Kleo Skavinski, front left, and Elli Cunningham, front right, are among 13 students at Diamond Jenness Secondary School participating in this year’s Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award. The program is being promoted by Yellowknife’s Sophie Kirby, back left, the award’s program officer for the NWT and Nunavut, and Kim King, the career advisor at Diamond Jenness.
Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

For what is believed to be the first time, an opportunity to earn the prestigious Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award is available at a Hay River school.

Thirteen students in Grade 8 to Grade 12 at Diamond Jenness Secondary School are working towards earning the special recognition.

“I haven’t heard of it being in Hay River before,” said Kim King, the career advisor at Diamond Jenness and one of two award leaders at the school.

Yellowknife’s Sophie Kirby, the NWT and Nunavut program officer for the Duke of Edinburgh International Award, said it is available for youth aged 14-24 years.

“It is the most prestigious youth award in the world,” she said.

Kirby explained there are three levels for the award – bronze, silver and gold.

The students at DJ have signed up for the bronze award, which requires six months to achieve.

“It’s a self-development framework for youth, a self-achievement award,” Kirby said. “It’s non-competitive.”

There are four categories per level, including skill development, physical recreation and volunteering in the community. The students themselves can decide how to complete those categories.

“The last component is an on-the-land trip that they have to do with a group of youth, an organization, with the family,” said Kirby. “Just so they can get connected back to nature.”

The on-the-land requirement could be a camping trip, she explained. “We call it an adventurous journey.”

Kleo Skavinski, an 18-year-old Grade 12 student, is one of the participants in the program, noting that being a recipient of a Duke of Edinburgh International Award would look good on transcripts.

“It’s another way to show all the work I do in my community,” she said. “It’s not really a selfish reason, but it’s more saying I do help my community to the point that I’d be recognized for it. And it’s a lot easier to show future employers that I have the skill sets. I’ve developed them over time.”

Among her activities are volunteering at the Purple Pick Music Studio to help youngsters learn how to play guitar. For a skill development, she is learning music theory on the piano and teaching herself how to play ukulele. Her physical recreation includes basketball, soccer and working out.

Elli Cunningham, a 17-year-old Grade 12 student, also is looking ahead to what a Duke of Edinburgh International Award could mean on an application to a university or for employment.

“It really does look good on transcripts,” she said. “It’s also nice because on a transcript I could say I volunteer at track and field or biathlon or whatever. It’s kind of nice to have it actually official…. It feels sort of more concrete.”

Cunningham has a few options for volunteering, including coaching biathlon.

As for skill development, she is learning German online.

“My Mom is German, so I had some kind of a head start there,” she said.

And for the physical recreation aspect of the award, she does workouts on her own.

King understands the students’ focus on transcripts featuring the Duke of Edinburgh International Award.

Universities and employers are looking for well-rounded students, she said. “And this is a great way to show that.”

Anyone who completes the requirements for a bronze award gets a pin and a certificate signed by Prince Philip, who is the Duke of Edinburgh.

An award at the silver level requires 12 months of involvement in the program, while a gold level award requires 18 months.

King is pleased that 13 students signed up this year at DJ.

“I think for a start that’s good,” she said. “It will be nice to see next year if we have students working on silver.”

Kirby noted there are currently about 100 participants in the program in the NWT.


Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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