Lesley Sleight from Queen Elizabeth II High School has been awarded the Stephenson Award 2014 from the Young Explorers’ Trust (YET). This is the youth arm of the Royal Geological Society. Lesley was recognised for her outstanding service to youth expeditions, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and eco work.
Ted Grey, secretary of YET, nominated Lesley for the award and in his citation wrote -
‘Lesley is probably the outstanding lady leader of independently organised expeditions over the last 25 years. Since 1990, when she was joint leader of the Wey Valley School kayak expedition to the Prince William Sound in Alaska, she has led nine further expeditions, all of which gained YET Approval through its Screening or Evaluation schemes. In addition to Alaska, she has led kayak, trekking and fieldwork/conservation expeditions to Arctic Norway (1991) with Portway School, The Murray River and Kangaroo Island in Australia (1997) and three expeditions to Canada (Queen Charlotte Islands 2001, Vancouver Island 2002 and Ontario 2004). Her main love though is for Greenland where she has led kayaking, conservation, trekking and fieldwork expeditions in 2006, 2008 and 2010. Five of these expeditions were with the IOM Duke of Edinburgh’s Award during the time when she was D of E Officer, but the Greenland Expeditions were through her present school, Queen Elizabeth II High School, Peel. In all cases she has acted in a voluntary capacity.’
The Award is named after Alfred Stephenson who was the first Chairman of the YET Expedition Screening Panel and a great believer in the value of youth expeditions. He was a noted polar explorer and a member of the highly successful British Graham Land Expedition 1935 -1937, now called the Antarctic Peninsula. He was also secretary of the Antarctic Club for over 40 years.
'I feel very privileged to receive this Award. I started running expeditions after being selected as a ‘Venturer’ in 1986 on an ‘Operation Raleigh’ Expedition to New Zealand. The experience was life changing and I vowed that I would do my best to enable young people to access similar ventures.
I led my first expedition in 1988 to British Columbia whist teaching in Weymouth. It was a memorable experience for us all as a bear decided to take a rucksack out of the hands of one of the students! After this expedition I was lucky to discover the Young Explorers’ Trust, a fantastic group of experienced outdoor leaders who offered support and advice. All future expeditions were to be screened by the Young Explorers’ Trust. In 2000, I received a Churchill Fellowship which gave me the opportunity to explore remote parts of Canada and this helped me plan future expeditions to the area. I would like to recognise all the volunteer leaders who have helped with these expeditions. A special thanks to Neil Young and Tove Dahn who have helped lead many expeditions. Without such dedicated volunteers the expeditions could never have happened. Nearly 200 students have had the opportunity to journey into remote, wilderness areas. I know that these month long expeditions have had huge impacts on both the students and leaders. Many students now work in the Outdoor Education industry and some have returned as young leaders on future expeditions'.
Minister for Education, Hon Tim Crookall MHK added,
'Lesley is a wonderful ambassador for her school and for education in the Isle of Man and thoroughly deserves this recognition. Through her outstanding dedication and commitment, and in her own time, she has given hundreds of young people a taste for the great outdoors and the chance to explore the wilderness – experiences that will stay with them for life.
Employers value employees with Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and other such ventures on their CVs as it shows a sense of determination and resilience.
Young people on Lesley’s trips have gone on to work in outdoor education or have volunteered to lead similar expeditions, so her influence is helping other students to get a taste of a world well beyond the classroom too'.