Melissa Liberatore challenged herself to exceed her own expectations. She shares her Duke of Ed story including discovering her passions, growing to better understanding herself and the sense of achievement after completing all three levels of the Duke of Ed Award.
At the age of 19, I think it a rather unique and special ability to be able to realise what sort of life I value and want to lead and the experiences that I wish to continue to have in the future. After completing all three levels of the Duke of Edinburgh I certainly do feel a sense of personal achievement and pride in the numerous endeavours that I have faced throughout the journey. The many facets to the award have shown me new experiences that I can pursue in the future as well as previous hobbies that I will continue to enjoy throughout my life.
I started my Bronze Award in 2009 through the encouragement of my secondary school. For me, the adventurous journey component was the main new activity that the award offered. I am very glad to have been on numerous challenging hikes to new and beautiful landscapes that I would not have otherwise visited. In particular for my Gold Award, my adventurous journey comprised of a cultural exchange trip to France. Not only was the trip extremely beneficial for my oral French skills, it provided an opportunity to be immersed in a new culture; ranging from new food, new roads, new customs, new schooling structures to meeting many new people. This trip in combination with my previous camping trips to the Great South West and Bogong High Plains all encompassed ways of stepping outside my comfort zone to survive in a new environment and testing my communication and teamwork skills. Another memory that I have from these trips is the notion that there was no such thing as a typical day. Each day presented new challenges, and it really encouraged you to keep your eyes and mind open to witnessing and learning new things both about the environment and world that we live in.
Coincidentally, prior to my commencement of the Duke of Edinburgh Award, I played the clarinet and piano and participated in school sport such as netball and tennis, so for me the physical recreation and skill components were already an integral part of my life. However, through tracking my hours and participation for the award over 3 years that it took for me to complete all 3 levels of the award, I developed a deeper understanding of what these activities meant to me on a personal level. Throughout the award I tried to be involved in many different sports to broaden my horizons and learnt new skills to push my body to new limits. I played netball, jazz dancing and aerobics all of which are very different sports and were fun and challenging. By dedicating so much of my time to perfecting a musical instrument or developing my sporting skills and fitness, it revealed that I am passionate about putting in my best effort and seeing through long-term commitments that require consistent input and dedication.
With the benefit of hindsight now, it has been important to understand my passion for music and fitness and knowing that no matter what level of mastery I am able to acquire, I will continue to incorporate these activities in my life and all of the skills that comes with them.
One of the most memorable experiences that I was able to be a part of was during my Residential Project for my Gold Award. I volunteered at the Lions Club Camp for Disadvantaged Children; a camp where children between the ages of 7-12 are sponsored by their community to spend a week on camp and be able to just be kids and have fun. This camp was an extreme eye-opening time for me, as I was expected to be a role model for these children, look after their wellbeing and have all the answers to questions that kids ask people they look up to.
A personal highlight and touching moment was when I taught one of boys how to swim! As a leader on the camp, one of our roles was to try and get the children involved in all the activities and encourage them to step outside of their comfort zone, whether it be going on the giant swing, paddling in a canoe for the first time, braving the high ropes, or swimming for the first time. Myself and the other leader encouraged Jayden to put on some floaties and use kickboards and noodles to get from one side of the pool to the other, with us being by his side the whole time of course. When he grasped out for the edge and had made it across the pool, the smile that radiated from his face was the most beautiful and heart-warming expression I had ever seen. Being a part of a significant event in someone else’s life was a very special moment for me, and has further inspired me to continue community service and volunteering in my life no matter how big or small. Service is a really crucial aspect of the award in my opinion, as it highlights that unified effort and devotion to any cause can have exponential benefits to others.
I believe that it is important to set yourself goals in life and challenge yourself physically and mentally in an attempt to exceed your expectations of yourself. One of the main things that I have taken away from my completing of the Gold Award is that I have gained an appreciation of who I am as a person. My dedication to each aspect of the award has been a wonderful opportunity for me to realise what I am passionate about – sport and physical fitness, music, community service and exploring new cultures. Having this strong sense of personal understanding has given me confidence to take on the challenges in my life that will continue to present themselves.
I am obviously very proud of myself for completing the Award and when looking back on all my experiences, it truly has been a period of my life that I am very happy to have undertaken. Although it is a personal achievement and testament to my passion and dedication to do everything to the best of my ability and undertake new challenges, what is great about the Award is that in order to accomplish this, there were so many people, friends and teams involved in my success. By being a part of different communities for each activity, this has broadened and strengthened friendships and enabled me to meet equally as enthusiastic people as me and learn from them during the experiences we shared.