Published by Cobram Courier online on November 28, 2013.

The article also appeared in print on November 27.

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Five Cobram Secondary College students have been presented the Duke of Edinburgh Award, including former student Sarah Skehan who achieved the gold level award.

The award requires students to complete a broad program with four components; they must demonstrate volunteering experience, achieve a personal fitness goal, learn a new skill and go on an adventurous journey.

Over seven years progressing through the program’s bronze, silver and gold stages, Ms Skehan challenged herself in a number of areas.

Golden achievement: Sarah Skehan with her Duke of Edinburgh awards. Picture: Toni Brient.

Golden achievement: Sarah Skehan with her Duke of Edinburgh awards. Picture: Toni Brient.

She learnt to play the flute, attained a netball umpiring qualification, and volunteered on outdoor recreation camps.

After finishing Year 12, she continued in the program while studying a Bachelor of Physical and Outdoor Education at Ballarat University.

In 2012, she walked the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea as the major part of her gold award.

‘‘Along the way, we went to an orphanage and gave books and resources and helped to build a part of their building,’’ she said.

‘‘On another part along the walk, we met a family whose son got murdered. They were in mourning, and how they mourn is they wreck their house so we helped rebuild that, too.’’

Ms Skehan, the only Cobram student to be awarded the Gold Duke of Edinburgh, said she aspired to a career in physical education.

She said the program was a valuable career tool and an important part of her personal development.

‘‘It’s just a good step to get jobs in the future, and also for fitness and volunteering in the community.’’

Cobram Secondary College Year 10 students Jessica Brooks, Jessica DeMaria, Meg Drew and Bethany Oliver completed the Bronze Duke of Edinburgh this year.

They completed volunteer fire fighter training with the Country Fire Authority and volunteered at Cobram Community House.

Cobram Secondary College Duke of Edinburgh co-ordinator Randall Jones said the program allowed students to learn about things they might not otherwise be exposed to.

‘‘Some of them were helping elderly people in the community maintain gardens,’’ Mr Jones said.

‘‘Bethany Oliver learnt sign language. The adventurous journey component takes them right out of their comfort zone; they did a 5km hike over three days over the back of Lake Eildon.’’

Mr Jones said the program had value not only for award recipients, but also for the wider community.

‘‘The biggest benefit to the community is we’re seeing students are actually aware of so much that happens in the community only through the goodwill of volunteers.’’

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AuthorToni Brient