Connecting and engaging our awesome Alumni!
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Issue 2: December 17, 2020

Holiday Greetings

The holiday season is upon us! 2020 has been a difficult year for many, but even with all of the ups and downs, this is a wonderful time to celebrate and be thankful for - even the smallest of things. This Christmas, we are focusing on the kindness that the holiday season inspires. In every country, Christmas and holiday celebrations look much different. However, the idea is typically the same. Christmas is a time of celebration and festivity, and a time to lead with kindness and compassion. These are a few easy ways to spread some kindness this holiday season:
  • Tell someone you love how much you appreciate them
  • Give compliments
  • Smile!
  • Do someone a favour without being asked
  • Leave a positive note for a stranger
  • Volunteer for a cause you are passionate about
  • Offer a listening ear

Fun Facts about Holidays around the World
Christmas and the holiday season are celebrated all around the world, however, we each have our own unique traditions and ways of celebrating. Check out these fun facts…
  • In Japan, only 1% of the population celebrates Christmas and it is most commonly known as the “Festival of Love,” a time for couples to spend time together and buy each other gifts. Happy Holidays = いいきゅうかを!  Ii kyuuka wo!
  • In Italy, children typically get two sets of gifts – one on Christmas Eve and a larger gift on the 6th of January. On the 6th, Italians celebrate Epiphany Day, where a witch named Le Befana brings sweets to the good children and coal to the naughty ones. Happy Holidays = Buone vacanze!
  • In Germany, people visit their neighbours and friends before Christmas to look at their Christmas tree. In return, the visitors receive a glass of strong liquor, called “Schnaps.” Happy Holidays = Frohe Feiertage!
  • In Iceland, Christmas lasts 26 days, and they have 13 Santa Clauses (or Yule Lads) that each leave a gift for every child. The Christmas season begins when the first Yule Lad comes to town (13 days before Christmas Eve) and ends when the last Yule Lad leaves town (Twelfth night). The Yule Lads even have funny names, like Spoon-Licker, Doorway-Sniffer and Meat Hook. Happy Holidays = Gleðilega hátíð!
  • In Australia, people celebrate Christmas at the beach!

What's New at CYL?

CYL Goes Virtual
This year, many individuals and organizations had to change the way they do business as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. At CYL, we took the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of all of our CYL’ers ands staff, which resulted in the 2020 CYL program taking place online. In the few months leading up to summer, our amazing staff and volunteers revamped our entire program for virtual delivery. We scheduled 23 activities and events for all of our 2020 CYL’ers to enjoy and delivered 13 events in total. We had 179 participants register, and 124 attend. We were thrilled to connect with all our wonderful campers, even if it was through Zoom! We are preparing for the possibility of another virtual CYL year in 2021, but we are also preparing for the possibility that we can host CYL in person again next year. In either case, we can’t wait to see everyone again!
CYL Week Names
We recently renamed our CYL weeks from “Junior,” “Intermediate” and “Senior,” to something new and exciting! We wanted the names of our program weeks to represent and reflect what each level of CYL is all about. The new names are now “Explorers,” “Trailblazers” and “Visionaries”. Learn more here, and check out our new logos below! A bit shout out to Sarah Jensen for creating these wonderful images.
CYL Time Capsule
2020 has been such a pinnacle year for everyone, filled with many ups and downs. To signify and remember such an important year in our history, we have made a CYL time capsule and added some important items to help paint a picture of the year 2020! The capsule will be buried at the Co-operative Education Centre (CEC), located on the beautiful grounds of the Gay Lea Foods Dairy Heritage Museum. Our future CYL’ers will open the time capsule in 2045, and learn all about the world and the CYL program in 2020. Here is a list of all the items we have included added to the capsule:
  • Newspaper articles about the pandemic and COVID-19
  • A copy of the first Alumni Newsletter
  • A picture of the staff team at the Ontario Co-operative Association
  • A USB key with a tour of the current CYL campsite at the CEC and the Annabelle tour
  • A USB key with 2020 CYL webinars
  • A USB key with a virtual campfire activity
  • The 2020 CYL artwork project on the 5th Co-operative Principle
  • Statistics about co-operatives in Ontario
  • The prices of things today
  • Warm fuzzies from CYL participants and facilitators
  • A letter to the future CYL program director
New YouTube Video!
Our CYL YouTube channel has dropped a new video! Enjoy this wonderful baking segment with two incredible recipes from our CYL friends, Sue and Lily. They show us how to make Hello Dollies squares and chocolate peanut butter cookies – just in time for the holidays. Yum!
2021 Program Dates
We are very happy to announce the camp dates and that online registration for CYL 2021 is now open! If you are looking for a sponsor, please reach out to our Director at
Explorers (Ages 13 – 14)
A – July 18 – 23, 2021
B – July 25 – 30, 2021
C – August 1 – 6, 2021
Trailblazers (Ages 15-16)
A – August 8 – 13, 2021
B – August 15 – 20, 2021
Visionaries (Ages 17-18)
July 10 – 16, 2021

