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Students Achieve Success with Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award

Youth program delivers physical and mental challenges but students reap benefits
By Clement Huang
Students Achieve Success with Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award

The Duke of Edinburgh’s (DofE) International Award at Canadian International School of Hong Kong (CDNIS) continues to attract significant interest from the student body, as many seek to challenge themselves both physically and mentally.
The internationally recognized youth program, which CDNIS has now supported for five years, consists of three tiers: Bronze, Silver, and Gold. Each requires participants to complete an expedition, master a new skill, take up a physical recreation exercise, and provide useful service to others.
According to Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) Coordinator Jonathan Hamilton, 43 students will be pursuing the Silver award during the current academic year, along with another 13 attempting Gold. At the time of press, recruitment for the Bronze awards has yet to get underway, although the school is anticipating similarly healthy numbers in this category.
While competing for the DofE Award is undoubtedly a grueling task for many, Jonathan believes that the program is a strong showcase of our students’ strength of character. In particular, students are encouraged to independently complete the program.
“We can try to motivate [the students] but, at the end of the day, it’s down to the individual to find the will to complete the program and achieve the award,” he said.
There have been a number of close calls. As the CAS Coordinator recalls, there was one particular hike that pushed several students to their limits.
“We were hiking up a hill and had reached the midway point. However, upon doing so, several of our students said that it was too much for them and that they wanted to quit. So we had a choice. We could either go back all the way to the start or carry on for the other half. Now what? Luckily, the students found their internal motivation to keep pushing through and we managed to complete the expedition.”
It was this motivation that first led Grade 12 student Patricia to take part in the DofE Award Silver tier program last year.
“I was seeking the opportunity to try new sports, recreational activities, intense hiking, and service, and the DofE Award seemed to call out my name. I never would have expected it to be so emotionally, physically, and mentally tough, but it made me stronger and more resilient because of how much it tested my patience and ability.”
Another particularly taxing expedition came in early 2016. Hong Kong residents will remember the January weekend when the SAR was hit by a polar vortex, bringing some of the coldest weather in nearly 60 years. Still that did not deter the two Bronze-tier teams, which completed their camping exercise that weekend.
“Those two teams camped outdoors in the cold,” said Jonathan. “I’m really proud of them and their accomplishment. They consisted of then Grade 9 students Jenkins, Cameron, James, Lizzy, Vance, Sara, Whitney, and Hansen. There were also two Grade 8 students, Thomas and Hunter.”
For those committed to completing the program, the benefits can be substantial and the experience life-changing. The DofE Award is often described as “a passport to a brighter future,” and Patricia concurs.
“Things are not always going to be easy, and you’re not always going to feel as though you’re getting somewhere, but once you see the view of the hike, or know that you’ve achieved something for yourself, you learn and grow stronger.
“The memorable parts for me included the camping experience, learning to set up a tent, cooking our own food (instant macaroni every single morning!), and falling asleep at 9 p.m. to the sound of the waves after an exhausting eight to ten hours of hiking every day.”
For fellow Grade 12 student Charly, the most valuable moments of the DofE Award were evident during the final expedition for a Silver placement, when it became clear that the improvements that she had made throughout the year had finally paid off.
“Our group was very slow at hiking in the first practice journeys due to our inexperience, but we managed to finish our final assessment journey for Silver in much less time after learning from our previous experiences. The expedition section was also incredibly valuable because it taught me how to communicate and collaborate with a group of people.”
While the DofE Award can be a testing experience for even the best of us, it represents a perfect complement of CDNIS’ ongoing vision “to inspire excellence, cultivate character, and empower engagement locally and globally.”

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