Beach teen earns Duke of Edinburgh silver award

Sara Upshur has raised funds for a Central American orphanage, learned new art skills, taken up running, and participated in a camping trip on the Toronto islands to achieve her goals. duke of ed award-sara upshur_9685

On May 23, Upshur will join other ambitious youth at the police college in Etobicoke to be rewarded for those achievements with the Duke of Edinburgh silver award, to be presented by Ontario Lieutenant-Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell.

The Duke of Edinburgh Award is open to youth interested in achieving personal goals in community service, skills, fitness, and adventure. The requirements are laid out in a guidebook and sample activities are suggested for each facet of the process, though participants are welcome to write in with alternate suggestions.

Upshur, a Grade 11 Rosedale High School of the Arts student, has been working on the award for about a year, after previously earning the bronze level.

Those seeking the silver award must complete achievements related to four components: volunteer work, developing a new interest, physical fitness, and an adventurous journey.

For her volunteer work, Upshur raised funds and toiletries for the El Hogar orphanage in Honduras through a bake sale, going door to door, and by collecting Shoppers Drug Mart points from members at her church. She had previously travelled to volunteer for a week at the orphanage, helping out with a friend on a church-organized trip.

The physical fitness component was no major challenge for Upshur, a former competitive gymnast.

“Then I retired, so I had to find something else to fill in,” she said.

So she took up running, something that may lack the excitement of gymnastics, but still requires dedication.

For her new interest, Upshur chose art. She created a flag for her street’s annual Christmas time fundraising campaign Daily Flags for Daily Bread. Her flag featured three manga characters representing wisdom, honesty, and peace.

Her new focus on art also overlapped with the adventurous journey component, an Outward Bound-led canoe and camping trip from the Inner Harbour to the Toronto Islands.

“It was a new approach to getting wilderness in the city,” she said.

“I incorporated my graphics and photography into the Duke of Edinburgh by creating a stop-motion movie.”

While she has not yet received the silver award, Upshur is already working on achieving the gold level, which she hopes to finish in time for college applications next year.

She’s working toward 60 hours of volunteer service (which thankfully overlap with high school’s required 40 hours per school year).

A cycling trip in the Niagara area is already in the planning stages as well.

“My family is big on the outdoors,” said Upshur. “My family and I are going to take the adventurous journey together.”

As for new skills, she’s been taking black and white photographs with a circa-1950s film camera (Rosedale is one of the last schools with a functioning darkroom), as well as voice acting lessons.

Traditional film photography is one of the skills Sara Upshur learned to earn her Duke of Edinburgh silver award. This photo is part of a series of hands she is working on. PHOTO: Sara Upshur
Traditional film photography is one of the skills Sara Upshur learned to earn her Duke of Edinburgh silver award. This photo is part of a series of hands she is working on.
PHOTO: Sara Upshur

And what about that gold award? Upshur knows that the top level of the Duke of Edinburgh award is often handed out by special guests. Some lucky recipients have received theirs from Prince Andrew and Prince Edward in past years.

Though the Queen won’t likely be here next spring, Upshur is holding out hope for other prominent British visitors.

“I hope I get someone cool, like Kate Middleton,” she said. “Or maybe baby Charlotte.”

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