Lo­cal stu­dents earn Duke of Ed­in­burgh’s In­ter­na­tional Award

Moose Jaw Express.com - - News -

Con­grat­u­la­tions to four lo­cal stu­dents who pushed them­selves be­yond their com­fort zones to earn an in­ter­na­tional award.

Vanier se­niors Sophia Gra­jczyk, Jenna Meili and Jane Morris, plus Vanier alum­nus Is­abella Gra­jczyk, who is cur­rently study­ing at the Univer­sity of Regina, earned the Duke of Ed­in­burgh’s In­ter­na­tional Award at a cer­e­mony hosted by Saskatchewan Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor W. Thomas Mal­loy on Oct. 28.

“It’s one of the best kept se­crets. It’s an in­ter­na­tional pro­gram that was set up by the Queen’s hus­band, Prince Phillip,” ex­plained Vanier teacher Christa La­pointe. “It’s all about growth and de­vel­op­ment and try­ing some­thing new and get­ting out­side of your com­fort zone, but what is unique to you as an in­di­vid­ual.”

The Duke of Ed­in­burgh Award is bro­ken down into four com­po­nents: ser­vice, skill de­vel­op­ment, phys­i­cal re­cre­ation and ad­ven­tur­ous jour­ney. There are three lev­els of achieve­ment -- gold, sil­ver and bronze -- that re­quire in­creas­ing lev­els of time and com­mit­ment to at­tain. Sophia and Is­abella Gra­jczyk were both gold award win­ners, while Morris and Meili won their sil­ver award, but both have al­ready be­gun work­ing to­wards their gold award. “I’m a very busy per­son with my ex­tracur­ric­u­lars, so I could ac­tu­ally get some credit for what I do al­ready, and I thought that was amaz­ing,” said Morris who is off to the Univer­sity of Man­i­toba in the fall where she will play on the women’s soc­cer team.

For Morris, who also re­cently com­peted in the Canada Win­ter Games speed skat­ing tri­als, the phys­i­cal re­cre­ation com­po­nent was easy. How­ever, the pro­gram also en­cour­aged her to de­vote more time to Vanier’s robotics club as she earned 109 hours for her skill com­po­nent.

“It’s re­ally fun and it opens up a lot of doors to new op­por­tu­ni­ties,” Morris said. “We go to an in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion ev­ery year called FIRST Robotics in Cal­gary. We met peo­ple from other coun­tries there like Is­rael, Mex­ico, Tur­key and Amer­ica.

“I got so much out of Duke of Ed, hon­estly. There are new skills that I didn’t know that I could learn. Robotics has been re­ally great for me per­son­ally. I’ve got an in­ter­est in STEM and that opened doors for me in that re­gard. I didn’t re­al­ize be- fore the amount that I could give back into the com­mu­nity by do­ing the things I do and that opened doors for me to coach. I ac­tu­ally got my coach­ing cour­ses for speed skat­ing and soc­cer and I’ve been coach­ing kids ever since. And I hope to con­tinue.”

The youth achieve­ment award is open to stu­dents be­tween the ages of 14-24 and since its in­cep­tion in 1959, more than 10 mil­lion youth in 130 coun­tries have been rec­og­nized.

La­pointe said that one of the things she likes about the Duke of Ed­in­burgh pro­gram is its flex­i­bil­ity. While some par­tic­i­pants are nat­u­ral ath­letes, oth­ers use yoga or go­ing to the gym as their phys­i­cal re­cre­ation. Some of the par­tic­i­pants had a skill like play­ing the pi­ano, while oth­ers had to find some­thing they were in­ter­ested in and work on it.

