Members of Holton's Duke of Edinburgh Club on their "adventurous journey" in October 2019.
Through the herculean efforts of Isabel Beariault ’19 during the 2017-2018 school year, Holton started a Duke of Edinburgh Achievement Award chapter. While living in Switzerland, Isabel completed her Bronze level of the program. When she came to Holton, she quickly recognized the correlations between the award and the School’s mission and was eager to share the program with others.
The award was started after WWII by Prince Philip, who recognized that soldiers returning from war had acquired knowledge and gained an education they never would have received in a classroom. He developed a program with three levels based on four pillars. The three levels are Bronze, Silver, and Gold, and the pillars are physical recreation, skills, community service, and adventurous journey. While the journey is selected as a group, students choose their own activities for the other pillars; for instance, one girl’s selections might be practicing fencing, learning Arabic, and playing piano for the elderly. The commitment increases across the levels (Bronze is an hour a week over 13 weeks).
Holton’s groups have taken advantage of our proximity to Shenandoah National Park for their adventurous journeys. They’ve backpacked through the fantastic landscape being primarily self-supportive as a small group for 2-5 days, based on their level.
The goal of the award, which sometimes people liken to a coed Eagle Scouts, is for each student to find personal growth through stretching their comfort levels while finding passions through their commitment. It helps students learn to set and achieve personal goals and engage in thoughtful self-assessment.
On Thursday, Oct. 22, the Duke of Edinburgh Achievement Award’s U.S. division held a virtual awards ceremony to honor students across the nation who have completed a level. The ceremony recognized 70 students across the U.S., 10 percent of whom were from Holton! We congratulate Isabel Beariault ’19, Kate Bohigian ’21, Esther Kim ’21, and Natalie DeSarbo ’21 for completing their Silver Award, and Lily Muhlbaum ’22, Genevieve Shahin ’22, and Phoebe Sisson ’22 for completing their Bronze Award. These girls have been committed and driven in their efforts.
Says Holton teacher and coach Stephanie Acera, “As the award unit coordinators and adventurous journey leaders, we have certainly enjoyed the time we’ve spent supporting them, not only with their goals of the award for skills, physical recreation, and community service, but also in the Shenandoah mountains.”
“Participating in the program is one of the most memorable things I did when I was in Switzerland, so being able to bring this to Holton was incredible,” says Isabel. “It definitely helped me build confidence and I’ve been so thrilled to see so many people get involved.”
To date, Isabel has guided more than 20 students to achieving their Bronze and Silver Awards.
"I definitely think the program helps you learn whether you're a leader," she says. "It helped me realize that I'm a leader, even though I might be a more quiet person."