Meriden alumna Kathrin Germanos’ Duke of Edinburgh’s Award journey has taken her on many an adventure, from volunteering at a nursing home to canoeing under the stars. Now, after a four-year journey through the program, Kathrin has received her Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award from the Governor of New South Wales, His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC.
The Gold Award is the highest, and most challenging, of three levels of achievement in the program and requires participants to improve their physical wellbeing, volunteer in their community and experience a team adventure in a new environment.
Kathrin, who graduated from Meriden in 2018 and is now studying a Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Laws at UNSW, said she enjoyed her community service work immensely.
“As part of the Duke of Ed program, I volunteered weekly at The Laurels Hostel, a nursing home in Kogarah. In addition, I ran early-morning swimming lessons for young children before school at Angelo Anestis Aquatic Centre,” she said.
Kathrin admits that it was a challenge completing fifty-two hours each of a service, a sport and a skill while balancing the demands of the HSC, but said the most difficult aspects of the program were the “Open Duke Camps”, where participants venture into the wilderness in small groups for four days.
“Those camps were emotionally, physically and mentally exhausting,” she said.
“They involved many, many kilometres of paddling in canoes through wind, rain and heat. The second camp was held in January, during a heat wave. Even though it was really difficult, it was one of the best experiences of my life. From the nightly canoe trips where we watched the stars to the 6:00am paddles on the river, I learnt a lot about myself and my ability to be flexible and resilient. These are character elements that I will draw on in the future.”
Kathrin also spent time in Laos with other Meriden girls involved in Rotary International’s Interact program, which encourages young people to develop leadership skills by working on community projects that promote service above self.
“In Laos, we were building a fence for the local school – digging holes, mixing concrete and laying bricks,” Kathrin said.
“It was unfamiliar physical labour and we were unused to the tropical climate, but when we banded together, the amazing power of teamwork became obvious and I learnt how encouragement can change morale in an instant. This experience allowed me to realise the infinite impact of finite action.”
“Ultimately, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award is a learning experience, which compels each participant to learn about their own character and the character of others. It is inevitably challenging and requires time – something Year 12 students are constantly short of – mental energy, resilience and gumption and whether you think you have these characteristics or not, the Award helps you to gain them,” Kathrin said.
Kathrin is the third Meriden girl in the Year 12 2018 cohort to receive a Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award. Ursula Hogan and Christina Gadalla were presented with their Awards in November 2018.