In a one-on-one interview, Alex Aloschi-Hopfner (one of our Top 8 Dukes Roving Reporter finalists for 2013) interviews his Duke of Ed Coordinator at Xavier College, Jessica Matthews. Jessica’s come full circle, having done her Duke of Ed at school and now supporting and motivating other young people on the journey.


Alex gets the inside scoop on what it’s like to Coordinate The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award – the good stuff, the challenges and everything in between.

Jessica had completed all levels of her Duke of Ed when she was in high school, and yet still wants the challenge to get her students doing The Award at Xavier College. She started her Duke of Ed when she was in Year 9 and completed the Gold Award in Year 12, where she was able to meet the Governor to receive her Award. This was a huge privilege for her.

Jessica is a very creative person. She enjoys song writing, theatre skills, media appreciation (photography), netball and going on an adventure. She’s very friendly, bubbly and cares for her community just like any other Coordinator in this state. Although, she does have dislikes: most pointedly, having Apricots in her ‘JUST RIGHT’!

Jessica became the Coordinator of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award at Xavier because she wanted the students to have a feel of the Award and to also experience the outdoors. She says, “Doing the Duke of Ed is a huge privilege that people get to do at school…It’s also good for you to get outside of yourself and see what your community provides for you…In the end, it’s up to you on what you want to do.”

Jessica is one dedicated person to our community and today she will be recognised on what she does as a Coordinator. Today we’ll see what she did in her Duke of Ed life, but what she also does as a Coordinator and a bit of the ‘behind the scenes’.


What made you choose to do the Duke of Ed?

“First of all I was always very involved and very social. I think for me it was more wanting to be with my friends, so a whole group of my friends and I did it, and that’s what got me started on the Bronze – we all did it together. And as well as wanting to be social and being involved I really like the camping part of it – so I liked being in the outdoors, going on the camping trips, and that’s what also got me started.”


What was the challenging part of your Duke of Ed life?

“The most challenging part was my Gold Award. My community service was every Saturday morning – I would go to the RSPCA and clean out the dog kennels there. Although I loved the dogs there were two things that were really hard about it: first being that we would go one week and the next week, there would be dogs gone that had to be ‘put down’ because no one would take them – which was really sad. Two – which would be more ‘superficial’, I couldn’t sleep in and I really loved to – so that was a big commitment for me to get up on a Saturday morning.”


What did you learn from doing The Duke of Ed?

“I learnt about staying committed to something, that I would be responsible and that people would be counting on me. I also learnt how to be a good leader, and also be organised too.”


What was the best memory you have from your Duke of Ed Award?

“This is going to be silly, BUT the first thing that came to mind was on my Silver Expedition – my best friend had had her braces put on recently, so during the camp we were in the canoe and had this bag of lollies between us. We were singing, eating the lollies, all this crazy stuff, and it was just a really fun experience we had.

“I also have this random little memory of when we were setting up the tents we were laughing so hard, that when we got in the tent her teeth were hurting a lot. Just as we went into the tent as well, she had to put wax on her teeth because she was in pain doing too much CRAZY stuff. It’s not going to seem funny to anyone else, but it’s just a funny memory I have stored in my head, and yet we’re still best friends, AND NOW SHE HAS BEAUTIFUL TEETH!”


Why did you want to become a Duke of Ed Coordinator?

“I always wanted to give other people the opportunity to have this experience, and to especially achieve the Gold Award. This helps by going into level stages, so for example, you start at the Bronze level, Silver level and then you start working up to your Gold. It’s something that you’ll be part of for years and in your teenage life, in the end it’s really fun.

“So I thought at Xavier, we already do something like this similar to this, so whilst you’re doing your community service at school, you can also log it in your Record Book and you can be recognized for what you’re doing.”


When doing The Duke of Ed Award what was your favourite skill, physical recreation or community service and why?

“Singing was my skill – I had singing lessons, and I always was passionate about:

  • Theatre
  • And the concept of singing on stage.

“It’s just something that I’ve been dreaming about my whole entire life, although I don’t think I’ve improved that much!”


After doing The Duke of Ed, did you think you would continue setting challenges and helping the community?

“Absolutely! And that’s one of the reasons I want you guys to do it at Xavier. I want you to do the program, so you can set yourself challenges, but also for me to set myself challenges to get you motivated!”


As a Duke of Ed Coordinator, what do you do behind the scenes to give the students a great experience in their adventure?

“I leave it up to them to figure out their adventure, and choose their path. But for me, it’s to get you IN the program.

“I also help them either through our ‘Duke of Ed.’ meetings – one on one conversations or emails so I can help their choice expand. Also something they want and like to do in their current life (areas they enjoy, not because they have to).

“And when we get up to the silver camp, we do that as a group, so that I think is a great chance to bond as a group and discuss about challenges in life.”


Setting goals is one important task when doing The Duke of Ed, but did your goal setting skills improve after doing The Award?

“Well, yes because I learnt how to stick to those goals, which I think relates to one of the other questions – that if you didn’t stick to your goal you would let someone else down, such as when I was doing my Bronze volunteering at an aged care home. Then when I was doing the RSPCA , if I didn’t turn up to the people who run the show at the RSPCA in the morning, there was really no one else there to help do the work that I was supposed to be doing. So I really had to stick to those goals, and if you don’t – you would let yourself down because then really you don’t have empathy for what you’re doing.”


As a Duke of Ed Coordinator, what challenges do you face?

“Keeping students MOTIVATED! So students who forget to:

  • Log in their hours
  • Don’t get their assessors to sign off,

are a challenge. It’s a challenge for me to tell every student that’s participating to keep up to date, and as you know there are a few lazy students so it’ll take a little longer for me with some students.

“I’ll also have to find time for meetings, because at Xavier we have a lot of clashes with meetings every day because of the sub-groups we have here. So trying to find a good date and time to meet them and talk to them is a challenge.”


As a Coordinator do you go on special survival camps?

“Well obviously I do the school camps, like the Year 9 one I recently did; we also have the Silver Duke of Ed Camp which the Participants design.

“I am also going to Ecuador on the holidays with a group of students, so when we are there, we will be doing a trip in the Andes. We’ll be hiking, then we do a community service project, with other fun stuff that we will be doing throughout our trip over there.

“When I finished school though, I went to a summer camp in America, which was a wilderness summer camp. Where we would go out and do expeditions and it went for two weeks! I also had to carry this long huge canoe on my shoulders across the land and there was no toilet paper.”


After doing The Duke of Ed, have your leadership skills improved at all?

“Yes! It gave me more confidence. It mainly improved after meeting various types of people at different work places. The people who I met were mainly adults whom I communicated with well, and also improved my confidence on talking to elders.And as some people say, everyone’s different with what they do, so that they will all have different expectations for you to do.”


If you were to tell someone about The Duke of Ed, what would you say?

“You can choose your own adventure and path that you want to do. When I see the students to introduce them to The Duke of Ed, I present to them a PowerPoint which has various bits of and also say:

  • That it’s time to get recognised on what you’re already doing
  • You can become an excellent leader
  • You can learn how to communicate better
  • Set goals to your adventure that YOU WANT to stick to
  • And then achieve those goals , where in the end what you want to achieve is all in front of you.

“Like I did, you can do it with your friends, and do it together. But more importantly it’s just going through the process of getting your Gold Award. When you achieve the Gold Award you’re able to see the Governor which is a huge privilege. Where in the end, everyone is proud of you – and that’s The Duke of Ed Award!”


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