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Sophie Moule- Duke of Westminster Award Finalist

Our former Cadet RSM Sophie Moule describes her experiences this year with the Cadet Vocational College’s Duke of Westminster Award.

Sophie Moule- Duke of Westminster Award Finalist

30 October 2023

  • Cambridgeshire ACF

In January, SSI Irving nominated me to participate in the award, and I was lucky enough to make it to Stage Two; which involved me creating a response to two questions set by Cadet Vocational College, the new name for CVQO. About a month later, I was contacted to say that I had made it to Stage Three, selection in Somerset in April!

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Sophie (middle, glasses) and other award finalists

Somerset is the crucial stage of the Westminster Award, and by far the most competitive, with 40 cadets going to complete a range of activities. These activities assessed many areas such as communication, teamwork, leadership and management. The activities were diverse, yet all very relevant to the award, and our cadet careers. These activities included planning exercises, problem solving, ethical debates and ‘gun-runs’. It was incredibly challenging yet highly rewarding, allowing me to take a lot of things back to county that I had learnt.

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With her parents and SSI Irving.

In May, the results were released with only 15 of the 40 cadets from Somerset progressing to the final stage - a two week expedition in Cornwall during July and August. To my surprise, I had made it through, and had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience so many new things in Cornwall. Our theme for the expedition was “Think Global, Act Local” and this involved us working with local charities. We worked with Surfers against Sewage to learn about human impact on the seas and complete a beach clean; The Cornwall Wildlife Trust to participate in snorkeling to learn about and survey local marine life, and also an international refugee charity called ShelterBox. With ShelterBox, we completed teamwork tasks, putting up one of their shelters and learning about what they do, and how volunteers are trained to deploy to areas of the world which have been hit by conflict and natural disasters. We were also lucky enough to visit Lands End, The Eden Project and the Cornish Seal Sanctuary amongst other activities. It was a packed couple of weeks, but each day allowed us to learn something new and experience something different which we may not have been able to do without Cadet Vocational College. Each of the finalists grew closer and closer and formed a family-like group together, and we helped each other through each challenge we faced. It was a memorable couple of weeks which enabled each of us to grow as team players and leaders, but in a safe, informal and highly enjoyable environment. It is definitely an experience I will not forget.

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Award finalist list and souvenirs.

After Cornwall, we awaited the big day, the finalists’ lunch at the House of Lords. It was another opportunity to meet with our friends from Cornwall, the adults and Cadet Vocational College Ambassadors, and come together to celebrate the winner. We reminisced over our adventures in Cornwall over lunch on the bank of The River Thames and were lucky enough to meet the Secretary of State for education, as well as having a guided tour and watch a debate in action. It was amazing being able to bring my parents and my Detachment Commander SSI Irving, so I could share part of the experience with them as well. and introduce them to some of the amazing people I had met along the way.

Overall, the experience of the Westminster Award has provided me with once-in-a-life-time opportunities, along with ones which were challenging yet allowing me to grow as a team player and a leader. Through the Westminster Award as well as through the vocational qualifications they provide, Cadet Vocational College has equipped me with and developed crucial skills and qualities such as teamwork, adaptability and mental resilience to name but a few. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity I was provided with to create such unforgettable memories, develop such skills and meet some wonderful people.

Text by Sophie Moule