James' Story

Gold Award Achiever

Gold Award Achiever My involvement in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award has been a two-year adventure of meeting new people and facing difficult obstacles.  The self-led structure of the program has allowed me to choose my own path while learning the difficult lessons of self motivation, time management, and self discipline.  The program offers a balance of freedom of choices as to activities and the structure of time frames and recording of those activities. The Award program was a welcome diversion from the struggle of academics.  It allowed me the opportunity to explore activities I would never have in the classroom, such as sea kayaking, yoga, gardening, and working with young children.

The focus of my Duke of Edinburgh program has been on sea kayaking.  In completing my Bronze and Silver awards I kayaked with my father and brother to the coastal regions of Newfoundland.  In completing my Gold award I traveled independently of my family, with a group of other adventurers to the Northern most tip of Cape Breton. I went on the Cape Breton Highlands Trip with Coastal Adventures because it is one of their most popular trips. The island of Cape Breton is a rugged environment, including unpredictable weather, treacherous waters, and rocky shores. The many risks pay off with many benefits.  An example of the benefits of facing this rough terrain is seeing pilot whales from seven feet away and camping about a kilometer from a thunderstorm.

In September of my grade 11 school year I was tested and diagnosed with a slight learning disability. In simple terms my brain takes longer to process information, but once processed I am quick to come to a solution. There is often a disconnect in the time it takes me to read and answer a written questions. Throughout my academic career no matter how much time I put into my school work the results were always mediocre. I was often criticized for being lazy. Between Grade One and Grade Ten I developed a series of coping tools. For example when I wrote a paper I would have the computer read it back to me, I often searched the internet for audiobooks or documentaries on school subjects. These problem solving methods camouflaged my learning disability until I was almost 17 years old and the school work became overwhelming.  The psychiatrist who tested and diagnosed me was impressed with the problem solving skills I had developed to cope with the learning disability.

The tenacity and problem solving skills I developed to cope with my academics have applied elsewhere in my life, specifically to the activities and challenges of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award program.  For example, for the past two years I have been the stage manager for our schools theatre productions.  Stage managing is a constantly evolving environment with new challenges always developing. It takes a cool head, organization, and the ability to solve problems efficiently and effectively.  A stage manager must get along with the entire cast and crew guiding everyone in a single goal, to complete the production.  Working as a group in theatre productions has been a natural fit for me.
In the next four years I hope to further explore my interests in theatre and kayaking while utilizing my people and problem solving skills at university.  While theatre experience may seem far away from business, the skills I developed stage managing are directly transferable to managing any group of people.

- James Drahos, Wolfville, Nova Scotia
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