It’s 4:00pm on a Friday, and for the fifth day in a row, Chris Vander Deen is preparing CIC’s Student Lounge to host another eager group of students. They’ve been joining the sessions all week to learn more about enrolling in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Program. It isn’t long before another student walks in and politely asks “Mr Chris” for a moment of his time. “It’s a big commitment… would I be able to stop without penalty if I get too busy or it gets too difficult?”
Mr Chris has heard the question a thousand times before. It would take little thought on his part to snap out a factual answer. He chooses a different approach.
“The program is about challenging yourself, pushing yourself. It can be uncomfortable, and it can get busy. The nice thing is that everyone here wants you to succeed, and will work with you to find a path forward.” It’s a kindness that’s familiar to those who know Chris. He has intuited that listening and encouragement will help unlock the best in students.
He begins his presentation as more students trickle in, whether to learn about the award or to submit their registration forms. While students can register at any time during the year, Mr Chris always recommends that they start early and co-ordinate the program with a graduation date.
Prince Philip founded The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in 1956. He hoped to foster a sense of responsibility among young people and their communities. Recognized in 130 countries, the program asks young people commit to an action plan of personal growth. The plan has four requirements that participants must meet to qualify. Participants commit to learn or develop a skill, engage in community service, stay physically active, and partake in an adventurous journey. The award program has two levels of distinction, Silver and Bronze. Mr Chris recommends 6–8 months to complete the Bronze program, and a full calendar year to complete Silver.
“The best universities are looking for students who get more than high marks—they are looking for young adults who participate fully in their communities, who push their limits to see what they are really capable of,” says Mr Chris.
While there isn’t a scholarship formally attached to the award, Mr Chris believes the program pays huge personal dividends, transforms the student, and helps him/her stand out in a competitive talent pool. “The Duke of Edinburgh award puts one’s character development above everything else.”
The excitement in the room is palpable as Mr Chris describes each of the four requirements. “For your activity selections, we encourage you to find something you love. Don’t settle for something just to meet the requirements—find a new skill or nurture one you already have, and push yourself.”
The students are more hesitant when it comes to the adventurous journey—a culminating camping trip that has participants relying on their skills and relationships to overcome a challenge in uncomfortable territory. There is a mandatory one hour meeting each week leading up to the journey, where participants will learn wilderness safety, first-aid, and survival tips. “We’ll teach you everything you’ll need to have an amazing time,” beams Mr Chris.
“All in all, the experience will teach you more about yourself than many of your classes. If you let it, the Duke of Edinburgh Award Program will have an incredibly positive and lasting impact on your life.”
For more information, you can visit the 2nd floor Study Lounge and speak with Mr Chris or Mr Tony. You can also send Mr Chris an email.