Avenor College International High School is running this year, for the first time, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE), an internationally recognised programme that helps to develop young people for life and work. This programme offers students aged 14 to 24 the opportunity to design their own set of activities and also obtain formal recognition of their non-formal educational achievements.
Last week, students from Grades 8 to 11 were invited to enrol and choose one of the 5 award leaders who will be mentoring and helping them achieve their goals in this programme.
There are 3 Award levels: Bronze (for those aged 14+ years), Silver (for those aged 15+ years) and Gold (for those aged 16+ years). Each level has 4 sections: Volunteering/ Service, Physical section (improve sports skills or try a completely new sport or activity), Skills section (develop practical and social skills) and Adventurous Journey section (plan and complete a practice and final outdoors expedition/exploration, a chance to improve communication and leadership skills). The Gold level has also a fifth section: the Residential Project.
The Award Leaders from Avenor College are Claudia Andrei (PSHE and Clubs Coordinator), Ionel Vodă (PE Coordinator), Victoria Foster (Science Teacher) Manuela Nae (Compliance Director), and Luminița Susanu (Office Manager and DofE Project Manager). They will be guiding students through this programme, but the students will be in charge of choosing the activities, setting their goals and recording their activities on the DofE online platform.
Victoria Foster, our primary school Science Teacher and one of the award leaders, achieved her Bronze Award when she was 14 while going to High Scholl in the UK. For her, doing the DofE meant a lot more than developing skills. It was an opportunity to find her “voice”, open her eyes to the world and especially discover who she really is.
Avenor College: What made you decide to join this programme?
Victoria Foster: I was quite adventurous, sportive person, so for me it wasn’t about getting a qualification; it was about getting more involved with the school. I moved to a new school halfway through Grade 9, so I saw it as a chance to socialise with my classmates and experience different things.
A.C.: What activities did you choose to do?
V.F.: My Geography was not very good; I needed to enhance my skills, so I did orienteering to help me with that. For the adventurous journey, I did camping and outdoor survival activities: we built campfires, we learned first aid, and we did hiking as well. For skills I did hairdressing. It started as a weekend activity, but then, after I finished school, I also got my work based qualification in hairdressing.
Doing the DofE made me realise my potential, what I was good at, what I was passionate about, what was important and what was not. It made me appreciate what I have, because we looked at poverty, got involved in charity work. It was a real eye-opener, it taught me the basics to find my voice, gave me the confidence to be consistent with myself.
A.C.: What is the most important thing that our students can learn from this programme?
V.F.: Being independent. Thinking and doing things for themselves, because while in school, they have a lot of things done for them, but when the time will come for them to leave University and go into the work world, for some of them it might be a big shock. This programme is not just about gaining skills and adventure, it will help them open their eyes to the world they live in and develop as people. And to accept who they are, because especially at high school ages, teenagers might try to copy somebody or to be who they think they should be, rather than who they really are, for fear they won’t be accepted. We will look at each participant individually to see how each of them can benefit from completing this award programme.