Established in 1956 by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award program has now expanded and now reaches youth in all four corners of the world. Aimed at helping young people develop essential life skills and to encourage well-rounded personal development, the Duke of Ed currently has over 50 000 participants across Canada. In each of its three levels (Bronze, Silver, and Gold), participants challenge themselves in three categories (Skills, Service, and Physical Recreation) and complete an Adventurous Journey, and at the Gold level, a Residential Project. The Duke of Ed is currently in its 40th year of operation in Alberta.
If at this time last year, you had asked me about The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award program, I would have had no idea what you were talking about. In only the past several months, I have been introduced to the Award, and have thrown myself right off of the deep end into the Gold program, the highest level of the award, which demands the longest time commitment and amount of dedication in order to complete. My journey with the Award is only just beginning, but on Friday, April 28th, I had the opportunity to attend the Silver Awards Ceremony, and take part in celebrating the successes of twenty-five young people from twenty different communities across Alberta. They have already attained a greater level of personal achievement than I, until quite recently, even knew was possible for young people in Canada.
Upon arriving at Government House, where the ceremony was to be held, I was greeted by the building’s warmth, and welcoming, charming character. A part of me was expecting something larger and less intimate, but I was pleasantly surprised. I arrived well in advance of the ceremony, and was invited to attend the VIP Reception which took place before the ceremony was to commence. I was there to attend the ceremony, but to be completely honest, the part of the evening that had the most personal impact on me was this reception. The room was filled with people, all of whom had some form of connection to the Award, whether they were former participants, council members, or others whose lives have been touched by the Award in one way or another. The reception gave me a completely different perspective on the Award; as much as participants or those looking at getting involved might tend to be focused on what the Award can do for them right here and now, the impacts are long term and far reaching. What is often forgotten is that the influence that such a program has on one’s life does not end at the award ceremony, but is still only just beginning.
During the ceremony, each individual recipient had their bio read, which added a very personal touch. Most, if not all of the awards ceremonies that I had been to in the past basically entailed recipients’ names being read off without further comment. This is what is so unique about the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award; everyone’s path to achieving their Award is different, and it is these differences that make the Award so special to celebrate. Every young person at Government House that evening had their own story, aspirations, and ambitions. Time was taken to honour all of them individually, and it was this peek into the lives of the award recipients that made the ceremony, and the Award in and of itself, so significant.
Finally, I would like to close with the words of The Honourable Lois E. Mitchell, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, who presented the Awards and who is the Division Chair for the Alberta, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut Division of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. In speaking about the recipients’ achievements and being present to celebrate with them, Her Honour stated,
I always come away knowing that our future is in great hands.
To me, these words perfectly sum up what The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award does for those who choose to take part in it. It gives young people the motivation to improve themselves, and a framework in which to develop the skills that they will need moving forward in life, and in moving the world forward with them.
All images courtesy of Ken Hutchinson of the St. Albert Photography Club, and The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award.