Duke of Edinburgh’s Award – my trip to Holyrood Palace

Jill Green is an Instructor at our Specialist College in Harrogate. She also co-ordinates the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award which gives young people the chance to develop skills for life and work, fulfil their potential and have a brighter future. Jill recently supported our College students to achieve their Bronze award and her services have even been recognised with a trip to Holyrood Palace to meet His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh!

Jill with one of the guards outside Holyrood Palace

“Three years ago I volunteered to help out a colleague who was looking to set up the Duke of Edinburgh’s award at Henshaws College. We got the go ahead from College staff and received a grant to help us buy some of the initial equipment. It was a massive learning curve for me but I love it! I’m now working towards my basic expedition leader’s award which has involved me walking up and down hills for I don’t know how many weekends, in all weathers!

Since we started running the Award, 13 of our students have completed their Bronze awards. This involves a minimum of 3 months activity for each of the Volunteering, Physical and Skills sections (one of them must be for 6 months), and planning, training for and completing a 2 day (1 night) Expedition. I’ve watched our students’ confidence grow so much over the course of completing each award.

Students stopping for a break on a bridge during their bronze Duke of Edinburgh's Award expedition

Nicholas, Cameron, Alexander and William were in our most recent group who walked over 20km to complete their two day expedition in Pateley Bridge. Their route took them from Glasshouses to Heathfield Caravan Park, where they camped overnight before continuing on to Bewerley. The students navigated using a combination of OS maps and photo maps we’d designed. Each map covered one stage of the route and showed students which objects to look out for to find their way such as bridges, gates and local landmarks. They were totally brilliant despite some difficult weather conditions.

During the expedition we heard the students say so many times “I did it!” The award is such a powerful tool to give them that feeling of achieving something for themselves. I think everyone should have the opportunity to do it. They also develop communication and personal skills, for example a student who wasn’t comfortable sitting next to others in sessions was happily sat outside eating lunch with the group. It breaks down barriers both socially and emotionally.

The biggest thing they have to do is learn to become a team. That in itself can be a massive challenge. There are always different strengths within a team and they begin to use each other’s strengths to succeed. It’s an amazing way to develop these life skills and for me it’s a real privilege to be a part of it.

Jill at Holyrood Palace tood by a marquee and beautiful flower arrangement

Earlier this year, I got an email to say I was invited as a special regional guest to attend the Gold award ceremony in the gardens of Holyrood Palace. I emailed back to let them know they had sent the email to the wrong person – but quickly received a reply saying that the invite really was meant for me! It all seemed a bit surreal to think that I would be meeting His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh in person.

It really was a privilege, an amazing day. I was in charge of a group of 30 young people who had come to receive their Gold award. Armed with my clipboard and folder, it was my role to make sure everyone got their certificates in the right order. I gathered the young people in a horseshoe with their families forming the same shape opposite us, ready for their big moment.

Outside the palace before the ceremony

Meeting HRH was exciting. He shook hands and said hello to the group, stopping to chat for a while about which activities everyone had done for their award. All the young people were really thrilled that they were receiving their awards from the Duke himself, and that it was taking place in Edinburgh. Speaking to them it was clear that they felt it was something special.”

You can find out more about our programmes for young people with disabilities on our College pages

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