DofE article – by Sharmaine Nethercott, RCT Gold Award Holder

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Taking my Duke of Edinburgh’s Award has definitely been one of the best decisions I have ever made and is surely one of the best experiences of my life. It kept me busy on a regular basis and got me into a routine of wanting to get out and do various things. It has helped me to realise a lot of things about myself and has, I believe, made me a better, and more determined person.

Don’t get me wrong, the Expedition is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do – the Expedition hurts! On the third day, my legs would hurt and feel numb while walking, and even now, months after the expedition, I have managed to get a bad knee that mostly hurts when I walk downhill! Nevertheless, I miss it! I once told my leader that I would rather have a brick thrown at my head than to ever go through this again. But the truth is, months on, I miss it, and I miss the sights that go with it. It was challenging but we had such a great time! We played various games on our walk in the Lake District to keep us happy, one of which, the two boys were playing a fighting game with sticks! I learnt so much, like how to map-read, how to cook and use a trangia, and how to use your common-sense. Believe it or not, I started university knowing how to cook but instead choosing not to do so because I prefer to buy food rather than have to make it first and then eat it – I was quite lazy! I also had very little common sense, and I guess it’s not something that can be taught easily, but my common sense has definitely improved!

For my skills section, I began singing in a local gospel choir. I have always enjoyed singing and regularly have a music teacher who gets me through my grades, but taking part in a gospel choir was new for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and the teaching of new techniques with a different style of music, and the meeting of new people. They were all very friendly and welcoming! I then went on to practice singing with another music teacher where I learnt my songs for my next exam, and again, loved every minute of it! Singing is definitely something I love, and I will most surely carry on with. Hopefully I will take my Grade 8 exam this year after practicing the musical theory side; I’ve already practised my songs so it would be a shame not to take it further.

For my physical challenge, I took up swimming with the university’s swim team. This was great as we practiced regularly and they made sure we worked hard! It would usually start off with some extreme swimming where everyone tried to see how many laps they could do, and then they would sometimes take part in a fitness programme where one does sit ups and then a couple of laps in the pool and more. They also had fun swim sessions where we were able to also play water polo – it was fab and my breathing technique has improved!

My Residential section was also another section I am proud to have done. I went to Cornwall and helped groups of special needs young people undertake their Expedition. Although, I felt they were doing really well and didn’t need my help, I still managed to give them some advice, and I found other ways to help out.
All in all, it is a fulfilling and enriching experience, and I am so happy to have completed it whilst taking the happy and fun memories with me. This Award has motivated me to be the best I can possibly be. It has taught me that nothing is impossible within reason And has encouraged me not to waste my life, and to achieve, and take part in as much as I possibly can.
Sharmaine Nethercott. June 2012

NB. Sharmaine will be travelling to St James’ Palace, London, to receive her Gold Award Certificate at a Presentation in a few months time.

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