Duke’s legacy will endure through Awards, say Gold winners

·4 min read

The Duke of Edinburgh might now belong to history, but his legacy will endure long into the future.

That is the view shared by Adam Starr, a former local resident who brought home the Gold with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards Program.

A former member of the Aurora Jays baseball club, the Aurora Barbarians rugby team and Master Ducks Swim Club, Mr. Starr received the top honours from the awards program founded by Prince Philip in 1956 to help youth from around the Commonwealth find the best within themselves through community service, athletics, and getting into the world by performing “adventurous journeys.”

Adam’s adventurous journey ranged from exchange programs in Australia to dogsledding in Northern Ontario, but the lessons learned while pursuing his Award have led him to Nova Scotia where he is now spearheading a company dedicated to reclaiming plastic from the environment.

“Following [Prince Philip’s] passing, I think this will be even more of a legacy – it is going to stay constant or increase in terms of popularity, outreach and significance,” said Mr. Starr of the Awards on Friday, the day before Prince Philip was laid to rest at Windsor Castle. “It gave me the opportunity to be okay with saying yes. One of the things I really valued from the Duke of Edinburgh Award is it not only forced me to say yes to things, but it also forced me to stay busy with sports, adventure, arts, volunteering, and I think it added to my character and repertoire as a human being.”

Mr. Starr distinguished himself in the program by reaching the Gold over his four years in secondary school, a rare feat as students often continue the program into their post-secondary careers. In addition to his sporting pursuits and his adventurous journey, contributing to the award was his volunteerism for such community organizations as the Aurora Food Pantry and Pickering College’s in-house Field to Fork program which imparts practical culinary skills to students.

“There are a lot of underlying lessons the program has taught me,” he said. “It is not just that you’re volunteering, because you can volunteer anywhere. It is not just that in and of itself, it is more that you are able to juggle all of these things, still have a life, still keep up with school, and still pull off what you’ve committed to. I think it has encouraged me to juggle more, made me say yes to things, not to [shy] away from the time or the work commitment.

“If you challenge yourself and it is hard, that means you’re learning. That is something I hold true to myself and it has put me into a situation where, okay, there are opportunities that fall into people’s laps every singe day, there are opportunities everywhere, and there will always be more opportunities.

“School has never been my forte so I wanted to prove myself in other facets … and I think in high school the Duke of Edinburgh was that outlet for me. I was learning personally, learning professionally. It was such a human dynamic, too. For each subsection of the Duke of Edinburgh’s program, you’re with a different group of people every single step of the way and learning all the time. This is a personal life lesson: no matter what profession, no matter what you’re doing, you’re always doing it with people no matter what happens.”

Mr. Starr received his Gold Award from then-Governor General David Johnston, an experience which was immortalized in a photo that still hangs in his office.

Fellow Pickering College graduate Alex Gillespie received his Gold award from the Duke of Edinburgh himself in a reception held in Toronto at the Royal York Hotel on July 5, 2010.

“I remember it was a hot summer's day and that there was a power outage. This left not only the air conditioning offline, but also the speaker system in the banquet hall where the award ceremony was to take place. This made it very difficult to hear the presenters and instructions from the Duke of Edinburgh Award staff prior to Prince Philip's arrival. Despite this, Prince Philip was unphased and I remember being so impressed at how he was able to project perfectly and could be clearly heard by all in attendance. He was truly a very skilled orator and impressive presenter.

“The award provided me with a strong foundation in life, leading to the establishment of lifelong interests in the outdoors, as well as interests in the activities of sailing and skiing, which I still actively participate in. Ultimately, the award made me goal oriented and instilled in me an understanding of the importance of service to others.”

Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran