Gabriela has been on quite the journey since she started her Award. She even had an article in the local paper written about how she went from being a shy girl to someone who is adventurous and si now mentoring others who have just started the Award.
Read the interview below:
Why did you decide to do the Award?
The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award is an amazing self-development program that challenges individuals, building vital skills that have helped transform hundreds of participants into more confident, organised and independent young adults.
I was a very shy person when I first came to St Aloysius in Year 8, but throughout my high school life, primarily because of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award I have become a lot more confident, independent and organised. Not only did I also learn a vast array of new skills, but I also learnt about who I am as a young adult and have made memories that will last a lifetime!
What activities are you doing for your Award?
For the Bronze level, I learnt how to play the violin for my Skill, I began going Irish Dancing for my Physical Recreation and volunteered at my school canteen for my Service.
Then, for the Silver Level, I continued with the violin and volunteering at the canteen but changed my Physical Recreation to Keep Fit.
Now, for Gold, my Skill is playing the flute, personal fitness (Keep Fit) for Physical Recreation and for Service, I have done a variety of activities including volunteering at a Dragon Boat club (cooking and handling money), at the Australian Masters Games, Work Experience at a clinic and helping out at an Aboriginal Traditional Healing centre.
Also, for my Gold Residential Project, I travelled to the Tiwi Islands and helped out at the local school and stayed with Sister Anne.
When asked to speak about my experience, the words which come to mind are intercultural understanding, respect, organisation and especially independence. Upon arrival, we were immediately faced with a massive culture shock. As Harper Lee said, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it”. Being a part of the Tiwi community enabled me to do just that – I experienced the Tiwi way of life, first-hand. During the week, at Murrupurtiyanuwu Catholic Primary School I helped new teacher, Gillian Andrews in her classroom, cleaning and organising her storage closet, making arts and crafts for sports day, taught the class about nets of shapes, made art, learnt about bush tucker, engaged in a traditional Tiwi animal dance and even joined the blue team on sports day.
Through these activities, the mercy values of respect and service were inevitably displayed when interacting with the community, learning about the Tiwi culture and helping those in need. The welcoming nature of all in the community, filled all our hearts with joy and the culture of the people demonstrated in the museum emphasised their strength, integrity and spiritual affinity with the land.
Meeting Sr Anne Gardiner, a woman who dedicated her life to the community and is a true inspiration to all, was undeniably a highlight of the trip. It was fulfilling to see Saint Aloysius College’s name in the museum – it made us all realize just how treasured our community’s contributions are. I met so many wonderful people on this trip, whilst strengthening relationships with those I already knew. The skills and awareness I developed during these days will undoubtedly be carried and developed throughout my entire life – it was a journey which I will never forget.
What sort of challenges are you facing in your day-to-day life, as a result of COVID-19? How has this impacted you?
At the moment, as a result of COVID-19, there are many challenges we are all facing on a day-to-day basis. Whether it being something as simple as going to the shops or getting some fresh air by the beach, COVID-19 has completely changed the way we go about or lives. The main issues I have encountered lie in not being able to spend time with my family, particularly my grandparents who are at risk during this time. Birthday celebrations and Easter - we have missed out on the rare times we get to have the entire family together, laughing and smiling.
However, like when you get a cold and realise that you have taken breathing normally for granted, the virus has also opened my eyes to how treasured moments with family are and also how lucky we are to live in a country where most of us can work and learn from home.
Is the Award helping you deal with any of these challenges? If so how?
The Award has undoubtedly taught me so many skills which have helped me through these times. Independence, problem-solving and communication are just some of the many skills which the award has taught me that have helped me through this time. Being an independent person who can problem-solve has helped me immensely while learning from home and communication with family, friends and teachers has been key in making life continue despite the virus.
Have you had to adapt your Award activities as a result of COVID - 19? if so, how?
Thankfully, I have completed all my Adventurous Journeys an im only a couple hours away from completing my Gold level. Although, as a Duke's Student Leader, I have been brainstorming ways for students at my school to continue with their Award.
What would you say to someone who thinks doing the Award is too hard right now and wants to wait until its easier after the virus?
I completely understand, especially for someone who is just starting Bronze, but why should we let the virus keep us from something we wish to do? If you are someone who wants to do the Award but is worried about COVID-19 making it too hard, start by just signing up, there is no harm in starting the Award for when you are ready to actually log hours. You can talk to your parents/caregivers, Award Leader or Student Award Leaders about registering and then you can also familiarise yourself with the Online Record Book and even brainstorm which activities you could do, with whom and when. You could even get in touch with some places where you would like to volunteer and offer your help for when COVID-19 is no longer an issue. Or if you are eager to start, begin your Physical Activity (could be personal fitness at home), Voluntary Service (why not do the shopping for an elderly family member or neighbour or write a letter of hope and encouragement to a nursing home) and skill (learn how to cook to help your parents/caregivers out) - the possibilities are endless! So, just get started!
Is there anything else you would like to share about your time doing the Award?
I say this quite often, the Duke of Edinburgh's Award is by far one of the highlights of my school life!
I have learnt vital life skills, made so many incredible friendships, discovered my passions and strengths, and created so many unforgettable memories - I can genuinely say that I have loved my Duke's journey.
From camps in the Adelaide Hills, to the Murray River, to the Tiwi Islands in the Northern Territory, the Duke's experience has changed me by making me a more confident, easy-going, decisive, organised, adventurous and independent young woman.
Furthermore, this year, a new program has been introduced, where students who have reached the Gold Level of the Award are given the opportunity to mentor and guide their peers through the Award. Working alongside our St Aloysius Award Leaders, Mr Brown and Ms Butterworth, and South Australia’s Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Development Manager, Jemma McQuinn, five students from Years 11 to 12, have come together to bring this initiative to life at SAC. From brainstorming how we are going to help students prepare and pack for Adventurous Journeys, making sure they feel confident and excited to take on the new challenge, to new ways to motivate students to persevere through their award, SAC’s Student Duke’s Leaders are excited to pass on their expertise and experiences to their fellow peers.
Last week, we completed three training courses which not only gave us an insight into the history and inner workings of the Award but also prepared us to successfully deliver the Award at SAC. It is incredibly exciting and empowering to know that we are the first young adults in South Australia under the age of 18 to undergo this training! This unforgettable leadership opportunity enables us to not only continue to build confidence and skills that we will undoubtedly use throughout our lives well beyond school, but also grow as students, leaders and young women. As this is an internationally recognised qualification, it will aid us with our future careers, and will also allow us to continue to create great memories which we will treasure for the rest of our lives. It is truly wonderful to be able to come together with like-minded people, who value their Dukes experiences and are passionate about supporting their peers through the incredible journey that is the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.
Not only has the award made me the person I am today but it has also given me incredible opportunities to visit new places and experience new things like being interviewed by The Advertiser about my Duke's experience and even more importantly, I was able to truly make a difference in my local and wider community!