After providing such amazing support to our Duke of Ed office in her role as Communications Intern, we have no doubt that Niamh Slevin will go on to achieve great things. Through her involvement with our organisation, Niamh took up the opportunity to embark on her own Gold Award journey. Here she shares her advice on choosing activities, finding assessors and how she has found the perfect balance between study, work and play.

Having almost finished my University degree, I have spent my fair share of time in the library, bought enough coffees to last a lifetime and get way too excited in Officeworks picking the right colour highlighters – the key to helping me pass this next exam.

As soon as I left high school my studies became my focus while ignoring activities that I really loved. Growing up I took on dance classes, gymnastics, and even guitar (thinking I could be the next Taylor Swift) but all of that disappeared once I realised I need to work hard to get where I want.

It wasn’t until my internship at The Duke of Ed Victoria I was given the opportunity to complete my Gold Award. After hearing about and even writing about the successes of so many young people completing The Award I was excited to be a part of it all and have an excuse to indulge in these activities outside my studies.

One hour a week of physical recreation seemed like the easiest place to start. After numerous week-long health kicks and wasted gym memberships this was a goal I needed to set myself and stick to it. But I had to keep it simple and realistic: to improve my overall fitness. Combining running, Pilates, and taking walks with friends (one of which acting as my Assessor) my goal was flexible enough to allow me to change up the activities to keep me motivated and even find myself logging much more than one hour a week!

Deciding on the Skill Section proved to be more difficult. I could rummage through my wardrobe and dust off that guitar or spend the time trying something new. I had always wanted to learn another language such as French or Spanish and with so many apps these days it can pretty achievable. However finding an Assessor was not so much. Instead I decided to use this section to my advantage by strengthening my writing skills and having a friend who frequently updates her own blog I could easily follow in her footsteps with her support as my Assessor.

Through her role as Communications Intern, Niamh continuously impressed us with her skills in creative writing and blogging. Niamh plans to continue developing these skills through completing her Gold Award.

The benefits of volunteering can sometimes be taken for granted and while you are making a huge difference to the lives of others it cannot be denied that volunteers themselves gain just as much. For my Service Section I have chosen to dedicate time writing and promoting stories about youth development in my community for both the Duke of Ed blog as well as The Australian Times GIVE Magazine. It is important to recognise the tremendous achievements made by people so young and through this experience I find myself becoming more and more inspired by their efforts. And how could I go wrong with The Duke of Ed Communications Coordinator Lucy Saarelaht as my Assessor.

For the time being my Adventurous Journey has been left unplanned, as an individual completing The Award there is a lot to think about and organise beforehand and the great thing about the Award is that you have the time to do it. On the other hand, I have just finished planning my Residential Project: A Journalism Study Tour in India. Travelling overseas truly broadens the mind and an aspect I have been wanting to incorporate into my Award. Together with a group of students the study tour will allow us to explore an unfamiliar place while working on projects within the Indian Media Industry. And finding an Assessor was as simple as contacting the teacher who organised it.

By relating some of my chosen activities to my studies and improve my career prospects I feel I have made the perfect compromise while still stepping out of my comfort zone and developing in other areas which is what The Award is all about.

By Niamh Slevin

If you’re stuck for ideas on choosing activities for your own Award program, check out our Activity ideas page here to spark some inspiration!

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