An inspirational student from the University of Chester has delivered a speech to thousands of young people and their guests at Buckingham Palace to recognise their achievements in The Duke of Edinburgh’s (DofE) Award.
Lyndon Howson credits the DofE for motivating him while he battled cancer and for encouraging him to make a difference in the lives of other young people in his area by standing for the local council as well as running marathons for charity in his spare time.
He joined His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh and England Lioness Jill Scott MBE, at the celebration for those who have achieved their Gold DofE Award. He found out he was in remission just one week before receiving his invitation to Buckingham Palace.
Lyndon, who also celebrated achieving his Gold Award on the day, shared his own remarkable DoE experience with his fellow winners from the Palace’s West Terrace. He was joined in the celebration by his partner Logan.
The 26-year-old from Grange-over-Sands is currently in his second year studying for a degree in Zoology, with an aspiration to study for a PhD when he graduates. Lyndon started his DofE journey prior to starting University, signing up through DofE Direct – a way to do the DofE independently, without belonging to a group or organisation.
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He said: “I credit the DofE with keeping me focused during a worrying time in my life, as I was diagnosed with a superficial spreading melanoma and it inspired me to continue to keep up with several of my sectional activities, including running. I have now completed several races for charity and took part in the London Marathon just last month.
“I did struggle with my mental health during this time but found that focusing on my DofE goals one week at a time really helped to motivate me. This frame of mind helped me to stay in the present, and not worry all the time about the future, or to spiral into negative thoughts. It was a source of normality during a time when everything else felt out of my control. The DofE team were incredibly supportive and let me continue with my Award at my own pace.”
Recognising that the voices of young people were not always prioritised in Grange-over-Sands, Lyndon decided to run for a position on his local council at the age of 20, becoming involved in many different community action and volunteering opportunities through this role. He is passionate about wildlife and has become Project Leader for the University’s Hedgehog Friendly Campus Project alongside his studies.
He added: “My speech covered, my DofE journey, my prior council work, my role as the Project Leader for the Hedgehog Friendly Campus Project at the University of Chester and also how the DofE supported me and helped me develop skills which I would then use when battling cancer.”
He told the audience at Buckingham Palace: “You can probably all relate to me when I say that the DofE is not just an Award. It is something which will have a long-lasting impression on each one of us here today, and will no doubt go on to inspire and drive all of us to work towards our goals, no matter how big or how small.”
Lyndon’s special morning was one of four events recognising 9,000 young people who have shown extraordinary perseverance, creativity and resilience to complete their Gold DofE in schools, community organisations, youth groups and workplaces, all over the UK.
Buckingham Palace Garden was transformed into a festival-style celebration for the week, with giant deckchairs, bunting, and garden games and activities. Attendees had the chance to hear from famous DofE Award holders, sporting legends and international adventurers and pick up career advice from actors, presenters, authors and entrepreneurs, at stages throughout the garden.
Lyndon added that he chose to study at Chester because of how welcoming the lecturers were on the Open Day and how they showed a genuine interest in his hobbies. He chose the Zoology degree due to its excellent reputation and close connections with Chester Zoo.
He added: “I would like to thank Louise Morris who works in the University’s Volunteering team, as she has been there and supported me throughout my cancer treatment and also has been instrumental in encouraging me in my role as Project Leader for the Hedgehog Friendly Campus Project.
“I would also like to say that Logan has been amazing throughout my entire student life. I feel incredibly lucky to have met him and have him supporting me all the time. Logan was also my guest at the Awards ceremony on Friday as well. It was he who convinced me to get the lump checked which turned out to be cancerous, so without him, this may have been a completely different outcome.”
Ruth Marvel, CEO of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, said: “A Gold DofE Award is a remarkable achievement. Many young people attending today have overcome their own challenges to make it here – all of them have shown huge perseverance and self-belief and gained skills and memories to last a lifetime. They should all be incredibly proud.
“We’re grateful to The Duke of Edinburgh for hosting young people this week, in his first celebrations since becoming the DofE’s Patron. Like his father Prince Philip, The Duke passionately believes that all young people have the potential to achieve incredible things given the right support and opportunities. Under his patronage, we’ll keep working to give as many young people as possible the chance to do their DofE and, hopefully, find themselves celebrating this amazing achievement in years to come.”
A Gold DofE programme is a non-competitive personal challenge, open to all young people, which takes a minimum of 12 months to complete. Young people build their own programmes with activities in five sections – Physical, Skills, Volunteering, a five-day Residential and a four-day Expedition.
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