While studying at Soham Village College, Shukti Narotam was given the opportunity to complete the bronze Duke of Edinburgh (D of E) Award. As a member of her local scouting group, Shukti was familiar with outdoor activities and in a bid to push herself out of comfort zone she signed up to the award.
The Duke of Edinburgh Award is a progressive scheme that requires participants to complete four different sections: skill; physical; volunteering and expedition, over increasing periods of time as the awardee moves from bronze to silver then gold.
Having successfully completed the bronze award, Shukti was offered a place on the silver award in Year 11 however she declined due to her study commitments and the idea of furthering her D of E career was put to one side. As she progressed through Year 11 Shukti was introduced to post 16 study pathways in Uniformed Public Services (UPS) and, following an open day and taster week at CRC, her original plan to pursue a career as a lawyer began to change as she realised that her interests lie elsewhere. Shukti went on to enrol on the Level 2 UPS course in a bid to explore the uniformed services for herself.
“During the taster week, I found that Cambridge Regional College didn’t feel like a school, it felt less enclosed and restrictive and I could see that I would have more freedom over my learning”.
During her UPS studies, Shukti was once again introduced to the D of E and in her new environment she felt ready to continue her journey. Shukti opted to bypass the silver award to undertake an extended gold award that would see her complete the same four sections as she had done previously, with the addition of a residential trip away from her friends and family.
Shukti said, “I really wanted to complete the gold D of E, I felt ready for the extra commitment and the personal challenge. I completed 6 months of hockey for my physical, 12 months as a volunteer Police Cadet and 18 months learning to drive, which was a new skill for me. For the expedition section I did a 4-day, 3-night practice in Wales followed by a 4-day, 4-night assessed expedition in the Peak District. My residential was a skiing trip organised by the Cambridge University Officer Training Corps (CUOTC)
There were high and lows on the award, I really enjoyed my residential and learning to drive. I had a great instructor and enjoyed doing extra practice. Hockey introduced me to working as a part of team and I found that I had a whole new circle of friends. The expedition was definitely the hardest part. I went away with people that I didn’t really know, morale was low and we did struggle with our team work. I was in a tent on my own, which felt lonely and it was through sheer grit and determination that I completed it. I very nearly quit, but now I believe I can achieve anything.”
Describing her experience of completing the D of E with CRC, Shukti shared, “The scheme was very structured with clear guidance from the leaders. We were tracked through the entire expedition giving us the confidence that we were in safe hands at all times. This definitely contributed to my success.”
Alongside completing her gold award, Shukti continued with her UPS studies progressing from Level 2 through Level 3 and Level 4 and is now set to undertake her Level 5. Shukti hopes to complete the top-up degree in Public Services in 2022. In the meantime, Shukti is awaiting details of when she will be invited to St James Palace to accept her gold award from the Duke of Edinburgh himself.