The Duke of Edinburgh's Award

Which program offers young people the chance to make a committed personal challenge to reach their potential? The challenge can be continued over many years and comprises four sections: volunteering, skill, physical recreation and adventurous journeys.

Curious? It's The Duke of Edinburgh's Award and it's been running for more than 50 years in Australia and operates in more than 140 countries.

Open to anyone between the ages of 14 and 25, 'The Duke of Ed', as it's affectionately known, is an enrichment program designed to bring out the best in young people who want to challenge themselves.

Young people discover their potential

NSW Sport and Recreation project officer Mark Roach said the Duke of Ed was about experiencing, connecting and developing.

"You will get out of the award what you put in," Mr Roach said.

"Participants grow personally and connect with others through a range of new experiences. They also have the chance to discover their potential."

While the alumni of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award included community and student leaders, Mr Roach emphasised it was not a competition, but rather a personal challenge for a student to do their best. 

"It offers the opportunity for students to work with others while focusing on their own unique abilities and interests within an internationally recognised framework," he said.

Noble pursuits

Participants could enter the award at the level that best suited them, and choose activities that fitted in with their interests and life.

Students usually progress through the three award levels - Bronze, Silver, Gold - between Years 9 and 12.

The unique benefits gained from being part of the award had spurred Billabong High School PDHPE teacher George Mackinlay to dedicate six years of weekends and after-school hours to nurture students in the program.

"The Dukes packs a punch," he said. "Students become just that little bit more self-sufficient, especially on our adventurous journeys. It helps develop the whole person."

Greystanes High School had also seen the benefits of the award, operating at the school for more than 25 years.

Developing of responsibility and independence

Science teacher Sylvia Zajkowski, who coordinates the award at the Western Sydney-based high school, said participants grew personally with all-round development and increased levels of responsibility and independence.

"Being away from family [on the two-, three- and four- day adventurous journeys] definitely increases self-sufficiency and independence," she said.

Greystanes High organises a trip to New Zealand for Duke of Ed participants every other year. Last year they hiked and camped around the picturesque Bay of Islands area.

Mr Roach believes one of the best things about the award is the personal journey students embark upon which requires regular commitment and perseverance. 

"Their efforts are recognised over time, and their achievements are the self-improvement they experience."

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