London (AP) — Jon Watts was 18 when he woke up in a prison cell and decided he had to change clothes.
He enrolled in every course he could find, from math to business. But he says it was a program founded by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, that gave him a “passion for food” and a career as a chef when he left prison three and a half years later.
“I was a boy in jail,” Watts, now 32, told The Associated Press. “It helped shape me to think I’m a good person, and it came to believe that I believed in myself and that I could get things done.”
After Philip died last week at the age of 99, politicians and world leaders rushed to praise his wife, Queen Elizabeth II, and his lifelong service to the British people. But for many across the country, his greatest contribution was the Duke of Edinburgh Award, a program aimed at giving young people the skills and confidence they need to succeed.
Participants in the Duke of Edinburgh Awards need to complete volunteer activities, improve their fitness, learn new skills, go on expeditions and achieve three progressively difficult levels: Bronze, Silver and Gold. there is. With more than 6.7 million people between the ages of 14 and 24 participating in the UK, the program has expanded to 130 countries since it was founded by Philip in 1956.
The program has become a part of British life, and members of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet have recently rebuked each other for talking about how they won the Gold Award. Johnson, however, joked that some might have exaggerated their achievements.
“It’s up to the House to guess who won the gold and who won the bronze,” Johnson told a British lawmaker at the House of Commons this week. “But I think these ministers spoke to millions of people in this country and around the world who felt the Duke had somehow influenced their lives.”
The award was born out of Philip’s own experience at the Gordonstoun School in Scotland and received a similar award called the Moray Badge before World War II. After the war, principal Kurt Hahn approached ex-students with the idea of expanding the program to give young people across the UK a sense of accomplishment through learning experiences outside the classroom.
This program allows young people to pursue their interests and design their own tasks, but the unified element is to test their limits, build confidence and foster independence in the process. Is the purpose. He won the gold medal before becoming a volunteer for the organization.
On his final expedition, Levine trekked through Snowdonia National Park in Wales for three days, fighting strong winds and bad weather, climbing 3,000 feet of mountains and helping team members suffering from asthma. That independence helped Levine emerge as a trans-gender man.
“I felt like I was in a place where I was learning with confidence …” he said. “I think it really helps me on my coming out trip.”
Watt made his own journey to complete.
He said he was involved with a gangster in his hometown of Oxford after graduating from school at the age of 16 without qualification. After being stabbed by another young man, Watts was convicted of causing serious physical harm and sentenced to six and a half years in prison.
He decided to pursue the Duke of Edinburgh Award after hearing a speech by a representative of the Reading Football Club who funded the program in prison.
Two prison officers helped him design a program that roughly follows a national vocational cooking course. He learned all the basics, from kitchen hygiene to how to scale fish. In the community services department, he volunteered for Samaritan life counseling and answered calls from people suffering from suicidal ideation.
Watts’ first expedition was overnight at a prison soccer field monitored by security guards. After moving to the resettlement unit in prison in preparation for liberation, Watt and other prisoners are properly passed through the Chiltern Hills near London and the rugged Wales Mountains Brecon Beacons where British soldiers train for survival. I was allowed to plan a trip.
When Watt met Philip at the award-winning youth reception, whether the Duke had to unleash one of his famous politically wrong comments and wear a “ball and chain” on the expedition. Says he asked. Watt wasn’t angry.
“I found it very interesting just because meeting Prince Phillip was always a very overwhelming experience for everyone,” he said. “It made me laugh, and I think that was his purpose.”
Preparing to be released from prison, Watts had to go to work at one of the famous chef Jamie Oliver’s restaurants during his daily furlough and avoid the offer to go to the pub after closing. did.
When released, he spent five years with Oliver before leaving to launch his own catering business, winning contracts for businesses and events. He is currently working as a chef for three private families, as these jobs have been put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, including crispy chili beef and noodles, truffle chicken Milanese, and Tia’n’shear garlic bread. The recipe is shown on social media.
His years in prison are much later than him, and even if he could obscure his past, Watt continues to talk about those difficult times, so others struggling. Will know that everything is not lost.
After all, that’s the real meaning of winning a gold medal.
“I’m part of his legacy,” Watts said of the late Duke of Edinburgh. “When I’m at work, and when I cook and put that dish on a plate, it may be a little distant, but it’s also a legacy of Prince Phillip.”