For many young people in the foster care system, the transition into adulthood is a challenge. Dealing with the potential trauma of past neglect and abuse, combined with the inherently difficult shift to independence, can be a seemingly insurmountable undertaking.

As a former child in care, Kiwayne Jones understands first-hand this struggle and the importance of external support for young people in care. He chose to pursue the globally delegated Duke of Edinburgh’s Award after a youth worker at the Pape Adolescent Resource Centre suggested that he apply for the program. Awarded annually to young people who give back to their communities and strive to be their best, Kiwayne decided to purchase the required start-up materials, despite also juggling the responsibilities of being a full-time student. The decision, however, proved to be wise, as he quickly excelled and was nominated for the role of national youth representative.

“I never experienced any graduations or proms or anything [growing-up], but that night when they announced [my name] the whole room was just shaking with them banging on the table and so happy – it was so unreal. It really left an imprint on my soul and my mind and my heart. It was one of the best nights of my life.”

“That means I am the youth liaison to the national board on behalf of the 46,000 participants across Canada,” he explains. “I never experienced any graduations or proms or anything [growing-up], but that night when they announced [my name] the whole room was just shaking with them banging on the table and so happy – it was so unreal. It really left an imprint on my soul and my mind and my heart. It was one of the best nights of my life.”

Divided into three different levels of achievement (Bronze, Silver, and Gold), the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award requires each candidate to develop a record book filled with activities and commitments that promote their development both mentally and physically. As a part of the required activities, Kiwayne embarked on a canoe trip and attended a conference in Winnipeg with financial help from the Foundation. Having now achieved the Gold Award and being appointed a youth representative, Kiwayne will continue to work towards earning his post-secondary certificate in Construction Engineering Technology Diploma while encouraging other young people to achieve their full potential through the award program.

“There were times when I was going between being homeless and living on my own, but I still kept with it, I still kept going with the program,” he says. “It was the one thing in my life that wasn’t going away.”

For more information on the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, please visit: http://www.dukeofed.org/