Awards Certificates to Remember

| April 17, 2007 | 0 Comments

An article about how to “spruce up” those certificates so that they become a treasured memento of the season for student scrapbooks.

Let’s face it.  For many students, a certificate at the end of the season is not the most exciting thing to receive at an awards banquet.  In many organizations it’s reserved as somewhat of a “consolation prize” for first year members who haven’t been around long enough to earn their letter or special pins.  After too many seasons of picking up discarded certificates from the floor after the marching band banquet or ending up with a stack of unclaimed certificates left in the band director’s office from students who had not attended the banquet I thought, “There must be a better way.”  I, personally, enjoy looking back through my own scrapbooks from grade school and seeing my collection of certificates from throughout the years.  So, I didn’t want to get rid of certificates as awards altogether.  But, I do understand that not everyone keeps a scrapbook.  And – if everyone gets the same certificate automatically it’s really not that special of a memory.  So I set out to come up with a way to make our awards certificates more memorable and more special.  What I came up with takes a bit more time in preparation but it is a great improvement upon the standard certificate we had used in the past and it is now a memento that the students look forward to seeing and that will remind them of their season when they look back at it through the years!

The first thing I decided was that I did not want first year members to feel like their certificate was a cheap consolation prize.  After all, when first year members are the only ones receiving certificates it really feels like everyone else got something “cool,” (a chenille letter, gold pins, a senior gift) and “all I got was this stupid piece of paper!”  Yes, I would hope that my students would be appreciative of whatever recognition they receive, but let’s face it…I can certainly understand if they’re a little disappointed with a generic certificate that only has their name printed on it and a scribbled signature from the band director when everyone else is going home with something to display.  It definitely goes against my teachings to my own students that every member is important to our team, making the rookies feel like they were less important than everyone else (when they, in fact, probably had the most growth and the most stress throughout the season!).  At the same time though, our school tradition has established that there be recognition for consecutive years of participation.  So, we didn’t want to do away with the idea of awards based on years of involvement.  I did, however, want to make sure that the certificate idea was something special – not just a “stupid piece of paper,” but a treasured memory – or at least something they might want to hang on their bulletin board or bedroom wall until they earn their letter next year!

Recognizing Years of Participation

First Year CertificateWe decided that every member will receive a certificate at the end of every year.  Second, 3rd and 4th year members then receive additional awards to recognize their years of commitment.  This eliminates the feeling that the certificate isn’t that important because only rookies receive it.  If everyone receives a certificate it seems less like a consolation prize.

In order to keep the tradition of recognizing years of participation, each class receives a different certificate.  First year members receive a “Certificate of Recognition.”  Second year members receive a “Certificate of Achievement” in recognition of earning their varsity letter.  Third year members receive a “Certificate of Excellence” along with their third year award pin.  And fourth year members receive a “Certificate of Honor” along with induction into our Alumni Group and a Senior Gift.  Each set of certificates also has slightly different language in the small section which explains why they are receiving recognition.

Personalizing Makes It Special

The above system of recognition still does not do enough to make a certificate “exciting.”  So I went a step further to personalize each certificate and make them something that students may want to keep in a scrapbook.  First, we personalize each certificate with the student’s name, the year, and the show title.  Then I add three photos to each certificate: a team photo, an individual portrait and an action shot of that student performing.  It takes a little extra planning to make sure to have the two individual shots of each student but if you have a parent in charge of photography they are usually pretty good about making sure it happens.  Another thing I’ve done is to have a “dress rehearsal” photo session where we take time to run the show several times in uniform and I can take photos of each student in action and still shots outdoors in good lighting.

Certificate of Achievement Third Year Certificate for Seniors fourth year certificateOfficers Certificate

Presentation Makes it Perfect

Finally, I spend a little extra money and I print the certificates on nice paper (with a metallic certificate border) and put them in certificate folders.  I happen to have a relatively small team so the certificate folders aren’t too much of an expense…but if you’re dealing with a larger group you can probably do without the certificate folders to save money and the certificate itself will still be just as nice of a memento.

How To:

The certificates are relatively easy to make, though it did take me some time to establish a template.  I started by searching the web for a certificate layout that I liked.  Then, using a home publishing program (I used Microsoft Publisher but you could also use Word or any other publishing program) I started building my own certificate using clipart and modeling it off of the template I had found on the web.  I then added the photo boxes and personalized text.  I saved four separate files (one for each year’s template) and now each year I just have to open those files and change the student name, show title/year and photos.  It takes me a little longer than just printing a traditional certificate but it’s worth it now that I can see the time I put in really makes the performers feel good about their award!

Here’s the language we used (in case you can’t read it from the small pictures inserted in the article above):

First Year Awards: “Certificate of Recognition” presented to [insert student name] in recognition of your dedication to excellence, your commitment to your team and your outstanding performances as a first-year member of the [insert unit name].

Second Year Awards: “Certificate of Achievement” presented to [insert student name] in recognition of your achievement of the Winter Guard Letter through your continued dedication to excellence, commitment to your team and outstanding performances as a second-year member of the [insert unit name].

Third Year Awards: “Certificate of Excellence” presented to [insert student name] in recognition of your dedication to excellence, leadership and commitment to your team and outstanding performances as a third-year member of the [insert unit name].

Fourth Year Awards: “Certificate of Honor” presented to [insert student name] in recognition of your four years of commitment, services, growth and excellence in performance as a member of the [insert unit name].  Good Luck in your Future Endeavors.

You can download templates from our documents section.

If you come up with a great layout or idea you’d like to share please send your template to us at or leave a comment below!  Thanks!





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Category: Banquets & Recognition, Team Management

About the Author (Author Profile)

Catina Anderson is the founder/editor of the Colorguard Educators blog. Color guard has been part of her life for almost 25 years. She began coaching in 1994 and worked with the Broad Run High School color guard in Northern VA from 1998 until 2010. She has also written for Halftime Magazine and served on the Executive Board of the Atlantic Indoor Association. A former teacher, she enjoys sharing what she has learned and hopes to encourage others to share as well. Together we can create even more positive experiences for performers and help to collectively strengthen marching arts activities worldwide.

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