Golden Girls Sophia and Carina!

20th August 2021

Our students achieve wonderful things through our co-curricular programme at Girton. Some of these achievements are recognised in assemblies and the like, and this public acknowledgment helps to inspire other students to greater heights or new fields. Two students recently received their Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award, and while they received rousing applause in assembly, few people understand all that is entailed in receiving this internationally recognised accolade.

The “Duke of Ed” is a youth development program delivered in over 130 countries worldwide. It is aimed at providing 14 to 24 year old’s with individual challenges.

Sophia Ginis (12 Riley) and Carina Griffin (12 Aherne) signed up for the three-year program in Year 9, and with guidance from their Award Leaders and an Activity Assessor, they were encouraged to look at themselves, their interests, abilities, and ambitions, then set themselves challenges in the four different sections of the Award; Voluntary Service, Skill, Physical Recreation and Adventurous Journey.

Sophia (left) and Carina (right) receive their gold Duke of Ed award in assembly

Over three years, Sophia and Carina used their participation in the Award to find their purpose, passion and place in the world and now, as School Prefects, each of them is giving back to the school community and has recently been selected as Girton applicants in the 2021 VCAA VCE Leadership Awards.

Sophia said that undertaking Duke of Edinburgh encouraged her to step outside her comfort zone.

“Through the Award, I have travelled to countries all over the world, met new people, and searched for adventure.

“I have become more aware of social injustices, issues faced by people globally, not just in my small local community, and the best way to support others and myself in making change.”

Carina said that the Award helped her stay engaged in her community and sport and exposed her to new skills.

“It can be easy to skip a week of activities if you’re feeling tired but having a formal record of your commitment in the form of an award is such a boost for motivation.

“High school can seem a little repetitive or dull sometimes, but if you’re working towards a goal that you’ve set for yourself and that’s internationally recognised, you immediately get a sense of real accomplishment.

“I wouldn’t say I’m done finding my place in the world yet, but the Duke of Ed is something concrete that I know I’ve achieved and am capable of – it reminds you of how far your own dedication can go,” Carina said.

While all sections of the Duke of Edinburgh are designed to challenge participants, each young person typically has one element of the programme that they consider a stand-out in terms of difficulty for a range of sometimes surprising reasons.

“My three-month exchange trip to France was one of the most difficult things I have had to do.

“I was away from my family for three months, struggled to stay in contact with friends due to time differences, and I felt quite isolated. My first family was wonderful and welcoming, but I struggled a little with the second host family.

“Despite these struggles, the journey still gave me an enormous appreciation of the cultural diversity of human beings, and the overwhelming kindness of them even in the instance of language and cultural barriers,” Sophia said.

Carina was surprised by what became her biggest challenge;

“I’m a keen hiker and camper, so going into the Adventurous Journey component of the Award was definitely what I was looking forward to most, but it ended up being the trickiest part.

“During lockdowns it was impossible to complete this component so I spent a lot of time waiting around and feeling frustrated and stuck, worried that I wouldn’t be able to finish the Award before the end of Year 12.

“Eventually camping was allowed again and I completed my last two trips, one where I led a group of my friends, who aren’t campers at all!

Carina and Sophia both undertook the World Challenge trip in India in 2018

“It ended up being a great break from Year 12 for us all and a lot of fun, but when obstacles arise that stop you from completing certain bits of the award it’s important to focus on what you can do, and to remember there’s nothing wrong with taking longer to finish than you thought you would,” Carina said.

Carina and Sophia are proud advocates of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards and are keen to encourage other students to consider committing to this prestigious and high-profile programme. Sophia’s older brother Alexi (Riley 2019) also achieved the Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award.

“The biggest reason I would recommend undertaking Duke of Ed is that it forces you to step outside your comfort zone and discover new things about yourself. To complete the Award, you have to branch out from your daily life.

“When I started, this didn’t feel like a big deal to me because my family goes camping lots and we are outdoors-y sort of people, but it still managed to put me into new situations to learn from.

“I was able to be a hike leader for Year 8 students, travel to the other side of the world twice on World Challenge and my French exchange, and meet so many wonderful, inspiring people in the process of it all,” Sophia said.

Carina said that the Duke of Ed is more than something that simply looks good on a resume and many activities that students are already undertaking would qualify for inclusion in the programme.

“The true value in doing the Duke of Ed is to serve yourself and your own confidence: knowing you can commit to something long-term and be consistent and succeed, it really increases your trust in yourself, especially during VCE.

“It can seem like an impossibly vast number of hours but it all adds up before you know it, and if you try not to focus on the larger Award too much and take each component as it comes, the end result is really validating!

“Another reason to participate is that it pushes you to take opportunities that you might shrug off otherwise or that might seem too daunting, or to recognise the effort you’re already putting in.

“I went on a Year 4 camp as an assistant to complete my Silver award, and it ended up being one of the best things I’d done all year.

“Many students are already putting hours and dedication into hobbies and sport that could qualify them for many Duke of Ed components. It can be easy to discredit yourself and underestimate your own engagement, but I’d encourage everyone to check the Award out, even if only because you might already be doing activities that could contribute toward earning the Bronze, Silver or Gold Award,” Carina said.