CDS Goes for a Hike
Proud to deliver The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award

"For more than 20 years, I've worked with students who participated in The Duke of Edinburgh's Award. Each of our students interested in a challenge, no matter their familiarity with the outdoors or camping, should consider joining. For many, it is a life-changing experience that pushes the boundaries of what they think they can accomplish. They leave with new leadership skills feeling an increased sense of self-confidence and camaraderie with their fellow participants. The bonds formed by Duke of Edinburgh participants remain strong long after they receive their award.” Tim Walsh, Head of Upper School.

Discover Infinite Potential!

That is precisely what the first cohort of The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award seekers at CDS is doing, mentored by their two inspiring Program Coordinators, Pedro Miller, Upper School counselor, and Jess Garcia, Middle School language and literature teacher.

The core of The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award is to raise young people's aspirations, to help them build confidence, resilience, communication, and team-working skills, and to give them experiences that will help them navigate the challenges in life. Duke of Edinburgh's International Award Holders are #WORLDREADY.

The program is designed to have students contribute to society and build character through four key elements: physical activity, learning new skills, volunteering service, and developing navigational and survival skills. Congratulations to our first cohort of 20 students. The students have been divided into four multi-grade teams. This program is a chance for CDS students to build leadership and life skills they can rely on. It affords students the opportunity to grow as people who can impact our community in positive ways and most definitely will help them develop bonds they can value for life.

This founding group of intrepid CDS students from grades 9 – 12 has embarked on a six-month mission to achieve the Bronze level of The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award. Each will follow a personalized path to progress through the sections of physical recreation, skill-building, and voluntary service. For their adventurous journey, the participants will be taken out of their comfort zone, but kept in a safe and secure setting, with suitable training and supervision.

The entire group is scheduled to participate in an overnight training activity at Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park in New Port Richey the first weekend in March before undertaking their 3-day adventurous journey along the Florida Trail in May. The aim of this final challenge is to provide the adventurers with the opportunity to learn more about the wider environment, as well as to develop their self-confidence, facilitate teamwork, and optimize their health.

Mr. Miller shares his inspiration for helping to bring this program to CDS, “As a young adult, I was exposed to the outdoors and have not been the same since. A program such as DofE will give students the opportunity to learn about, plan for and practice outdoor ethics and skills, team building, and conflict resolution. They will be pushed, physically and emotionally, and as a team, they will have to find solutions to various problems. I am looking forward to seeing our students grow from this program and feel very honored to be sharing my passion for the outdoors with our students and staff.” As Ms. Jessica Garcia explains, "The DofE Award Program gives students the space and time they need to make their own decisions. Unlike some traditional classroom settings, this program empowers students to think and reflect on their individual passions. I visualize this program being highly dependent on the student's voice and decision-making skills, and I believe students will love this program for that exact reason." Carrollwood Day School is proud to deliver The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award… Challenging young people to find their purpose, passion, and place in the world.

"Participation in the Award USA program aligns perfectly with what Carrollwood Day School aims to provide for its students: education with character. In this program, I have been able to work on improving my guitar and hiking skills as well as strengthening my connections to my community through community service. In addition to expanding our skill sets, my peers and I are learning about camping and surviving in the outdoors with only what we carry on our backs. By stepping out of my comfort zone and striving to meet my ambitious goals, I am becoming more self-reliant, and a stronger community builder." Samantha H. (’25)