A group of year 10 students from Mary Immaculate High School who are working towards their Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award, were given a rare insight into the mind of a record-breaking extreme adventurer this week, as Tori James called in to offer some encouragement and share her top tips.
Pembrokeshire-born Tori became the youngest British woman and the first Welsh woman to climb to the summit of Mount Everest in 2007. She continues to partake in extreme adventure events and works as an ambassador for the Duke of Edinburgh Award in Wales. As the group of twenty Mary Immaculate students gathered for their weekly meeting to plan their D of E Bronze Award activities, Tori dropped by to offer her support and share her own experiences of working through the Duke of Edinburgh Award programmes.
Mary Immaculate High School introduced the D of E programme to year 10 pupils as an optional extracurricular activity for the first time this term. The group of participating students will work towards their Bronze Award over a 9 month period, which will allow them to work on specific skills such as map reading and navigation, test and build their physical ability and show how they can work with the community around them in a positive way. The Award also involves an assessed expedition which will test all of the skills developed throughout the programme. Mary Immaculate pupils will carry out a practise weekend expedition in Llantrisant over the summer, and complete their final challenge in the Gower in September.
As well as sharing her own awe-inspiring stories of extreme adventure ascending Everest, ski-ing to the magnetic North Pole and cycling the length of New Zealand unsupported, Tori assured students that the D of E programme will offer them a host of opportunities to develop life skills and build confidence. She said: “The Duke of Edinburgh scheme helped me to realise what I was capable of and I know that it will have a huge positive impact on every student at Mary Immaculate High School who is about to embark on their Bronze D of E.
“My advice to these new D of E participants is to take this opportunity to try new things, be an individual and select a skill, physical activity & volunteering opportunity that really appeals to you. Get to know each other ahead of your expedition so that you can work well as a team. Work out who is good at what, play to the individual strengths of your group and keep going even when you feel like giving up. The sense of achievement at the end will be worth it.”
Huw Richards, Assistant Headteacher at Mary Immaculate High School said:
“As a School, we are very excited to be involved in the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme for the very first time. Not all learning takes place in the classroom and we feel this is a great opportunity for our pupils to broaden their horizons and challenge themselves in a different way.
“Meeting Tori James was a real inspiration to all of us. Hearing her stories of her Everest ascent and expedition to the North Pole was fascinating and something that I’m sure our pupils will not forget.
“The D of E award challenges students beyond their normal environment and helps build confidence. Pupils are given the opportunity to experience new challenges which will develop many skills and attitudes needed to become well rounded, confident young people.”
Jessica Browning, History Teacher and D of E Co-ordinator at Mary Immaculate High School was keen to lead the Duke of Edinburgh programme at the school after experiencing first hand, the positive experiences it can have. She said:
“Being part of the Duke of Edinburgh award, whilst I was at school, helped to build my confidence, made me realise my potential outside of a school environment and helped me build lifelong friendships. As a teacher this is an experience that I wanted to be able to give the pupils at Mary Immaculate the chance to have, and I am proud to say that our current participants have taken on the challenge with enthusiasm and commitment.
“It is fantastic to see pupils willing to take on a challenge that takes them outside of their comfort zone; developing new skills and working with people who they would not usually interact with. I have no doubt that by successfully completing their bronze award they will not only become more rounded individuals, who stand out from the crowd, but that they will also create memories that they will treasure long after they leave school.”
Fifteen year old Bethan Beynon was keen to sign up for the Bronze award when it was offered at school. She said: “Since starting the D of E I have learnt new skills already such as first aid, and I’m starting things I wouldn’t have before, for instance raising money for a charity.”
Fifteen year old Neda Jodkevicuite said: “Listening to Tori James has motivated me to complete the Silver and Gold D of E awards when I finish the Bronze award and to learn new skills whilst making new friends.”