11 April 2024

Success for Forth Valley college students on the West Highland Way

After a lot of preparation and training, the Forth Valley College Workstart DofE group took to the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond in spring last year, walking along a section of the West Highland Way for the expedition section of their Bronze Award.

Workstart is a course delivered at Forth Valley College for young adults aged 16-25 facing challenges and barriers to inclusion, attainment, and employability. The course is aimed at supporting students to build skills and confidence to enter the world of work.

The group caught up with Operations Officer Amiee to talk about their experience. For some participants this was their first time going camping, and while they had some initial apprehension, they were able to overcome the challenges and have fun.

DofE participant Shaun thought the expedition section was the best part of his bronze DofE award. He said:

“I think I have learned quite a lot. How to like keep myself safe out in the wild and stuff. I really enjoyed it.”

Kieran agreed that the expedition was a challenging but valuable experience:

“It was challenging, until I got used to it then I enjoyed it. At the end I was like yes, I’ve done this… it felt like a good achievement after doing my expedition.”

Kieran’s advice to other young people is: “give it a go, like see how you feel about it and see if you like it. Have a good time and enjoy it.”

DofE participant Alexander would also recommend the programme, saying “I would say DofE is pretty fun”.

Some of the participants received individual bursaries from the DofE Resilience Fund to help them purchase expedition equipment and clothing. DofE leaders spoke with each participant in advance about what would help them feel confident enough to participate and more comfortable during the expedition. For example, for some students it was important to have their own sleeping bags, which they were able to practice sleeping in them ahead of time.

DofE Leader Andy Wake noted how the funding “really made the expedition more accessible” not only in removing financial barriers, but also in creating a sense of connection amongst the team. Owning their own clothing and equipment will also further facilitate the young people’s participation in meaningful outdoor activities – both in and out of DofE.

“We have had a couple of participants saying that they would like to do the Silver Award next and now they have got stuff it will encourage them to get out more. I feel like they probably wouldn’t have done otherwise and obviously they have all bonded as a group as well.”

DofE Leader David Crossley, who supported this year’s expedition, also thought it was a success:

“We definitely seen that there was highs and lows, which everybody helped out with on the individual side of it and as a group, like we say every year, they just, they excel.”

He encourages adults who are thinking about volunteering with DofE to go for it:

“It’s about meeting the young people where they are and showing them that you haven’t got to where you are without life experience and it’s just having somebody believe in you that you can do it. I think with our students, that’s certainly the point, it’s letting them know that they are appreciated, they have input, and that they can do anything.”

If you are a DofE Leader or Coordinator, please get in touch with your area’s DofE Operations Officer or contact [email protected] if you require any support or resources to help run the DofE in your centre.

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