International awards for five young Queens residents

By Scott Costen

Five young Queens County residents received a prestigious international award last night after setting and achieving a variety of goals.

Jordyn Duffney, Keegan Oickle, Ellen Raddall, Ella Stevens and Georgia Williams were presented with Bronze-level pins and certificates for succeeding in the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Awards program.

It was the culmination of more than six months of hard work, adventure and learning for the award recipients, as well as group leaders Troy Smith, Crystal Stewart-Smith and Cassandra Williams. The program did not exist in Queens before this year, meaning the leaders had to build it from the ground up with assistance from the provincial head office.

Connie Miller, executive director for the Duke of Edinburgh program in Nova Scotia, praised Smith, Stewart-Smith and Williams for their dedication. “We are going to make a model of this,” she said, referring to how the Queens program takes in the entire county rather than a specific school or group. “We are going to take this across the province and follow the perfect, wonderful example that’s been set in Queens County.”

(From left) Duke of Edinburgh Bronze recipients Ellen Raddall, Jordyn Duffney, Keegan Oickle (back), Georgia Williams and Ella Stevens along with Connie Miller, the program’s executive director for Nova Scotia. (Photo: Scott Costen)

The Duke of Edinburgh initiative began in the UK and arrived in Canada in 1963. It promotes skills development, physical activity, outdoor adventure and community service among young people ages 14 to 24.

To succeed in the Duke of Edinburgh program, participants must complete measurable goals in a variety of skill and service disciplines. The are three award levels: bronze, silver and gold. All five of last night’s bronze recipients are planning to pursue their silver awards, which are presented in Halifax by Nova Scotia’s lieutenant-governor.

The presentation ceremony, held upstairs at Liverpool’s Old Town Hall, was attended by friends and family, as well as mayor David Dagley, deputy mayor Heather Kelly and councillor Brian Fralic. MLA Kim Masland, one of the program’s assessors, was also in attendance. MP Bernadette Jordan, who was in Ottawa, sent certificates recognizing the young people’s accomplishments.

Award recipient Georgia Williams said she found the outdoor component challenging, especially when her hiking boots fell apart on a long trek. She performed singing and karate, both of which have been passions since a young age. “And I ended up scanning photos at the Perkins House museum,” she said. “I scanned old photos into the computer, so I got to see these really cool old photos, which was a lot of fun.”

Georgia’s father, Dan Williams, said the program taught his daughter greater responsibility. “I noticed her maturity growing because she had to be more consistent and accountable,” he said. It also enhanced her ability to set and attain goals, he added.

Bronze award recipient Keegan Oickle and his mother Natalie McMaster. (Photo: Scott Costen)

Award recipient Keegan Oickle said the experience helped him seize new opportunities. “I really enjoyed it because it opened a lot of doors,” he said. “My friend and I started a radio show on QCCR, which is something I’ve always been interested in.”

Natalie McMaster, Keegan’s mother, said she appreciates the youth-driven aspect of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Awards. “I love the program because they take the lead,” she said. “It’s their program, their goals, which is a good lesson because they’re responsible for it.”