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(l-r): Misha, Shoshana, and Shai Cook-Libin holding Duke of Edinburgh Silver certificates. (Shoshana was a winner in a previous year.)


The annual Duke of Edinburgh Awards is an international program that provides incentives to young people to develop well-rounded personalities through a combination of participation in sports, nurturing different skills, embarking on adventure and giving back to their communities. On November 15 this year, about 25 young Manitobans presented themselves at the Lieutenant-Governor’s residence for presentation of their Duke of Edinburgh Awards. Among them were Gray Academy Grade 12 student Jenna Bravo and former Gray Academy students Misha and Shai Cook-Libin.


Twin brother Misha and Shai are the sons of Mark Libin, a professor in the Faculty of English at the University of Manitoba, and novelist and poet Meira Cook (who also has taught creative writing classes at the University of Manitoba).
Misha and Shai are currently in Grade 11 at Grant Park High School. They were aware of and signed up for the Duke of Edinburgh program through their older sister, Shoshana, who was an earlier Duke of Edinburgh Award winner.
“It’s nice to be recognized for some of the things you are already doing,” comments Shoshana, a Gray Academy graduate who is in second year Science at the University of Manitoba.

The Duke of Edinburgh Award, Shoshana and her brothers explain, is built on a cumulative effort over a lengthy period of time and consists of three different levels – bronze, silver and gold. Participating young people keep track online of their hours spent in each of the four required categories.
Each student has an assessor to make sure the hours add up and sign off on the entries.

Shoshana learned about the award through a presentation while she was attending Gray Academy. She finished high school with a Silver designation. Her qualifying activities included piano (12 years worth of lessons), soccer, BB Camp (the adventure part) as both a camper and councillor and reading to kids learning English through IRCOM (Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba).
Misha and Shai are in their third year in the program and received their Silver designations this year. Shai is also a long time student of piano. He is a member of two basketballs teams.

Misha is involved with the Manitoba Theatre for Young People where he is a teaching assistant and works with the performing company. He used to play soccer but one too many concussions means that he can no longer be involved in contact sports. His physical activity now is dance.
Both Misha and Shai volunteer with the Siloam Mission.“We used to volunteer at Winnipeg Harvest,” Shai says. “What we like about volunteering at Siloam Mission is that we can actually interact with the people we are helping.”
“We started at Siloam in the basement sorting clothes,” Misha says. “After we turned 15, we were promoted to the kitchen where - every second Monday – we help prepare and serve the meals.”
For their adventure, the two long time BB Campers went on a 28-day canoe trip in northwestern Ontario – covering 300 miles and 52 portages.
Both Misha and Shai are aiming to achieve their Gold designation next year. To qualify for Gold, participants have to complete a Gold Project that involves working with people of different backgrounds, developing skills and building confidence living in new environments.

Jenna Bravo has a life story similar to the Cook-Libin Family. Like Shoshona, Misha and Shai’s mother, Meira Cook, her parents, Warren and Cherine Bravo are originally from South Africa, having come to Winnipeg eight years ago. And, like the Cook-Libin siblings, her adventure was accomplished through BB Camp as a camper and, more recently, a councillor.
She reports that the skill that she learned for the Duke of Edinburgh challenge was sign language. And her physical activity consists of regular workouts at home.
As for volunteering, she is currently president of BBYO (Bnai Brith Youth Organization). She also is involved in other volunteer activities in both the Jewish and general communities.
“I learned about the Duke of Edinburgh Award program from a presentation at Gray Academy when I was in Grade 9,” she says. “I thought that it sounded really interesting that we could be recognized in this way for things we were already doing,” she says, echoing Shoshana Cook-Libin. “It is a good way to encourage younger people to become more involved in community, strive to reach higher goals and learn some new skills along the way.”
Right now, Jenna is at the Silver level. Her goal now is to go for the Gold.

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