Wairarapa College Support Learning Centre students Ben Taylor, Trystan van de Loo, and Josh Taylor have been sharpening their dart skills as part of the Duke of Edinburgh programme. PHOTO/GIANINA SCHWANECKE

GIANINA SCHWANECKE
gianina.schwanecke@age.co.nz

Seven students are well on track to be the first group at Wairarapa College’s Supported Learning Centre [SLC] to complete their Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Awards, but are looking for funding to help with the final part of the programme.

The students, aged 16 to 18,  have a variety of disabilities including Down Syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, anxiety disorder, hearing impairment, and dystonia – a movement disorder in which a person’s muscles contract uncontrollably.

SLC teacher Siouxsie Locke said the students had been working really hard to complete the programme, which included three months of weekly one-hour activities from three categories – physical recreation, voluntary service, skills – and going on an adventurous journey.

From there, students can go on to complete the Silver and Gold Award levels which involve additional elements.

“Some are doing voluntary work at school [here] helping the maintenance team,” she said.

One student, Josh Taylor, had returned to the primary school where he attended to coach pupils and organise games while another had been organising can collections for the food bank.

Inspired by the work of Ronald McDonald House, 18-year-old Grace Yeats, who has a rare brain disease, was taking part in the 50 for families challenge which involved touching her nose 50 times every day for five days – she’s raised more than $2300 of her original $200 goal.

For her skills section, she has been learning French.

Several other students have been sharpening their darts skills or learning to play cards, while others had been painting and clay working at King Street Artworks.

Trystan van de Loo, 19, spoke of his voluntary service helping at the school – something well suited to the avid tool lover and tinkerer.

“I’ve done lots of painting and working with clay.”

Many students were now approaching the final exploration component, Locke said.

For them it was more about “the purpose”.

“It’s a lot of work, but so worth it.

“That’s the whole point of Duke of Ed. It’s about improving yourself from where you started.”

Locke was organising an animal study with field trips to Pukaha National Wildlife Centre and Castlepoint where students would make observations of the wildlife they saw there.

She hoped this would be able to take place next term or early next year, but this was funding dependent.

She said she was grateful to the Mazda Foundation for granting $600 which had allowed the students to participate.

SLC Head of Department Amanda Kawana said their vision was to encourage and provide learning opportunities for all students to develop skills and enable them to live as independently as possible.

“Participating in Duke of Ed will give the students new experiences and transform their lives positively through completing the four categories.”

Both Kawana and Locke were hopeful they would be able to bring back the programme next year to allow the students to progress to the Silver Award or encourage others to get started on the Bronze Award.