running, skiing and cheerleading to fulfill the physical recreation component of the gold level award.

Last summer, Louisa received her gold pin and attended the awards ceremony in Toronto. It was presided over by Prince Edward, the youngest son of Queen Elizabeth II, and Lieutenant Governor David C. Onley, the Queen’s representative in Ontario.

“It was like something out of a movie – a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” says Louisa. “After the speeches, Prince Edward walked along each row of award recipients. We curtsied and shook his hand,” says Louisa. “It was the climax of all the work I had done and a nice closure to the award.”

Founded by royalty

The self-directed awards program was founded in 1956 by Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, and Kurt Hahn, a German educator, to encourage kids and young adults, ages 14-25, to become active, healthy, and involved in their communities. They also develop skills that may influence their future career, says executive director Jill Hermant.

She explains that the awards program is “really flexible. Rural kids will do different things than urban kids, but the point is to make the most of who you are and what is around you. In the process, “young people interact with and receive recognition from the community.”

The award has three levels, bronze, silver, and gold. “The majority of participants make their way through the three levels,” says Hermant, “but if you are 15 years old, you may go straight to silver and if you are 16 years old, you may go straight to gold.”

At the moment, there are approximately 14,000 young people in Ontario who hope to achieve the award.

Many personal rewards

Ian MacKenzie,18, now in the first year of an engineering degree, decided to go for the gold because it motivated him to try some new, and exciting, things.

He describes experiences that required physical and mental energy, but were also fun and rewarding. “For the community service component, I travelled to Thailand with a group from my school and we helped to build a recreation centre,” he says. “After that, for the adventurous journey, I went on a three-day hike in the mountains there.”

There’s so much satisfaction in setting goals, making your own decisions, and achieving your targets, says Hermant.

Louisa and Caroline agree. “I found it to be a great motivator to be physically active and stay involved in the community,” says Louisa, “while at the same time building my leadership and organizational skills.”

Caroline has discovered that “working on The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award really builds up who you are. It gets you out to meet new people, which gives you a lot of self confidence.”

“And it really looks good on your resume!”

For more information about The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, call 1-800-929-3853 or visit www.dukeofed.org.

Author: Joanne Culley

Joanne Culley is a writer and documentary producer with two sons; joanne.culley@sympatico.ca or www.joanneculleymediaproductions.com.

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