CALGARY — The halls of Simon Fraser Junior High School in Calgary were uncharacteristically busy Saturday, but the 350 students there had no qualms about being in attendance because of a princely visit.
Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, the Queen’s youngest son and seventh in line to the throne, met privately with many of the students who are actively involved in the Duke of Edinburgh Awards and later addressed an assembly of teachers, school board officials, politicians and students.
“I went to school much like yours. I didn’t find the academics particularly easy. I didn’t enjoy school because of sitting in the classroom and studying,” said the 44-year-old prince.
“It was all the other things that school offered — that was the motivation for me.”
The Calgary students, from 12 schools, were all part of leadership programs. Prince Edward encouraged them to consider working toward a Duke of Edinburgh Award in the future.
“In a nutshell the award is about helping you to equip yourself for whatever life throws at you. The award is about all sorts of challenges — things you would never have dreamt to do — doing it with people you may never have worked with before,” said Prince Edward, who along with Princess Sophie has been making a cross-Canada tour.
The awards, started by the prince’s father in the 1950s, are designed to stimulate and encourage self-reliance and discipline, perseverance and determination, initiative and creativity, community responsibility, and fitness of body and mind. Prince Edward is scheduled to hand out a number of awards in Calgary Sunday morning.
The Royal visitor left a number of students with stars in their eyes.
“It was really exciting. He was talking about what we were doing and he was asking us questions about how we were going to change the world,” said Danika Ferguson, 13, a grade 8 student who was in the classroom for the Prince’s private chat.
“It’s like the chance of a lifetime. It was sort of strange because he just came in and talked to us as a person and it was cool,” she added.
Ferguson said she will be looking for a chance to try for an award when she is old enough next year and hopes to find a way to help build a school in Kenya.
Nandini Thogarapalli, 15, had the honour of being the Prince’s tour guide at the school.
“I was very excited. When I met him he was really down to earth and really nice. He had some good insight about helping the world and asked some really interesting questions that I hope to answer for myself in the future,” said Thogarapalli, who is hoping to receive her bronze Edinburgh Award in about two weeks.
“He really highlighted the importance of communication and how (in) everything from peace to bringing clean water to developing countries communication plays a really key part,” she said.
“I think by being here he has motivated a lot of us because I think he has recognized a lot of the students work, and (he was) not just talking to them but giving them other thoughts to consider.”
His wife, Princess Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, attended the opening of the Calgary Military Museum and mingled at a by-invitation-only Royal Tea Party for 600 veterans and supporters.