Four Arden students have received their Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award this year, with three students currently in Year 12 – Joyce Lim, Maja Pavic and Emily Hestelow – while Clare Lawrence graduated in 2014.
Mr Simon Przydacz, Arden’s Head of Senior School, summarised: “The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award is well known at Arden, and is recognised globally as a significant award scheme, engaging young people in community service, skill development, physical activity and expedition or exploration. The Award consists of three levels; Bronze, Silver and Gold. Such is the rigour of the Award scheme and the exponential hours required to complete each section as a student progresses through the levels, that only a small percentage who commence Bronze, ever go on to complete Gold whilst still at School. To have three students complete this in Year 12 and another post-school is very pleasing.”
According to Miss Julia Hepworth, Arden’s Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Coordinator: “Arden has been involved with the Duke of Edinburgh Award for over 10 years and it is a key component of the Year 9 Co-curricular program. All Year 9 students are encouraged to complete the Bronze Award, with many then choosing to complete Silver and Gold Awards. In 2016 Arden was one of the top schools for Duke Registrations.”
Discussing the benefits of the program, Miss Hepworth shared: “The program is an excellent way for students to engage in their community. It teaches perseverance and commitment. Students are able to pursue their passions and also serve the community. The program teaches life-long skills of organisation and time management. Students are challenged and often participate outside of their comfort zone, but this in turn develops character and instills in them a sense of adventure and the knowledge that they can achieve if they take the first step.”
Reflecting upon the whole experience, Joyce Lim (Year 12) shared: “This award is challenging to acquire, but truly self-rewarding. With each level you begin to understand that you are limitless, and with the right attitude you can persevere and break through any challenge. Throughout this incredible experience, you meet amazing people, form strong friendships, make life-long memories, and see Australia’s natural wonders.” Joyce used Arden’s Vietnam and Cambodia Mission Tour as her Gold Residential Project.
Key things Maja Pavic (Year 12) has learned from the experience include: working as a team, adapting to situational changes, persevering, enjoying the journey, appreciating the blessings in life and giving back to the community. Increased independence, the friendships formed and new skills acquired (such as bushcraft, leadership, navigational skills, global citizenship and working with people with disabilities) have been other benefits. Maja reflected: “I would not be doing the things I do today if I had not done the Award. This was especially evident in my service component where for my Gold Award I started to volunteer at a dance school for people with disabilities. Combining both my passion, interest and caring nature has given me so much confidence in being able to make a difference in people’s lives who are not as fortunate as myself. Seeing the smiling face of those kids week in week out has allowed me to grow as a person and find a special place in my heart for these children.” Maja has continued to work at the dance school and said: “The experience has made me think of future possibilities that I had never thought were out there, like opening up my own dance school for people with disabilities.”
Maja shared that she felt very well supported and encouraged by the School as she worked towards her goal of a Gold Award. “Arden is the one to thank for starting my journey in Year 9 as part of a compulsory school camp,” she said. “They encouraged all Year 9’s to finish Bronze and three of us went on to complete Silver and then Gold. Arden has supported me on my journey by providing co-curricular activities to join and organising the Cambodia/Vietnam Mission. Arden has given me the impetus to showcase my talent and ability to help others in a caring and supportive environment.”
Emily Hestelow (Year 12) said was inspired to go for the Gold Award to contribute more to the local community and because of “a desire to challenge my abilities and broaden my knowledge in various avenues, whilst also learning new and insightful skills”. Emily felt the program “develops self-identity and purpose, allowing an individual to ascertain and utilise skills in order to benefit the community and themselves.” When asked what she found most challenging, she shared: “Balancing all of these commitments with school work, learning complex new skills and challenging my mental and physical boundaries.” Some of her favourite memories from the experience included Urban Odyssey hikes (“They were a particular favourite, as they allowed for complex problem solving”), the Cambodia/Vietnam Mission) and attending her first fire call (which was a response to spot fires in Mt Ku-ring-gai).