I have been so excited to write this blog post for a little while now, but I just wanted to wait until I had finished my exams at University to be able to fully dedicate myself to writing it. On Monday the 16th of May 2016 my parents and I were lucky enough to go to Buckingham Palace so I could be awarded my Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award. It was a fantastic day.
To introduce this post, I am just going to provide a little bit of background on the Duke of Edinburgh's Award (DofE). Back in 1956 HRH, The Duke Of Edinburgh founded a programme aimed at young people to help enhance their personal development, through the undertaking of several skills and exercises. Whilst the award has developed dramatically over the years (as it used to only be available to boys), there have always been three levels to the award, Bronze, Silver and Gold. There is a minimum age for each of the levels, 14 for Bronze, 15 for Silver and 16 for Gold. There are a variety of sections to complete in order to gain these awards; a Physical section, a Skills section, a Volunteering section and an Expedition, all of varying lengths. (For Gold you have to complete a five day residential trip too). Offered through schools and other associations for young people, DofE is available to many people around the UK, and abroad too. To obtain one or all of these levels, the activities have to be completed by the participant's 25th birthday.
When I was 14 my school notified my year group about DofE and I had a keen interest from the start. A few years down the line from then having completed my Bronze and Silver awards, I was determined to complete Gold too. For this, I completed a four day expedition across Dartmoor with some girls from my school, a five day residential trip to a cookery course in Taunton, I volunteered in a National Trust restaurant for one year, I attended Ballet lessons for one year and I learnt to drive for six months. I really enjoyed every single part of completing these sections, and I really feel I gained a lot of self confidence and independence throughout the process.
Monday 16th May, 2016
The Completed Look
Cropped Blazer - New Look
Floral Co-ord - New Look
Wedged Shoes - Schuh
Clutch Bag - Topshop
We entered Buckingham Palace Gardens from the Hyde Park corner entrance, along with hundreds of other people all dressed up for the event. Altogether there were around seven thousand people in the gardens, which created a wonderful atmosphere and sense of achievement throughout the event. We were all put into small groups depending on where we were from - I was in the Devon and Cornwall group. There were around forty groups altogether (see picture below). In each group there were about twenty five Gold Achievers who were accompanied by their guests who stood behind them, and opposite were representatives from the organisations which allowed the Gold Achievers to complete DofE in the first place. My Headteacher from my old school and the P.E. teacher in charge of DofE were there in support of myself and another girl two years below me.
|(Photograph belongs to DofE, not myself)|
Each group had a celebrity guest speaker to present the certificates. (You also receive a Gold Award brooch or pin, you can choose which, however I had already been sent my DofE Gold Award brooch which I wore on the day, alongside my pins from my Bronze and Silver awards). To present the certificates we were lucky enough to have adventurer and TV presenter Ray Mears. I thought that this was very apt as he could really empathise with the DofE Gold Achievers, having done a lot of hiking, exploring and route planning himself. He gave a wonderful speech to our group lasting about fifteen minutes, which was very inspiring and made me feel incredibly proud of myself and everyone else there. We were able to have individual photographs with Ray (which my parents and I are going to buy!). He was genuinely a lovely and friendly man who really added to the experience. Afterwards, we were also joined by Prince Edward, The Earl of Wessex who came round to chat to all of us. He was also very friendly and easy to talk to, who expressed a keen interest in many of our DofE stories.
Overall, I have to say it was one of the best moments of my life! It was an incredibly well organised event, and a lot of effort was made to make each one of the Gold Achievers feel very appreciated and special, which was very rewarding. There was also a lot of emphasis on how DofE will enhance my CV which is very appropriate for where I am in my life. All of the people I met were so friendly and helpful, the weather was gorgeous and being able to set foot inside the grounds of Buckingham Palace was an amazing experience in itself!
I would highly, highly recommend enrolling yourself to do the Duke of Edinburgh's Award. I got so much out of it and it is something that I will never forget.