“We’re had stu­dents with spe­cial needs who were in wheel­chairs who com­pleted the pro­gram,” La­pointe ex­plained. “It doesn’t have to be re­stricted to phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity in that re­gard. You can do more of an ex­pe­di­tion which is more of a learn­ing-based trip. If there’s a learn­ing dis­abil­ity or a phys­i­cal dis­abil­ity -- or any other bar­ri­ers or chal­lenges -- then the pro­gram will work with them to make sure that the pro­gram can still work for them and there can still be growth.” Is­abella Gra­jczyk be­gan the pro­gram in high school, but still saw enough ben­e­fit to com­plete her gold level af­ter grad­u­at­ing.

“I like what the pro­gram stands for and the ben­e­fits it can have,” Is­abella Gra­jczyk said. “If you’re at all in­ter­ested you should at least try it. Try the bronze. It’s not for ev­ery­one. Peo­ple have dif­fer­ent things go­ing on in their lives and it can be a com­mit­ment, but if you’re al­ready do­ing some of the things, I def­i­nitely would rec­om­mend it. There is so much per­sonal growth... you have to go out of your com­fort zone to do a lot of the things.” Gra­jczyk is in her sec­ond year as a Sec­ondary Ed­u­ca­tion stu­dent in Regina she said pro­gram made her more or­ga­nized as she jug­gled dif­fer­ent Duke of Ed­in­burgh com­po­nents with the rest of her life and school work. She feels those skills have helped pre­pare her for univer­sity. Tak­ing part in the pro­gram en­cour­aged Gra­jczyk to get in­volved in the cross-coun­try run­ning team at Vanier which then led to her run­ning track as well.

The gold level ad­ven­tur­ous jour­ney fea­tures four days of camp­ing with three 20 km hikes.

“Ob­vi­ously, I had been camp­ing, but not to that ex­tent. I had never had to hike 60 kilo­me­tres over three days,” said Gra­jczyk who com­pleted her gold ad­ven­tur­ous jour­ney in Cy­press Hills with her sis­ter and Morris. “You def­i­nitely make bonds with the peo­ple you go on those jour­neys with. You all hike the same kilo­me­tres, so you re­ally get to know one an­other on those hikes. I think I would do some­thing sim­i­lar in the fu­ture, but maybe not so much hik­ing.”

Sophia Gra­jczyk felt that ad­ven­tur­ous jour­ney was the most chal­leng­ing part of the pro­gram. She has also taught young chil­dren how to skate and was on the Vanier SRC and year­book com­mit­tee. “It’s a great learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,” she said. “I had to keep my­self ac­count­able for track­ing all of the things I was do­ing and mak­ing sure I got done ev­ery­thing I planned to get done. There was a lot of re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

Vanier has plenty of good ini­tia­tives for their stu­dents, Meili vol­un­teered at River­side Mis­sion and was also ac­tive in Val­halla and Vanier’s Best Buddies pro­gram, as was Is­abella Gra­jczyk. Val­halla is a wel­com­ing event for in­com­ing Grade 9s at Vanier

“It helps bridge the gap be­tween the Grade 12s and the Grade 9s and makes sure the school is a more wel­com­ing en­vi­ron­ment for them,” Meili ex­plained. “Best Buddies is also a pro­gram at the school where you get paired up with a per­son who has a dis­abil­ity and once a week we get out for lunch with them or take them to a War­rior game and it helps make con­nec­tions.” Meili also helped cre­ate Set­s4Sup­per, a char­ity vol­ley­ball game fea­tur­ing lo­cal high school all-stars and celebrities to raise money for River­side Mis­sion that will be held on Dec. 1 at 1 p.m. at Vanier. She plans on com­plet­ing her gold level ad­ven­tur­ous jour­ney with an am­bi­tious trip to the Rocky Moun­tains. De­spite the vol­un­teer ini­tia­tives and a chal­leng­ing jour­ney ahead, she said it was her skill that has been the big­gest chal­lenge so far. “The skill was def­i­nitely the most dif­fi­cult be­cause I chose cook­ing as my skill and some­times it doesn’t come the most eas­ily. There may have been a burnt meal, but I def­i­nitely have be­come a bet­ter cook,” Meili said.

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