I must admit, when it came time to tie a figurative bow atop my mountain of CAS reflections, I was both saddened and intimidated. How could I possibly, in one fell swoop, summarize two years’ worth of creativity, activity, and service? From SAISAs to Gecko Inc to Duke of Edinburgh and more, my experiences represent a wide array of my interests and potential avenues of engagement with my community, my peers, and pertinent global issues. Over the course of the past two years, I’ve gained skills, friends, and stories that will serve me for years to come. And thus, while I am sure that I will fall short of doing it justice, I will attempt to reflect on this odyssey that has been the Diploma Program through the lens of CAS.
Identify own strengths and develop areas for growth
I believe that identifying areas for self-improvement is one of the most fundamental keys to happiness. Understanding how you can become the best version of yourself is crucial to building healthy relationships, meeting your goals, and achieving success. This operates hand in hand with identifying your strengths — after all, being able to play to your most developed skills is another key to bringing your goals to fruition. My first foray into identifying my strengths and areas for growth (at least in the world of CAS) came during my leadership of Gecko Inc’s Swimsuit Project. Doing so allowed me to better understand the strength of my ability to meet deadlines while revealing the planning stage as one of my weaknesses. Similarly, numerous SAISA experiences (most commonly swimming or track and field) showed me that one of my greatest assets was my perseverance and work ethic, while also allowing me to identify specific events in which I was most successful.
Demonstrate that challenges have been undertaken, developing new skills in the process
Running parallel to identifying and addressing areas for growth, undertaking challenges and developing new skills is something that I consider to be highly important. Accordingly, I have spent much of my time in the Diploma Program trying new things and experimenting with unfamiliar activities. For example, being on stage has always been exceedingly frightening for me, and in order to demonstrate that I was undertaking challenges (and developing new skills in the process), I decided to participate in a karaoke performance with two of my friends for our yearly school talent show, Gecko Factor. Although I wanted to step out of my comfort zone by being on stage, I also recognize that I have a less than incredible voice, and thus we decided to perform perhaps the most simple piece of karaoke ever devised: “Tequila” by The Champs (the only lyric of which is “tequila” repeated thrice). The performance was a resounding success, and represented an instance in which I faced my fears and reaped the rewards.
Demonstrate how to initiate and plan a CAS experience
Perhaps the most planning-intensive CAS experience that I have had was my CAS project, which involved the creation of an online video series that aimed to create a series of online videos (available on platforms such as Youtube and Instagram) that would teach invaluable swimming skills to children around the world. From the scripts to the storyboards, every detail of the videos was methodically laid out to ensure that the product would be instructional, comprehensive, and visually appealing. The experience of planning the project with my fellow service leaders also allowed me to recognize the benefits of working collaboratively (thus demonstrating the many links between multiple learning outcomes within my CAS experiences). Ultimately, my time as a DP student has provided me with many opportunities to build planning skills both in and out of the classroom, and I hope to carry these abilities forward through university and beyond.
Show commitment to and perseverance in CAS experiences
Though every one of my CAS experiences required some degree of commitment, one stands out as being the most omnipresent throughout the past two years. As I have written about extensively in the past, the Duke of Edinburgh award program aims to, much like CAS, combine physical activity, creative endeavors, and service in order to inspire holistic personal growth in participants. Another integral part of the program is the Adventurous Journey; a multi-day expedition on which students learn valuable orienteering, camping, and wilderness survival skills. Having completed both the bronze and silver awards, I’ve been on four AJs (two “practice” and two “qualifying”), and I speak from the heart when I say nothing has required more perseverance and commitment than treading towards camp in a downpour after having hiked eight kilometers with six more to go. Duke of Edinburgh has taught me a number of valuable skills, but chief among them is the value of perseverance.
Demonstrate the skills and recognize the benefits of working collaboratively
In my time co-captaining OSC’s SAISA track and field team, I had the express privilege of working alongside three of my peers in acting as team leaders and assuming responsibility for a number of aspects of training, including warmup, cooldown, and stretches. Serving as captain over a team of 30 would have been virtually impossible without the help of my co-captains, and the experience forced me to recognize the benefits of working collaboratively while simultaneously developing the skills needed to do so.
Demonstrate engagement with issues of global significance
As discussed in a previous post, one of Gecko Inc’s longest-standing commitments is, “not just to provide swimming lessons for the children of Colombo, but to also provide them with the materials they need to succeed in the water”. Thus, in conjunction with previous service leaders, we carried out The Swimsuit Project, in which we organized fundraising efforts and consequently purchased swimsuits for all of our participants. This endeavor serves as an example of our commitment to furthering our service group’s aim and our engagement with issues of global significance (lack of water safety skills in children).
Recognize and consider the ethics of choices and actions
Returning to Duke of Edinburgh, another major beneficial outcome of my experiences during the Adventurous Journey was the opportunity it gave me to consider the ethics of my choices and actions. Specifically, I was able to engage with the issue of human development in natural spaces, and as a result of this engagement, I was encouraged to consider my own impact on the natural environment and the choices I could make to reduce it. Once again, this represents an instance in which learning outcomes come together to form meaningful and valuable experiences, and ultimately allowed me to achieve personal growth.