With the expedition season bringing some new challenges, namely sunny weather, last year’s Gold Duke of Edinburgh group receive their invitation to Buckingham Palace to collect their prestigious and well- earned Gold Award. NHSG Alumnae, Olivia Capocci and Hannah Bowers recount their experience:

After completing the challenging Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in 2016, we were given the prestigious opportunity to receive our Awards at Buckingham Palace gardens.

We couldn’t contain our excitement as we arrived on May 24th. We were just two of 3,000 young people being presented with their Awards that day – all looking their very best. Thankfully, the weather was kind to us as it was warm and bright, creating idyllic photo opportunities in such a glamorous location.

Our Awards were presented in the afternoon by members of the Royal family including: HRH Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge; HRH Princess Eugenie and HRH Prince Edward. These were accompanied by many celebrity guests and influential speakers, including Hairy Biker Dave Myers, Olympic gymnast Max Whitlock, and even Made in Chelsea star Francis Boulle.

The masses of young people were split up into smaller regional groups of about 40, of which we were part of the North East England section. It was a great opportunity to have a catch-up with our school peers, many of whom we completed the expedition alongside, and see the familiar faces of Mr Newman and Dr Gray, who supported us through our Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards.

Within each group we were provided with a detailed agenda of what the afternoon would entail, including an official group picture taken by a professional photographer, a speech and an individual Award presented by a motivational high-profile speaker (who has lost count of the number of times she has climbed Mount Everest!). And then of course, what we’d all been waiting for, the appearance of one of the royals.

We couldn’t help but hope that our group would be graced by the presence of Prince William. And then, who should stroll across to our group in a very relaxed, yet authoritative manner, but William himself. And yes, he is as tall as he looks in the photos!

We were lucky enough to exchange a few words with the heir to the throne – and actually made him chuckle when Olivia explained how sweaty she remembers being when we had just about completed our expedition in the Lake District! He even chatted to our parents, specifically to both Hannah’s mum and Olivia’s dad, acknowledging the “boot-cleaning and taxi driving” they do behind the scenes.

It was well-worth committing hours of our time to the volunteering, skills and physical sections of the Award, despite the sore feet from the expedition, to visit such a magnificent place.

It’s a rewarding challenge worth completing and on the day it was emphasised how much it can enhance your CV.

We would highly recommend the overall experience to the younger years.

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