For two local students, it’s a lofty honour in recognition of substantial character-building achievements outside the classroom.
Stephanie Blain and Kaite McKay of Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary were among 112 British Columbia students who were awarded Gold Duke of Edinburgh Awards late last month.
Canada’s Governor General David Johnston was among the dignitaries presiding at the honours, presented at a ceremony at the Fairmont Vancouver Hotel, where nearly 500 people gathered.
The Gold Award represents the highest level of achievement for participants in the Duke of Edinburgh Award program, a self-directed development program for young people.
Participants work their way through levels in community service, skills, recreation, and adventurous journey. A fifth level is required for participants at the Gold Award level: they must be away from home with new people for at least five days.
McKay, a Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary 2010 grad, completed her bronze, silver and gold requirements from Grades 9-12 by volunteering her time to interactive and student council duties, being physically active with soccer, at the gym and on a canoe trip in Scotland with other students while also learning to drive (skill). Her gold expedition was a horseback riding trip through the countryside of France for several days.
“It was a lot of fun but the physical aspect was challenging,” McKay said.
“A few hours on horseback is fine. Days of it is a whole different story.”
There were a few rough spots along the way, such as having to throw all her bedding away early in the trip, due to a bedbug infestation.
But on the plus side, the mountainside journey that meandered through little French villages where no one speaks English was like no other.
“These were once-in-a-lifetime experiences,” said McKay.
Ditto for Blain.
Blain, a Grade 12 student at LTS, travelled to Kenya with a school group and completed various volunteer commitments ranging from playing piano for seniors to helping out with a local African children’s choir. She is co-president of her school’s Interact Club and also runs, bikes and takes martial arts training.
Her gold expedition was a canoe camping trip to Wells Gray Provincial Park.
“I really liked the canoe trip,” Blain said.
“I definitely would encourage others to get involved. It gives you opportunities you normally wouldn’t have.”
Speaking at a recent Duke of Edinburgh awards presentation, Johnston called the Duke of Edinburgh Awards a wonderful tribute to the talent and determination of youth.
“Young people today are coming of age in transformative times, marked by rapid change and shifting demographics,” he told award recipients.
“Your energy and contributions are essential to building a smarter, more caring Canada, he said, adding the recipients set an example to us all.
The award program is active in about 130 countries, including Canada.
– with files from Jennifer Lang