My amazing experience with the Duke Of Edinburgh Awards

 

gold duke of edinburgh awardIt was a great honour for me to attend my Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award Presentation at St James’ Palace in London on 9th February.

This award offers young people a challenge and an amazing experience. Millions of young people take part – pushing boundaries and gaining new skills.
Available to all 14-24 year olds throughout the British Isles, it equips young people for life regardless of their background, culture or physical ability. It isn’t a competition, but a challenge which pushes you to your own personal limits. On average only 2,500 young people continue and complete the Gold Award each year out of the 250,000 who begin with the Bronze Award.

Having Cerebral Palsy, I found certain aspects of the challenges a real struggle but I was determined to complete all three levels. I was given tremendous support by many people including the Forest of Dean team who helped with my expeditions. My Gold Award Expedition was completed over four days at The Forest of Dean, this included putting all our own equipment out for camping over three nights and walking in groups during the day. The teams were of mixed abilities and disabilities and was incredibly challenging.

The support from my DofE Leader at Stover School continued after I had left which enabled me to complete my Gold Award whilst at University. I was also given much encouragement from Burrator Discovery Centre on Dartmoor where I completed my volunteering over several years. There I learnt much about the environment and life on Dartmoor from different perspectives. I also set and achieved both physical and coaching challenges in platform diving as part of my work towards this.

A residential trip is compulsory for the Gold Award and this I found difficult as I had to go somewhere I couldn’t have support. I spent a week at a Prep School in Northamptonshire helping in the PE department and the boarding house in the evening with Gap Students from abroad.

St James Palace is not open to the public, unlike Buckingham Palace where awards also take place. So this was an incredible opportunity to be able to see such an amazing and historical building with fabulous ornate rooms. The attendees are divided into separate rooms with about 50 guests in each. We were lucky to be in the Entree room from where Prince William and Kate’s engagement was televised.

Prince Edward represented the Duke of Edinburgh and made us all feel relaxed during his chat, asking us about our experiences with volunteering, skills and expeditions. As I was the only person who did diving for the physical part he seemed pretty impressed with my progress.

Olympic Rower Alex Gregory was the guest who presented us with our awards. He is a really nice guy, full of humour and a true inspiration to us all with the delivery of his speech about his own journey from grass roots to success.

The presentation procedure lasted two and a half hours including photographs, speeches and relaxing chats. It all went too quickly!

My mum accompanied me to the presentation. Only one guest is allowed but we met up with family and friends afterwards and had a wonderful meal to celebrate. It was an amazing day and up there with my very special moments in life.

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Maddy Hopson

BA Sport Development, Student Ambassador. Platform Diver and Coach. Part-time Skier. Ambassador for CP Teens UK. Patron of North London Aquatics.

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