Dating back to 1956, ambitious young people have demonstrated a passion for service and learning by working toward getting a Duke of Edinburgh's award. The award hasn't ever had a champion in the Whistler area — until now.
Brad Gooderham, one of the faculty members at Coast Mountain Academy, is now a regional field officer with the program and students at his school are working with him on the award. Students Bella Perroni and Kate Rowan achieved bronze awards through their work last school year, and the pair is now working towards the award's silver qualifications.
"It's a lot of activities and volunteering that I probably wouldn't have done unless I was participating in the award," said Perroni during a Google Hangout chat. "It got me out there doing stuff I wouldn't have done otherwise."
Rowan said participating in the award made her think ahead and plan her life.
"I'm really looking forward to trying a new skill and I think wilderness survival could be my skill, that sounds like a lot of fun," she said.
Both students said they would encourage any young person looking for a challenge to take on the award.
The program's origin stems from a desire by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, to create a program that would help young people develop a sense of responsibility to themselves and to their communities.
Now in the program's 50th year Gooderham is leading all the eligible students at his school through the award and making it available to other interested students in the region.
According to Gooderham, the benefits of going through the program are practically immeasurable.
"It formalizes a way that students demonstrate skill development, character building and service," said Gooderham at his school office inside the Quest University campus in Squamish. "It's a really neat way for students to show what they're doing outside of school and to have some sort of recognition for their achievements."
The award breaks down into four components: Community Service, Skill Development, Physical Recreation and Adventurous Journey. The award starts at the bronze level for those over 14, silver for those over 15 and gold for people over 16. Gooderham said most participants complete the gold level in three years.
An information meeting on the award program is planned for Friday, Nov. 8 at Coast Mountain Academy between 6 and 7 p.m. Gooderham said he is looking ahead to potential future information meetings in Whistler.