Encouraging Personal Development and Challenging Students through Duke of Ed

Impacting lives through community service, learning career-related skills, creating personal goals, and even challenging themselves through an ‘adventurous journey.’ These are the activities St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) students in the Duke of Ed Club experience when they begin working towards their Duke of Edinburgh International Award.

The Duke of Edinburgh International Award is an internationally recognized programme that encourages young people between the ages of 14 and 24 to develop positive skills and lifestyle habits by completing voluntary activities in a non-competitive format.

The Duke of Ed Club at St. Michael's College School.

The Duke of Ed Club at St. Michael's College School as been in place since 2006.

The Duke of Ed Club at SMCS assists students who are interested in achieving their award.

“The programme has been in place at St. Michael’s College School since 2006 and l have been moderating it for the last eight years,” says Erin Hogan, Guidance Counsellor and Learning Enrichment teacher at SMCS. “We meet monthly as well as communicate as a group via Edsby for questions and on-going support.”

The Duke of Edinburgh Award programme consists of three levels–gold, silver, and bronze. As long as they meet the minimum age requirements of the level, students can complete activities at every level or just one or two in order to achieve their award, it’s completely up to the student to decide what’s right for them.

Each level requires students to complete and record extra-curricular and voluntary activities in community service, skill building, physical recreation, and an adventurous journey–some kind of expedition (hike, bike, kayak, etc.) for the purpose of environmental or historical exploration. For the gold level, an additional ‘gold project’ such as completing a training course, student exchange, service project or other similar activity is required.

“All of the students who are planning their adventurous journey will be completing the preliminary training prerequisite at SMCS on March 3,” says Hogan. “This course includes: map reading, basic cooking and camping skills, food preparation, setting up a tent, first-aid, and packing.”

“I joined the programme for three reasons,” says Matthew Kirby, a Grade 12 student and student-moderator of the Duke of Ed Club at SMCS. “I was already very involved with weekly organized recreation (hockey and golf) and I was also taking music lessons and doing community service.”

“I wanted to challenge myself with the adventurous journeys,” says Kirby. “I tend to like to be in the comfort of my own home, and I am not outdoorsy, so it was good for me to try something new. I also wanted to meet new people outside of my friend group.”

The Duke of Edinburgh Award Board at St. Michael's College School.

St. Michael's College School's Duke of Edinburgh’s Award board that recognizes students and alumni who have completed their award.

St. Michael’s College School recognizes all of its students who have completed their award on the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award board located in the main office hallway. Current students and alumni are listed under the highest level they’ve achieved and it’s noted whether they completed any other levels as well.

“We have 11 new members this year, but the overall membership is 91,” says Hogan. “However, not all are active at this point.”

“My biggest accomplishment was getting through the gold level,” says Kirby. “The gold level requires a continuous commitment to recreation, skill development, and community service for an entire year. On top of that, it requires a week-long residential project and a week-long adventurous journey.”

“I spent a week at Queen’s University for the residential project and took a course in microbiology,” he says. “The experience was very good because I was able to stay in Queen’s residence and experience what it is like to be a student there.”

In addition to the unique experiences each student can take on, members of the Duke of Ed Club also have the opportunity to also participate in other types of events.

“We have attended special events such as breakfast meetings, Ski for the Duke, and organized bake sales to raise money for the Duke of Ed Club,” says Hogan.

SMCS alumni meet Prince Harry at the Duke of Edinburgh gold award ceremony in 2017.

St. Michael's College School alumni meeting Prince Harry at the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award - Canada's Gold Award Ceremony in 2017.
Photo courtesy of: The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award – Canada

“My highlight was meeting Prince Harry with four of our students who were getting their gold award,” she says.

In 2017, Prince Harry made an appearance at The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award - Canada’s Gold Award Ceremony that took place at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel. According to Canada’s Duke of Ed National Office, “Prince Harry canvased the room, spending a special moment with each participant, taking the time to greet, shake hands, and speak to the achievers about their Duke of Ed journey.”

“It is important to note that the Duke of Ed programme is about participation and not about passing or failing tests,” says Kirby. “The best way to enjoy the Duke of Ed programme is to select recreation and community service activities you enjoy and skills that you are interested in. There is a huge variety to choose from.”

St. Michael’s College School offers more than 50 after-school clubs and activities that support academic, artistic, athletic, and many more interests. Find a list of the programmes currently offered at SMCS here.