Kerris De Champlain had never been camping before, until her involvement with the Duke of Edinburgh award program. This was just one of the new activities the program introduced her to, including doing a three-week high school exchange to Barcelona, Spain.
The program provides young adults between the ages of 14 and 25 the opportunity to step outside their comfort zones and become more involved in the community through service, skills, physical fitness and an adventurous journey. For the highest level – gold – a residential project must also be completed.
“The Duke of Edinburgh helps you set goals because you have to do it for a minimum amount of time and prove that you gained some sort of experience or certification of some kind,” said De Champlain, 18.
De Champlain, now in her second year studying psychology and linguistics at the University of Victoria, first got involved with the program through her school, St. Margaret’s. She successfully completed each level of the program, bronze, silver and gold.
De Champlain has volunteered as a reading buddy at the Greater Victoria Public Library, which she counts as her favourite community service activity so far. Throughout the program, De Champlain developed a passion for getting involved with the community and volunteering.
“Even if you don’t do those specific activities anymore, it inspires you to pursue similar ones where your skills would be best put,” she said.
Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, was in Victoria recently to present the gold winners with their awards.
“It emphasized how significant the achievement of the award is, and how highly it is regarded,” said De Champlain. “Through the award, I explored new activities, challenged myself in ways I never thought I would, particularly during the adventurous journey, and became more involved in my community.”
Colin Hawes, another Duke of Edinburgh gold award recipient, also had unique personal growth experiences through the program.
“I’m proud of the fact that it’s an award of excellence for student-aged individuals that isn’t about pure academic achievements, but accomplishments in other aspects of life,” said Hawes.
Hawes, 19, was involved with the outdoor leadership program at St. Michael’s University in Victoria. He participated in multiple three- or four-day trips, including a white water rafting trip which he led in Grade 12.
“It definitely makes you become more of a leader and makes you take initiative and make sure people are pulling their weight,” said Hawes. “I definitely grew from it.”
Hawes did not submit applications for the bronze and silver levels; instead he went straight for gold.
Hawes is in his third year at Camosun College, studying sport and leadership. He hopes to apply his leadship skills and love of sports to becoming a general manager of a hockey team or a strength and conditioning coach for a team.
Hawes saw it as an honour to not only have completed the requirements for the award, but to also have it awarded by Prince Edward.
“It’s probably once in a lifetime,” he said.