Teens and young adults hoping to tackle the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award program now have a new way to do it closer to home. The Grande Prairie Volunteer Services Bureau has become an open awards centre and is now able to help people through the process.

While air cadets and one of the local private schools have participated in the program for years, anyone else that was interested would need to apply out of Edmonton. Executive Director Carol-Anne Pasemko says people won’t have to do that anymore.

“As an open awards centre, we can enrol youth to be part of that program now so it’s a localised service. We have a dedicated worker who will work with the youth in terms of ensuring that they can complete the program, that the paperwork is all done, that those kinds of things are set up for them.”

The award is open to people ages 14-24 and is made up of three levels which can take anywhere from six months to a year and a half to complete.

It was created in the hopes of encouraging youth to give back to their communities, explore their interests and passions, commit to their health and wellness, and gain an appreciation for the natural environment.

Pasemko says the group first started getting involved in the program a few years ago by combining the medal presentation ceremony with their Leaders of Tomorrow Awards adding that they have honoured six local applicants since 2017.

She says getting to this point where they are now able to really help people with the process took a lot of work on the part of her employees.

“My staff all had to take training about the award and how it works and what the qualifications were, [and] what the outcome and the inputs are for the award program so that when they’re working with the youth they’re able to keep them on track.”

Anyone interested in applying or finding out more about the award can visit GPVSB’s website.