South West Region

Duke of Westminster Award – Inspiration, Application, Selection, Award

  Contribution written by Cadet Flight Sergeant Eloise Robertson, 2509 Chipping Sodbury Squadron, Bristol & Gloucestershire Wing “Way back in August 2013, I met Cadet Sergeant Kayleigh Fisher on a drill instruction course.  She told me about her journey with the Duke of Westminster’s Award run by CVQO to find the best BTEC learners across the ACO and other cadet forces.  I was inspired. “From that time, I kept constant watch for applications to open online so that I could try to emulate her successes.  I showed my OC who was only too happy to nominate me. He thought it was a fantastic opportunity and, with other members of staff, sent a great letter of support that pushed me through to the final 40 from over 100 applicants, amazingly! ACO#DoW14~IMG42 “For the next round, I was asked to answer three short questions and send a handful of personal information.  It seemed an extremely long wait to find out who would be in the final 21.  Adding to my anxiety, the announcement was delayed, but when a CVQO branded envelope came to my house, to my surprise I was through to the selection event. I was elated.  The most demanding part was now the only stage holding me back from the expedition to South Africa. “The competition would be tough: entrants had been raised to 24 from 21 for the first time.  When I arrived at Outposts in the Quantock Hills of Somerset, a facility that specialises in adventure-based teambuilding, expeditions and leadership training and assessment, we were given a variety of resources including my numbered bib, I was “3”, to identify, anonymise and differentiate us.  The four days involved Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) work on command tasks, debates, challenges and my favourite part, interviews, towards an ILM qualification.  Very intense pressure was piled on and there were few resting moments, with everyone on top form at all times.  However, in the time I was there I met some most inspiring individuals, people of my own age that I looked up to massively. “Our time at Outposts was over all too soon but the pressure was still on.  I put all my spare time in the following weeks into completing my ILM assignments to the best of my ability. After I sent the papers, I had to endure the most nerve-racking wait of my life. “Many mornings later, I was woken by my mum bounding into my room with the CVQO website up on my computer.  I was unsure that I even wanted to look, but curiosity soon took over.  I scrolled down the page and the first name on the list was me!  Momentarily dazed, I tried (and failed) to collect my thoughts. I released a deep breath I hadn’t realised I was holding and a dam of tears began to flow.  I wasn’t aware that this award scheme had meant so much to me but, as I thought back to the journey since before Christmas, I couldn’t have felt more proud of myself. “I shared and celebrated the great news with family and friends.  My squadron offered masses of congratulations, they couldn’t have been more supportive.  Many staff from around Bristol & Gloucestershire Wing congratulated me.  Our wing training officer suggested I invite Commandant Air Cadets, Air Commodore Dawn McCafferty, to visit the squadron to see my presentation of this journey. To this day I am still reeling, amazed that I am in the final nine and through to the expedition in South Africa. “In June, the finalists gathered for an awards ceremony at the House of Lords.  My local MP, Steve Webb, met with me first, to give me a tour of the House of Commons and congratulate me, before escorting me through parliament to the Cholmondeley Room for lunch.  It was an excellent reception where the overall winner and award winners were announced, we all received our ILM qualifications and indulged a fantastic lunch.  I met lots of VIPs, including Commandant Air Cadets who agreed to come to watch my presentation!  We were also treated to a tour of 10 Downing Street and the House of Lords where we saw and listened to part of a debate.” ACO#DoW14~IMG158 At the awards ceremony, CVQO chief executive, Guy Horridge said: “These are outstanding young people who have demonstrated a consistently high level of commitment to their communities and their peers. They are a credit to their cadet organisations, their families and themselves.” “The support I have had has been overwhelming and the process has been incredibly rewarding. In future, I hope to become an ambassador for CVQO and give something back for the opportunities they have given to me. “It is only a short time until I leave for the Kwa’Zulu-Natal region of South Africa where I hope to add to the rewards of the CQVO Duke of Westminster Award by completing the Gold residential section of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award too, so watch this space for news of my adventures with the other finalists.” ENDS ACO#DoW14~IMG9390 Photographs top - Steve Webb MP (my local MP), Pilot Off Rob Biggs (my squadron), Me, my brother Stephen Cooper centre - Me and my team at Outposts (Victoria, Alex, Jack, Me, Amy) bottom - Me with CAC     CVQO is a registered charity in the UK that provides an alternative route to employment and higher education for learners in the UK and manages internationally recognised vocational qualifications for young people and their instructors in uniformed youth organisations. CVQO is a registered charity in the UK that provides an alternative route to employment and higher education for learners in the UK. The charity manages internationally recognised vocational qualifications for young people and their instructors in uniformed youth organisations. In July, through the national Duke of Westminster Award,  finalists depart for a three week expedition to South Africa. --------------------------

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