Friends are as companions on a journey, who ought to aid each other to persevere in the road to a happier life. Pythagoras

The President’s Award is a development framework used by organisations that work with young people aged 14-24. The Award empowers young people to learn and grow through non-formal education while working towards a globally recognized accreditation at either Bronze, Silver or Gold level. There are four aspects to the award – skills development, community service, physical recreation and the adventurous journey. Beyond academic achievements, universities want to see evidence of so-called ‘soft skills’ that you have developed through extracurricular activities such as communication, commitment, leadership and teamwork. The Award is a fantastic way to demonstrate and evidence these skills in practice.

On a bright and sunny Sunday, 37 Herzlia President’s Award participants gathered to embark on a journey, long spoken about and carefully planned. The 33 Bronze level and four Silver level pupils were filled with excitement and trepidation as we navigated through the Cycle Tour road closures, to meet at Constantia Nek. In the nine years I have been involved with the programme, we have averaged around 11 participants for the Adventurous journey. This year, due to the enthusiasm of these Herzlia pupils to test their mettle, we had a record number sign up for the 24km and 48km hikes. For the next two to three days, they would be relying on their own resilience and preparation as well as each other, to push their personal boundaries to the limit.

             All 37 participants ready for their adventure.

This group however were unlike any other group I have encountered as they filled the air with their laughter and song, as well as the melody of jazz/blues music, played on a harmonica; I could tell that this journey was going to be a memorable one. The first day entailed one of the most challenging sections, namely the jeep track and steep ascent to the top of the mountain. In previous hikes, the pupils, who carry full backpacks, containing all supplies and water, take regular breaks as they struggle to get used to the 10-12 kg weights of their packs but not this group! They sped up the slopes, in 27degree + temperatures wanting to forgo the normal pit stops, such was their enthusiasm. We made record time, snaking our way up the track until we reached the scout huts in Camps Bay. 

Once they had settled into their basic accommodation, they carried on hiking with their daypacks again at an astonishingly quick speed, all the way to Hout Bay! They braved the spectacular but precarious ‘Diving Board’ and posed for the obligatory pictures of Table Mountain’s most Instagrammed site. Returning to base, we cooked together before settling down for the night, abuzz with the excitement of the day and ready for the demands of the next day, despite the regular appearance of rain spiders and other Table Mountain wildlife.

This was the final day for the Bronze pupils and I believe that many of them would have happily continued on with the Silver pupils. The remaining four silver participants explored ‘Tranquillity Cracks’ as well as the many dams in the area while developing their wood-whittling skills in the absence of the distractions of social media. 

Daniel Geva and Ben Lazarus honing their woodwork skills

The second night’s weather was nothing short of wild and blustery, as the mist and winds descended on our hut. However, spirits remained high even if bodies were aching. As we started our 07h00 hike, we noted that the pupils had out-paced any groups that our hike leader had previously encountered, leaving them with a mere 8km to finish their required total, but true to the Herzlia grit, the pupils resolved to do as many kilometres as they could to maximise their experience on the hike. Through sunshine and clouds, they traversed the labyrinth and then made sure that the hut was spotlessly clean before we descended back to the normality of city life. I couldn’t be more proud of these pupils and would happily take them anywhere, anytime, confident in their amazingly considerate and determined attitude and the way in which they came together to support each other through thick and thin. This couldn’t be better expressed than in the words of their Hike leader, Paula Farais who insisted on contacting Mr Brorson to say the following:

 “To put it mildly, your pupils were incredible. Not only were they well prepared but they were one of the best groups I have had in years. The overall behaviour was something I have never experienced in any group with every single pupil being so easy to talk to and well mannered. I’m actually speechless at how every single pupil conducted themselves. The parents and school must be so proud of this amazing group who were an exemplary example of the perfect school representative.”

A huge thanks to Matt Segal from the CSO who accompanied us on the entire hike. We really appreciated his assistance!

A huge mazel tov goes to the following pupils:

Bronze level: Izzy Abrahamson, Hannah Atie, Josie Bass, Naphtali Beinart, Hannah Bendel, Sienna Berridge, Josef Blaszkiewicz, Jessica Carol, Noah Criticos, Amber Fanaroff, Sam Franco, Saskia Gofman, Romeo-Noah Herskovitz, Megan Hurwitz, Levi Jocum, Joseph Lee, Charlee Levitt, Kiara Levy, Jami Levy, Kaylee Maltz, Samuel Miller, Noah Morris, Ella Musikanth, Tehila Netter, Gabriel Palmer, Abigail Palmer, Zach Rogoff, Erin Shamley, Ruby Shaskolsky, David Silverman, Jasper Stevenson, Benjamin Zelter, Lily Zelter.

Silver level: Benjamin Lazarus, Alexand Franco, Daniel Geva, Alexander Danzinger