"The Duke of Ed Award helped me be who I am."
One of the great joys about the Duke of Ed, is that every experience is unique. You decide what challenges you want to face, you set your own goals, and you set your own pace. It’s not always easy – earning your Award takes tenacity, it takes perseverance, and it takes endurance. That’s why any participant who has completed the Duke of Ed knows – you don’t win the Award. You earn it.
No one understands this concept better than Calgary’s own Gold Award achiever Alex Oswell. Oswell has not only achieved his Gold Award, he has earned his Bronze and Silver as well. He has curled in Alberta’s Special Olympics, completed sixty-eight laps (!!) in a swim-athon, and has studied Technical Theatre at Mount Royal University. Oswell is a man of many talents, who has embraced his adventurous side, fishing, kayaking, golfing and snowboarding. And best of all - he can cook!
Oswell was kind enough to answer a few questions about his unique Duke of Ed experiences, and trust us – he is no stranger to an exciting challenge!
How did you hear about the Duke of Ed, and why did you choose to pursue earning the Award?
A lady from the Duke of Ed office came to talk about the award at PREP. PREP is a centre where they teach and help young people with Down syndrome. I went there one afternoon a week. I wanted to do the Duke of Ed Award because it sounded like fun and it would be a challenge.
How have your experiences with the Duke of Ed helped to shape your identity?
The Duke of Ed Award helped me be who I am. When I was working on my Bronze, I volunteered at Shakespeare in the Park. By doing this I soon found out that I love the theatre. I then went to Mount Royal University to study Technical Theatre. When I graduated, I got my dream job working at F&D Scene Changes painting sets for theatres and other places. I like to volunteer, be with people and help them. I enjoy volunteering at three theatres and Kids Cancer Care. The Duke of Ed also showed me how important it is to exercise and stay strong and healthy. I continue to enjoy sports like swimming, golfing, curling, snowboarding and working out at home and the gym. I also like to learn new things. I am taking cooking classes, doing more acrylic painting and wanting to try more kayaking. We are planning to go on some trips fishing in different places and maybe kayaking on Vancouver Island.
What is your favourite memory from your time at The Duke of Ed?
I really liked my adventurous journey doing ocean fishing in Quatsino. Captain John taught me how to catch really big fish. It was exciting to net the fish. I want to go out to the ocean to fish more.
Was there a moment during the Duke of Ed challenge where you wanted to give up? What motivated you to continue?
The most challenging part of the Duke of Ed was writing up my three adventurous journeys. I have a hard time writing what I learned and did on my journeys. I would say, “I will do it tomorrow.” My mother encouraged me to write up my reports. My Gold Award took me the longest. I did not want to quit but I also did not want to write the report! My Mom showed me how much I completed in the Duke of Ed program. She said I was so close to getting my Gold. We picked a date on the calendar that I would hand in my report to the Duke of Ed office. I worked hard on the report and I handed in my report on time.
You swam sixty-eight lengths in one hour for a swim-a-thon. That is a very impressive feat! What did you have to do to prepare?
To get ready for my swim-a-thon, I worked hard during my swim team practices, three times a week. Before the swim-a-thon I made sure I got lots of sleep and had a good breakfast. I swam many swim-a- thons and in my last one I swam 86 lengths in an hour!
What surprised you the most about yourself during your Duke of Ed experience? I realized doing the Duke of Ed program was fun. I want to keep learning, exercising, volunteering and going on adventures but not writing reports for the rest of my life!
For your skill, you learned to play the piano. What are some of your favourite songs to play?
I like to play Christmas carols all year round like Hark the Harold Angels Sing, Angels We Have Heard on High and Joy to the World. My other favourite songs are Puff the Magic Dragon, Complicated (by Avril Lavigne), Ode to Joy, Star Wars Theme and Take Me Out to the Ball Game.
You won a bronze medal competing in curling in the Special Olympics. Can you speak about this experience? What was it like competing in the Olympics?
I went to Grand Prairie to curl in the Alberta Provincial Games with Special Olympics. The opening ceremony was exciting. There were lots of athletes from all over Alberta walking into the arena. There were even Mounties! It was really special. When I curled I was nervous because lots of people were watching. I made some bad shots and some good shots. My team was so happy that we won a Bronze medal.
You worked at a Kids Cancer Care retreat to get it ready for campers at Camp Kindle. Can you speak about this experience?
The Kids Cancer Care Alumni got Camp Kindle ready for the campers. We cleared the walking trails of logs and branches so it would be safe to walk for the young campers. We put all the wood by the campfire. We also cleaned the rooms too so they were ready for the campers. I met new friends in the Alumni and it was a fun time.
What message would you like to give to young people to encourage them to complete the Award?
I would tell young people to do the Duke of Ed Award. It made me happy to finish the program and very proud to receive the award. Doing the Duke of Ed was fun but some parts were hard for me. You need to ask people for help when you are having a hard time. They will give you suggestions and encourage you to finish. Asking for help sure helped me!