A royal experience

What started as an activity with her Girl Guides group eventually led York student Jean Price to a visit with royalty. Price, 26, is a graduate student in the Theoretical & Applied Linguistics program at York University. She is one of a select few to complete all of the requirements for the Young Canadians’ Challenge which is otherwise known as the Duke of Edinburgh Award. The process takes up to 11 years to complete and involves a series of scholastic and physical challenges.

Left: Jean Price with her Gold Award

On May 24, Price travelled to Edmonton to receive the Gold Award from Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. The prince was travelling with Queen Elizabeth II through Western Canada as part of a royal visit to the region this spring. “I was one of four recipients of the award from Saskatchewan. The award itself, of which gold is the highest level and the one that requires the most work, consists of four standard sections with an additional section at the gold level,” said Price. “At each of the three levels (bronze, silver and gold, all of which I have, the first two levels completed while in high school) there are different quotas to be met in terms of duration of participation. These areas include physical fitness, development of a skill, community service and an expedition. The additional section for gold is the completion of a residential project.”

The event brought to an end a quest that Price says has lasted almost half her life. “I have been doing this for almost half my life and finishing the gold level is bittersweet. I set goals on my own and met them and the experience has opened doors for me and I have made many friends around the world.”

The award, which is only for participants between the ages of 14 and 25, was created by Prince Philip in 1956 to give young people goals to achieve and help them make constructive contributions to their communities. The award was originally run only within the Commonwealth countries, but has now become international with the creation of The International Award for Young People. Upon completion of the award, the recipient is presented with a pin and a certificate from the Lieutenant Governor of their province and the gold certificate is often presented by a member of the Royal Family.

“I began working on the award when I was 14 as a member of the Girl Guides movement. After I moved away from home to attend university, it got pushed to the back burner for the most part. During my undergraduate degree I completed the community service section by volunteering as an English conversation partner to a foreign student through a program at McMaster University,” explained Price. “I completed the fitness section by learning several new forms of dance.”

Right: Prince Philip presented the certificates to Gold Award recipients during a ceremony in Edmonton on May 24.

“The skill section was completed while I was living abroad in Scotland and Korea [following the completion of her undergraduate degree at McMaster]. I chose to learn photography as it seemed particularly useful given the places I was travelling to,” said Price. “When completed, the final collection of photos submitted with the award had been taken over two years and on four continents in nearly a dozen countries. My expedition involved a journey in Knoydart, known as the ‘rough bounds of Scotland’ with the qualifying expedition taking place in the central highlands of Scotland. The residential project I undertook was a two week archaeological dig in Trellech, Wales. Run by the University of Wales, Caerleon is the site of the largest medieval city known in Wales.”

The presentation ceremony was very exciting for Price. She said after presenting her with the award Prince Philip asked her what she did for her physical challenge. “I told him that I learned highland dancing,” she said. “He asked me if dancing was really fitness and I told him that it was very challenging. He is quite an interesting character.”

Price completed the challenge requirements for the award in 2003, just prior to her 25th birthday.  She plans to complete her masters at York and is looking forward to continuing her studies before working to restore some of the world’s lost languages. “I would like to work in language policy planning to help restablish the Gaelic and Celtic languages in Nova Scotia and Scotland. ” She also hopes to eventually mentor other young people who are considering the Young Canadians’ Challenge.