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Harrogate girls invited to Buckingham Palace to celebrate gold award

Daisy Austin and Niamh Armstrong were invited to Buckingham Palace.

Two pupils from Harrogate have celebrated their Gold Duke of Edinburgh's (DofE) Awards as guests of royalty at Buckingham Palace.

Daisy Austin and Niamh Armstrong of Ashville College attended a garden party hosted by His Royal Highness and awards patron The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Edward, who welcomed thousands of young people and their loved ones from across the UK.

Guests were addressed by famous speakers including broadcaster Vick Hope, BBC news anchor Clive Myrie – both DofE Award holders themselves – British astronaut Tim Peake, and TV chef Matt Tebbutt.

Career advice was also offered by other well-known actors, presenters, authors and campaigners invited to take to stages throughout the garden to tell their own stories.

One of a total of four events held at the palace over several days, the celebrations recognised a total of over 8,000 young people who have shown extraordinary perseverance, creativity and resilience to complete their Gold DofE in schools, community organisations, youth groups and workplaces all over the country.

To cover volunteering, physical and residential aspects of the award, Daisy, 18, spent a year as a volunteer netball coach while also completing a Level 1 coaching qualification in the same sport, which in turn opened doors to a place with the Elite Netball Academy, touring UK schools.

Daisy also joined a challenging expedition in the Lake District and added learning to drive to her Gold Award accomplishments.

She said:

“I think the most valuable lesson I’ve learned is to always look for the positives and how communicating with one another – particularly in team environments – is so valuable in so many different challenges.

“Having the opportunity to visit the palace gardens was also such an incredible opportunity and being able to meet and see so many other people who have been on the same journey as you was definitely inspiring – but it also gave me the opportunity to acknowledge the hard work I dedicated to my Duke of Edinburgh award.”

Niamh also chose netball as well as developing her skills on the piano as part of her award and also joined the four-day Lake District expedition, trekking in all weathers.

However, she extended her outdoor adventures thanks to sponsorship from Harrogate Rotary Club, joining a week-long outward bound leadership course which she described as the highlight of her programme.

She said:

“I’ve had so many amazing experiences whilst completing this award, with the most memorable being building a zipline over a river on my 17th birthday, whilst on my residential.

“I’m so proud to have completed my Gold DofE; at the beginning it seemed almost impossible to balance with my A Levels but I’m so glad I did. DofE has made me so much more confident and willing to try new things.

“The celebrations at Buckingham Palace were a perfect reward and I loved having the opportunity to explore the beautiful gardens, alongside lots of other DofE achievers.”

College Head, Rhiannon Wilkinson, said:

“The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award fits perfectly with the school’s ethos of encouraging all of our pupils to be the best possible version of themselves – and not just in the classroom.

“Our Outdoor Learning provision and co-curricular activities are good examples too, yet the challenges set by the DofE really do encourage young people to see and then seek out wider horizons, relish a personal challenge and enjoy the sense of achievement which comes with reaching a long-term objective.

“Daisy and Naimh thoroughly deserved their opportunity to celebrate the school’s sense of pride in what they have achieved and the satisfaction which comes with completing a job well done.”

CEO of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, Ruth Marvel, said:

"The young people who attended have achieved something exceptional, and it was wonderful to see them celebrating together, sharing their experiences and hearing their aspirations for the future.

“DofE is all about proving to yourself just what you are capable of, and the young people showed the world that their potential is limitless. I can’t wait to see what they go on to do next.

“As a charity, we’re working hard to give as many young people as possible the chance to have a DofE experience and we're delighted to announce that last year 330,948 young people started a DofE Award - another record-breaking year.

“This growth in participation shows just how much appetite there is amongst young people for enrichment and development opportunities beyond formal education and, together with our partners, we are determined to keep extending our reach until every young person has access to these types of life-changing experiences."

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