"Without this experience I might have never known that I was capable of taking on such a responsible leadership role."
The Duke of Ed is more than just an award program - it is a journey of self discovery. Just ask David Goldman; an extraordinary young man whose journey allowed him to explore parts of Canada's natural beauty in Strathcona Provincial Park and the Rocky Mountains. It had him working with local biologist Charles Thirkell
conducting field research to determine why such a high percentage of the local salmon fry population were diseased. This passion for nature has carried over into his university career, where he is now studying
As a Gold Medal Award Achiever, David is a well rounded individual who plays the guitar, hockey, and has even learned to carve! Most importantly for David however, is the impact The Duke of Ed had in shaping the direction he wanted to take in his life. He was kind enough to go into depth with us in an interview describing his Duke of Ed Journey.
How did you hear about The Duke of Ed, and why did you choose to pursue earning an Award?
I first heard about the Duke of Edinburgh Award when I attended a meeting at our High School along with a group of my friends. After the meeting we kept talking about the program and all decided to start the Award. I personally decided to pursue the Duke of Edinburgh because I liked the challenge it presented. It was also an excellent way to gain experience, learn new skills and become a well-rounded individual.
How have your experiences with The Duke of Ed shaped your identity?
My experiences with the volunteering aspect of The Duke of Ed really helped me become involved with the community. Thanks to the Award I started volunteering with local biologist Charles Thirkill. Working with Charles helped me discover my passion for protecting and helping conserve the natural environment. My passion for conservation is now so important to me that I have chosen to follow it into university.
The Award program also introduced me to integrating physical exercise into my daily routine and physical fitness has become a very important aspect of my life as well.
How did working with biologist Charles Thirkell help you feed your passion for volunteering as a fisheries and vegetation technician?
Before working with Charles Thirkill, I was unsure of what I wanted to do with my life. I have so many interests including ecology, biology, natural history, medieval and modern history, even archaeology! I just didn’t know what direction to take. However, volunteering with Charles on several conservation projects, taught me that I wanted to be involved in the conservation of the environment.
The pivotal project was conducting field research for the local university to determine why such a high percentage of the local salmon fry population were diseased. We spent days at various rivers in and around Nanaimo catching and releasing salmon fry to record their numbers and condition for the university. I felt that I was really contributing to the knowledge base and doing something that could have some meaningful impact on the future of the local salmon. That experience truly ignited my passion for protecting the natural environment and I realized that I wanted to devote my life and career to fueling that passion.
What surprised you the most about yourself during your Duke of Ed experiences?
I really surprised myself on my third adventurous journey when I was hiking through the Canadian Rockies and a couple of others and myself ended up taking the leadership role in the group. We planned the exact routes we would take, where and when to set up camp, solved disputes and managed our food and water stores. It was a very challenging task but without this experience I might have never known that I was capable of taking on such a responsible leadership role.
What is your favourite memory from your time at The Duke of Ed?
My favourite memory of the time spent earning the Awards is the time I spent working with Charles on the conservation projects. For me that work brought together all of the aspects of the award program; volunteering and helping my community, carrying out fairly strenuous physical activity, using skills I had acquired and pursuing my true passion of conserving the environment.
Can you describe a moment when you wanted to give up? What motivated you to continue?
There was one moment during the three week hike through the Rocky Mountains that I found particularly difficult. We were hiking several miles each day and had very limited food to share among the group. Each individual was also assigned tasks and had the responsibility to carry their own supplies plus some of the group equipment. Unfortunately, several members of the group were not only shirking their tasks and not carrying group equipment but were also eating extra portions of food.
This irresponsibility and their lack of concern for the other members of our group made me very upset and it threatened to spoil the entire experience for me. However, instead of giving up and letting their actions ruin the trip, I decided to approach some of the more reliable individuals of the group and formulate a new plan. We took on extra tasks and responsibility as well as redistributing the group equipment so the less able members did not have as much to carry. The members with greater commitment did more than their fair share but it did keep the group functioning and everyone had an enjoyable experience in the end.
For your Physical Recreation, you played and won your leagues hockey championship. How important was it for you to be a part of a team?
Playing on that hockey team, as the goaltender, showed me how a group of individuals can come together through hard work and sharing a common goal. We would not have become the league champions without the powerful bonds we forged through hours and hours of practice and workouts. We were not the most skilled team, but we believed in ourselves and in each other. Our coach taught us how to work together and that conditioning was just as important as skill. Our hours of hard work paid off as we became stronger as the game progressed and the opposing team slowed down.
Playing minor hockey also taught me about responsibility, as I was often the only goaltender on the team and therefore did everything possible to make it to every game and practice. The team counted on me and it was a responsibility that I took very seriously.
How did the Award help prepare you for University in Environmental studies, and how do you plan to use your education to better your community?
The Duke of Edinburgh Award helped prepare me for University not only because of the work ethic involved in needing to complete it, but also because of the life skills I acquired in each of the different sections. The adventurous journeys taught me how to create a solid plan and follow it to completion. Volunteering showed me the benefit and rewards in giving back to the community. The creative skills showed me how important expressing ourselves is and the value of going outside of your comfort zone to try new things. Finally, practicing and playing hockey with my team to win the championship taught me that perseverance and hard work does pay off.
"Upon graduation I plan to devote my life and career to improving and preserving our environment which will benefit everyone."
What would tell youth to encourage them to join this program?
I would tell young people to think about all the benefits that the Duke of Ed program brings to the table. Some people will already have creative skills, others have sports that they play or organizations that they volunteer with, but the Duke of Ed program will allow them to take these skills or connections and branch out even further. The award program is both flexible and structured at the same time. It can take everything you already have in place and using that as a base, it lets you go farther than you can imagine.
"The message is don’t be afraid to try! You have nothing to lose and there is an entire world out there waiting for you to discover it."
What advice would you give to youth who don't feel like they have the motivation, or the skills to earn this Award?
The Duke of Ed Award can be a long and sometimes a difficult journey to complete, but along the way you will learn that it is the journey itself that is the most valuable aspect of the program. The discoveries you make will shape your life and you will learn what is truly most valuable to you. I cannot imagine where I would be without having taken the Award program. I urge young people to enroll and prepare themselves for an incredible journey, where they will do more than they ever thought possible. To quote an old adage “A journey of a 1000 miles begins with one step,” and anyone can take one step.