Following in their footsteps

Award participants hiking in the mountains

William has lived with a foster family for most of his life. He struggles with dyslexia and, before taking up the Award, had issues with his weight. Despite these challenges, William has successfully achieved his Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards.

Now an Award leader with the DofE in Northern Ireland, he is also employed as an Outdoor Pursuits Instructor and youth with the Belfast Education and Library Board.

William saw the Award as a great opportunity to have fun and meet new people. He was supported throughout by his foster mum Phyllis who encouraged him to use his DofE to equip him with new skills and also to improve his physical fitness. Initially William found the Adventurous Journey section challenging; he struggled with the physical aspect and also found navigation difficult due to his dyslexia. But he overcame these difficulties with training and help from his family, Award leaders and friends.

On top of the world

For William, one of his most memorable experiences from his DofE was climbing to the top of Slieve Donard, the highest mountain in Northern Ireland and feeling like he was on top of the world. Another great memory for him was attending the Gold Award presentation ceremony with his foster mum and getting to meet HRH The Duke of Edinburgh himself.

William got involved in a variety of activities as part of his DofE, including his youth work and leadership course. He also took up rugby and played for Belfast Harlequins. He also attended community-relations residential in Spain for young people from a range of backgrounds from Belfast. "I loved my DofE experience and benefitted so much from it. I learnt to truly value friendship and teamwork," says William.

The road to employment

Through his DofE, William found his career in youth work. He believes the Award has given him the courage and confidence to apply for courses and training and to realise his goals. It has given William a real interest and passion for outdoor activities and he has been able to incorporate this into his current role.

An active member of the DofE NI Youth Committee, William is using his skills and experience to ensure the DofE is offered to all young people, particularly those living in deprived areas.

"The Award has shown me the difference enthusiastic and supportive Leaders can make to young people,” he adds. “I saw how much time and energy they put into making sure we completed our DofE programmes.  I'm now following in their footsteps and am a Leader helping other young people complete their DofE.”