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15 August 2017

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Striving for gold with Duke of Edinburgh

Striving for gold with Duke of Edinburgh

Four days of cross-country mountain bike riding, learning to play the guitar and getting involved with academic tutoring are just some of the activities Oliver Saunders has taken on board over the past year in order to complete his Duke of Edinburgh gold award.

The first in his year to achieve gold, the Year 13 student has had to complete 52 hours in each of the following sections – community service, physical recreation and skills; as well as two adventurous journeys and one residential project. Gold is the highest level of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award and follows on from the students’ completion of bronze and silver.

After achieving the bronze award at Tihoi – a compulsory component of the St Paul’s Year 10 Tihoi programme – Oliver felt driven to continue and complete his silver award, along with a group of his fellow students. “It seemed unfinished to leave it at bronze and I knew it would look great on my CV in the long run. After I completed silver, I was even more determined to finish the programme. However it did take a lot of effort and organising and was by no means a walk in the park,” says Oliver.

For his community service work, Oliver took on grounds work as well as academic tutoring of younger students. His physical recreation were his chosen school sports – tennis, hockey and running and his skill was learning to play the guitar and cooking while at Tihoi. “I particularly enjoyed the skill section where I got to learn the guitar. It is neat that I can now play an instrument with a reasonable level of capability and I ended up being in the guitar group that performed in the school’s annual celebration of music concert last year.”

Various tramping and biking expeditions made up the adventurous journeys section of the award – from tramping in the Pureora Forest Park in the pouring rain and spending a few days tramping around Lake Waikaremoana to biking along some of the central North Island trails such as the K2K, W2K and the Timber Trail.

“In particular I think the last adventurous journey we did was one of the best. This included four days of solid cross-country mountain bike riding along trails such as the ones mentioned above, which resulted in a lot of sore bodies but good times along the way.”

Oliver’s residential project was completed through the Spirit of New Zealand programme. “This experience enabled me to see things that I had never seen before such as going to the Poor Knight Islands, seeing schools of snapper while underwater and visiting the impressive Whangaroa Harbour. I also learnt how to sail and met lots of neat people along the way.”

While completing the award was time consuming, Oliver found it to be extremely worthwhile. “I would like to thank those that I completed the award with, as well as my parents and the parents of others in my group, for their support. Also thanks to our teacher Mr Duncan Smith for all his help with the admin side of things.”

To find out more about the Duke of Edinburgh Hillary Award, visit the website