Award Summit Celebrates Young People Ready for New Normal



Chicago, IL. Between Oct 15-22, 2020, The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award – USA, based in Chicago, Illinois, hosted #AWARDSUMMIT, a virtual series of events to celebrate achievements of young leaders of Generation Z, born between 1996–2012  participating in the world’s largest award achievement program. The Award allows young people to find their purpose, passion and place in the world.


His Royal Highness The Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex KG GCVO, Chairman of the The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Foundation, kicked off the event series by meeting with twelve recent Award participants and alumni to explore the impact of the Award on their lives and how COVID’s challenges have been met in part by applying habits and skills learned through earning the Award.

Freya, a Silver Award Holder and Gold Award participant, summarized the Award as: “Trying new things that you haven’t ever experienced before because normally if you play a sport, you play. If you have an instrument, then you play. You are in that zone and you don’t really look for anything new to try. I think the Award really opens up all the different aspects of you like skills, fitness, adventure, and volunteering.”

Michelle, a Bronze and Silver Award Holder, shared: “One of the things I’ve learned is to be adaptable. That’s something you’re just going to use in almost any platform and any part of life.” She found the Award inspired her to build a new circle of friends through trying new activities and aided her in a move to the US as well as with the transition to college.

Responding to criticism of their Generation, Maya, a Bronze Award Holder and Silver Award participant, offered: “I think we’ve been able to use technology as a strength of ours and know how to use it to connect with people.” Ben, a Bronze, Silver and Gold Award Holder, echoed this sentiment, noting: “This year you can see frustration coming out in terms of questions [from our Generation] about our political systems or economic systems or racial justice. On the one hand there’s a lot of frustration and maybe a little bit of despair to feeling like we expect more from our societies and our communities. Then on the other hand there’s also a lot of commitment… in doing something to make the world better, to contribute positively.”

Lucas, a Bronze Award Holder and Silver Award participant, rose to this challenge. He shared his passion for holding voter registration drives, “which I think is very important in my community, especially so that we can get people who normally don’t usually go out and vote. I think that the Award has made me think of ideas to help my community as well as try to improve myself.”


Award Holder and recent Princeton Valedictorian Nicholas Johnson joined HRH The Earl of Wessex on October 15 at an event about Generation Z co-hosted by Award USA and the Commonwealth Club and moderated by Board Chair Nichelle Carr. With a discussion centered around the challenges facing young people coming of age during these difficult times and how Award USA is built for this moment, topics included climate change and addressing racial justice.


The first ever virtual National Award Ceremony was the culminating event on October 22. More than 180 Award Holders were celebrated. Participants were greeted with congratulations from HRH The Earl of Wessex. Joining in those sentiments was British Consul General Alan Gogbashian speaking on behalf of Dame Karen Pierce, British Ambassador to the USA. He noted, “It is inspiring to remember that although the Award was established 65 years ago in the UK by Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, it remains a globally recognized and highly regarded youth achievement award. The timeless benefits of skills, strengths and confidence that participants develop throughout their Award journey ensure that the program remains just as fit for 2020 as it was when it started. You are proof that some of the most effective learning takes place outside of the classroom.” Other dignitaries included remarks from The Royal Airforce Red Arrows, and attendance by British Consul General to Boston Peter Abbott, and Honorary British Consul General to Philadelphia Oliver St. Clair Franklin II.

Among those honored were 25 Gold Awards, 74 Silver Awards, and 115 Bronze Awards. Award Holders, with the guidance of volunteer mentors, complete a set of globally accredited activities in four areas which progressively involve time and dedication to complete individualized goals: voluntary service, skill attainment, physical recreation, adventurous journeys, and a culminating project for Gold Awards. The Award globally is a proven framework resulting in young people with perseverance, problem solving abilities, leadership skills, and resilience.

Gold Award honorees included: Michelle Catao, Aerin Chavez, Sela Diab, Kresten Due, Sofia Ford, Alexander Harding-Bradley, Mary Jonas, Peibo Li, David Luner, Mirryn McDonald, Aidan McKenna, Lindsey Moser, Nikola Muyot, Ethan Ngai, Anya Patel, JuanCarlos Pena, Lokesh Pugalenthi, Morgan Ratzan-Wank, Tehreem Sadiq, Anand Singh, Eleanor Smith, Femke Teunissen, Christiano Wennmann, Rosie Westerbeck, and Kiran Wijesekera.


The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award USA is a flexible and proven youth development program for 14–24 year-olds that complements formal classroom learning and focuses on real-world experiences that build essential life skills including character, resilience and self-confidence.

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic halting many traditional educational, employment and leadership opportunities, Award USA’s structure and skill-building opportunities are a critical resource for young people coming of age during these difficult times. A recent survey[1] conducted by The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Foundation found that 54% of young adults are concerned about their mental health and nearly half are experiencing high levels of stress.

As today’s young people face the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19 as well as calls to address racial injustice, the Award is dedicated to ensuring that young people will have what they need for the future: to benefit from great non-formal education and learning.

[1] Survey of 4,000+ 14-24 year olds in 42 countries, May/June 2020

Media Contact: Tracy Jensen; Marketing and Communications, Frizz Marketing,, (630) 426-9712


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