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Undertaking your Gold Award during a Pandemic is hard, but undertaking it when you are the only Participant at your own school is even more challenging. However, with great cooperation this has been possible for current Gold Awardee Laura Mannes, currently a student at Coleambally Central School in the Riverina region of south-western NSW, Laura is registered with Hay War Memorial High School (located about 90 minutes away from Hay).

Which is where Award Coordinator Leonie Booth takes up the story:

Laura undertaking her Gold AJ
Laura undertaking her Gold AJ

“Laura joined our Award Centre in 2019 after completing her Bronze with Coleambally Central School. Her Mum initially made contact as Laura was keen to complete the Award after seeing her brothers achieve Gold and the opportunities that the Award had given them. We were able to transfer her to our Award Centre where she has completed her Silver and is progressing with her gold.”

“We have been able to mentor Laura through email and she also is also is able to participate in our weekly meetings through zoom.”

Booth continued, “it has been a great opportunity for building relationships, increasing our cohort, enabling Laura to achieve her goals, plus using technology to maintain contact”








Laura went on to say “I have found my Award experience to be incredibly rewarding. With the encouragement of doing the Award, I've put myself in quite a few situations that have been pretty difficult, but seeing them come to an end, and all of the time and hard work pay off is definitely worthwhile. For me, the satisfaction of seeing the bus at the end of a long hike, the feeling of my eyes adjusting to natural light after exploring the depths and uncertainty of a cave, donating the premature baby beanies that I spent a whole year working on to a hospital and seeing the midwives faces light up, and watching the little squares of fabric become a quilt has been so unexplainably fulfilling. It's just such a pleasing experience, and so rewarding to know that putting in so much time and effort can accumulate into something so great.”

As with everything there are challenges with Booth noting “some practical aspects” have provided tricky but everything has generally worked out well.

“Covid-19 has definitely impacted my experience, however the Award teaches you to think quickly and work around complications. My original plan for my Gold Service was to volunteer in my local aged care facility, but it closed to visitors after my first week. I brainstormed a few ideas and came up with the idea to use my skill from my silver award - knitting, to make baby beanies for premature babies. This was a really rewarding experience as I got to put my new skill to use, and it kept me entertained during lockdown.”

Prior to the first set of lockdowns in early 2020 Laura was able to undertake her Gold Residential Project at The Portsea Camp in Victoria. Over a seven-day period Laura was able to gain leadership skills, assist in social wellbeing and plus play a key role in the running and planning of recreation activities for 8-12 year-old children at getting to the highest level in the Award was always something Laura aspired to do.

“My older brothers all did the Award when they were in high school, so I've been inspired to complete the award from quite a young age.
I'm so grateful for Hay War Memorial High School, who took me on board, and opened up the opportunity for me. I pretty much got on a bus with a bunch of strangers to go hiking for a couple of days, and returned with some amazing friends and memories, and I'm so thankful for this experience. For anyone considering undertaking the gold award, I can't recommend it enough! Just bite the bullet and go for it. Yes, it will take time, commitment and a lot of organisation, but in return you will gain so many incredible experiences, enter so many new social settings, and enhance your skills and knowledge in so many areas that you simply won't have access to in a classroom. It's so easy to personalise to suit your interests, and it's a great way to discover new ones.”