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As part of celebrating our 60th Anniversary of the Award in Australia, Duke of Ed Vic are showcasing stories from our participants about their Award journey and the impact it’s had on their lives. These stories help inspire others and help us encourage more young people to begin their Award.

Each month we run a draw of participants who are interested to tell their Award story. The participant who wins the draw becomes our Star of the Month. The Star gets their story featured here (as well as on our social handles) and wins a $100 voucher of their choice to spend at Ticketek, Kathmandu or Apple.

Interview with Stephanie Cho

Why did you decide to become involved with the Award?

During Year 9, last year, I participated in the Timbertop program through Geelong Grammar School. Timbertop is a one-year program which is situated near Mansfield where hiking, running, chopping wood and physical exercise were normal to us in our day to day lives. The Duke of Ed Award was first introduced to us by the teachers as a wonderful opportunity to create new experiences and give back to the community. My experiences of the Duke of Ed Award throughout Timbertop encouraged me to continue with the Silver Award this year by motivating me to engage in various activities during the busy life of a Senior School student.


What were the most memorable parts of your Award experience?
Participating in an outdoor program last year was a once in a lifetime opportunity. While participating in the Bronze Award, our physical activity would consist of running two times a week for the whole school year, slowly increasing in length, eventually leading to our final goal, a 33km marathon which also tied in with my Duke of Ed goal. Although we had been training all year, I was very nervous after having a foot injury which resulted in a moonboot and missing one term’s worth of running. The marathon was definitely the most anticipated event of the year and especially proved to me that we can achieve our goals!


What has been the biggest challenge in your life, either before starting the Award or during?
The biggest challenge in my life so far was beginning boarding in Year 7. At the time I had been going to Geelong Grammar since Kindergarten, from the Melbourne primary school campus, but was torn between continuing my schooling at Corio and eventually going to Timbertop or moving to a different school in Melbourne. I chose to continue and although difficult in the beginning, it has allowed me to become more independent and meet so many friends from diverse backgrounds, all around the world.


Has the Award helped you overcome any challenges you have faced?
While participating in the outdoor education program last year, I learnt to manage my time between schoolwork and the outdoor activities we were introduced to during our time in the mountains. This year, since moving into Year 10, school has certainly become more academic and in Term 1 I found it quite difficult to adjust to a new environment while also participating in extra-curricular activities. However, being a part of the Award has definitely allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and give everything a go.


Would you say the Award has had an impact on your life and where you are today? If so, how?
Being away from home for a whole year has shown me to appreciate everything around me so much more. Coming back home after a year with no hot running water, I became to appreciate the existence of a hot shower and not having to chop wood for it. I became more grateful for every homecooked meal and the time I spent with my family. Nowadays, I am more grateful for the small factors that discreetly impact my life and I try to engage in every opportunity I am fortunate to receive.


How do you expect the Award will help you later in life, or what impact will completing an Award have on you? 
In the future, I may be faced with difficult circumstances, but I will know how to overcome the obstacles in life by being resilient and determined. The Adventurous Journeys have especially shown me to never give up on a goal and to keep persevering. I believe that in later years when faced with a challenging task, the skills I have gained through the Award will allow me to adapt to unfamiliar situations through my broadened perspectives.

What will you take/have you taken away from your Award experience?

From participating in the Duke of Ed Award, I have gained lifelong friendships and unforgettable experiences by stepping out of my comfort zone. All the memories and hardships shape the person I am becoming today. During my Adventurous Journey, my hike group were walking for numerous hours and we had finally reached the summit of Mt McDonald. Standing on top of the mountain, I was so proud of my group and what we had all accomplished. We had all helped each other summit the mountain, from planning the route together to cooking dinner and pitching the tent at night, we were all one team. We supported one another, telling funny stories and carrying gear for a struggling friend. My Award experience illustrates that challenges are like hiking mountains. Every small step and even every wrong path count to reach the final goal!