A STUDENT who struggled with anxiety before completing the DofE scheme will pick up her gold award at Buckingham Palace after a heartfelt U-turn.
Caitlin Hardman, from Wrexham, is the first person to achieve the gold Duke of Edinburgh Award standard at Coleg Cambria.
Caitlin achieved both her bronze and silver as a pupil at Darland High School, Rossett, attending regular sessions at the Victoria Centre in Wrexham.
Now 18 and studying Public Services at Yale college, she returned to the programme last year following a difficult period in her life in which she struggled with her mental health.
She cites the support of Cambria’s DofE coordinator Alan Lowry as a major reason for her success and says the achievement will support her ambition to become a police detective.
“When I was at school I absolutely loved the DofE and was so driven I managed to get both the bronze and silver in just over a year,” said Caitlin, who plans to study Criminology at Chester University from September.
“It was only last year that I got around to taking gold and that was because of the encouragement I received from Alan.
“I had been through a bit of a bad patch with my mental health and had struggled with anxiety but one day I got quite annoyed with myself and thought about what a waste it would be if I didn’t get the gold after all of the effort I had put in.
“I’m so glad I did, and to go from that low point in my life to the high of visiting Buckingham Palace to formally receive the gold award makes me feel very proud.”
Achieving the gold standard is no easy task; participants must complete sections on volunteering, skills and physical challenges, a four-day expedition and more.
“It is hard-going, especially the expedition as we seemed to be walking forever!” said Caitlin.
“But it gave me renewed focus, and in the long run having that gold shows potential future employers that I don’t give up and am willing to put in the extra hours to better myself.
“Before joining Cambria and meeting Alan and the team I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to do it, but with their support and advice I did, and I will forever thank them for that.
“I’d certainly encourage other teenagers to do the DofE, it’s a commitment but one that will serve you well in later life.”
Coleg Cambria is the largest FE provider of the DofE in Wales and has seen a massive rise in participation over the last two years, more than doubling the number of gold entrants.
Alan, who is celebrating 30 years as a coordinator for the programme, said Caitlin’s determination is an example of the will and effort needed to complete all three awards – bronze, silver and gold.
“The DofE has grown and grown here at Cambria as part of our culture of health, wellbeing and mindfulness in tandem with sport and exercise,” he said.
“For Caitlin to be the first person to complete gold with us is fantastic, and it could not have happened to a more deserving student.
“She has shown just what you can do with the right attitude and support, which everyone will get from us here at the college. Well done, Caitlin!”