Duke of Edinburgh's Award and
Cadet Program Combine for Unparalleled Experience
by Jim McGillivray, from the Spring 2005 Andrean

Devised in the United Kingdom in 1956 by Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award program has spread throughout the world, including to Canada in 1963. Its influence is startling: at any given time, more than 225,000 young people aged 14-25 are involved in the U.K. alone, and knowledgeable employers throughout the world consider a Duke’s Gold Award a major plus on any job applicant’s résumé. The program has been in place at St. Andrew’s for many years.

In many ways similar to the Cadet Star program, the Duke’s program offers three levels of achievement: Bronze, Silver and Gold. Earning each award entails a substantial commitment in four areas:

Community Service • Fitness • Skills • Expeditions

Participants receive a journal that outlines all requirements and tracks progress. Adults supervise the entire process.

Importantly, criteria for achieving the awards are not set in stone: participants at any level of talent or accomplishment can devise a program catered to their abilities. “This is the great thing about the Duke’s program,” says Brian McCue, co-coordinator for the program at St. Andrew’s. “It doesn’t go just to the most skilled or able people. Anyone willing to put in the time and effort can earn Duke’s awards.”

“Having said that, earning these awards is not easy, and in the last five years only 12 St. Andrew’s students have earned Gold Awards.” Gold Awards are indeed a major accomplishment, as evidenced by the fact that they are presented to successful participants by the Duke himself or, more often as he grows older, Prince Edward or another royal representative visiting Toronto for the purpose.

“The cadet program is a natural tie-in to the Duke’s Award,” says Brian. “Expeditions, fitness and other activities that develop skill are common elements that can be used to earn both Star’s and Duke’s levels.”

“In fact, the similarities are so strong that our Grade 9 Red Star program has been tweaked so that it will also earn Cadets the Duke’s Bronze Award.”

Grade 12 student and Head Prefect Jared Leslie is one of the 12 who has recently earned his Gold Award. He believes that the connection between Cadets and the Duke’s program is strong and natural. “The one key principle taught in cadets that transfers over to the Duke of Ed program is leadership,” says Jared. “The whole idea of the Duke program is to lead and participate with a group of students who work together to accomplish a mission or goal. The Star programs gave me the skills that prepared me for any situation that would arise on expeditions.”

It is clear from Jared’s experience that the expedition portion of the program is crucial and is where the classroom leadership teaching portion finds its practical roots. “Duke of Ed was crucial in teaching me about my limits and the limits of other people,” he explains. “After an expedition you know more about your friends then you ever thought possible. The determination and persistence needed to complete a 20 kilometre hike is what separates the Duke of the Ed experience from any other at St. Andrew’s.”

“In short, the Cadet corps at St. Andrew's teaches survival and leadership. These lessons are directly affiliated with the Duke of Edinburgh program. They could hardly be more complementary.”