CYL Spotlight Story

Maya Linsley attended the CYL program for two years, and now she can’t see herself ever losing touch with the co-operative sector.
Maya is an 18-year-old university student studying English at the University of Victoria. She stumbled upon the CYL program when her mother began converting their architect firm into a co-operative. Her mother met our CYL Director, Carol Fleming, and shortly after, Maya was registered to attend CYL.
At CYL, Maya was able to spark her passion for leadership and co-operatives. Without the CYL program, Maya says that she wouldn’t be as co-op oriented.
“Before CYL, I took co-ops for granted – my family was involved, but I never thought too hard about it,” said Maya. “CYL unlocked a real passion in me.”
At CYL, participants are engaged in activities and ideas that all relate back to the co-operative sector and the seven international co-operative principles. Each level of CYL introduces participants to new concepts on leadership, teamwork, co-operatives and communication.
“Because CYL allowed me to realize what I love about leadership and co-operatives, it gave me a lot more confidence in my own ability to lead. With this confidence, I was able to approach my own initiatives with mindfulness and direction. I think of CYL as the thing that kickstarted many aspects of my identity and taught me that leadership is more than making big decisions and bossing people around.”
CYL also taught Maya about the power of the collective. In both academic and professional fields, Maya believes that this foundational principle will improve her ability to be successful in any situation.
“When I take on leadership positions today, I’m always guided by the co-op principles,” said Maya. “I think this has had a large impact on my approach to life.”
When asked why Maya would recommend the CYL program to other youth, she said that whether or not you choose to be involved in the co-op sector, the skills and friendships made at CYL will last you a lifetime. For Maya, the best part of CYL are the people. Overall, Maya’s experience at CYL was filled with a lot of growth and a ton of fun. She is still heavily involved in the co-op sector. She contributes to the CYL program, and she is currently on the board of directors at the Ontario Co-operative Association as the Youth Director.
Maya’s experiences at CYL are a testament to all of the great work that our staff and volunteers do all year to prepare for the program’s delivery. We are very lucky to continue to have such great volunteer facilitators and engaged participants to work with at CYL.
CYL Photo Flashback
Final Banquet, 2010                                          Spice Girls Air Band, 2008

The Director's Corner

"Education should not be the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”

— William Butler Yeats

During my decade-long involvement with CYL, I have seen countless inspired fires lit. Young leaders energized by their experience within the program and primed to participate in our sector.

However, frankly speaking, I’ve also witnessed too many of these fires fizzle shortly thereafter.

This is not due to an indifference or passivity on the participant’s part, it should be noted - but because of an oversight in our sector to recognize the immense potential of this program beyond simply the weeks spent at camp. The immense potential for both the participants and for our Co-ops.

Over the years, it’s been disheartening to observe a pattern of many co-op sponsored teens blossoming over three years of camp, and then returning for many years as invaluable, devoted, volunteer facilitators - while simultaneously fading away from the rest of our sector due to a lack of opportunities to engage.

Today, I’d like to shine a light on this missed opportunity - and issue a call to action.

CYL is much more than a camp. Or, at least it can be.

Without a doubt, the time spent with peers and mentors at the program is powerful - as was eloquently articulated by Sonja in last month’s newsletter.

But this transformative power has the potential to incite great change and growth in not only our young members, but also in our own co-ops and sector-at-large.

When we sponsor teens to attend CYL, we are outfitting them with the tools, information, and “spark” required to spread an awareness about our co-ops. However, all too often, I feel we neglect the critical next step: providing them with a platform or vehicle to apply these skills and promote our cause.

Within each co-op we craft elaborate marketing campaigns and discuss outside “influencers” and advertising angles, while sailing right by the fact that we already have a team of passionate ambassadors standing ready right in front of us, waiting for meaningful opportunities to get involved.

After we created the very successful All 4 Each project - an education initiative designed to support teachers in introducing co-ops into High Schools and Colleges - it was our CYL participants who helped to get it off the ground by doing the grassroots, word-of-mouth work of promoting the project within their schools and communities. We couldn’t have done it without them, and they were very proud to have taken part.

A quick Google search on topics such as “how to build a movement”, “how to engage members” and “most effective outreach campaigns” will consistently reveal a few key components:

1)     Identify and engage those who are passionate about your cause

2)     Outfit them with the tools and training necessary for success

3)     Allow them a voice, and provide them with meaningful, tangible, and mutually beneficial opportunities to get involved

And so, my call to action is this: when considering your co-op’s participation in sponsoring youth, look at CYL through a wider scope, a longer lens.

Regard the CYL camp as an amazing introduction, training ground and FIRST STAGE of a larger plan for your organization: a proven program to ignite and educate your young members, before they return to your co-op to be activated as a new generation of co-op ambassadors.

See CYL for what it is, as well as what it can be with a little extra elbow grease and progressive thinking: a fantastic chance to facilitate the growth of our young leaders while simultaneously strengthening the sustainability of, and engagement within our co-operatives.

Let us fan these excited fires and open our eyes to the new light and energy they provide.

Thanks for Your Support

Your kindness this past Giving Tuesday was greatly appreciated and has an incredible impact! Every donation to CYL makes a difference and helps us facilitate an even greater week at camp for every participant and facilitator. Your contributions to CYL make the work that we do possible. We thank you for helping more Ontario youth experience the magic and power of CYL. We also thank you for continuing to donate your time, attention and funds to a program that strives to change lives and make a difference in the co-operative sector.

How to Stay Engaged as an Alum

As a member of our awesome CYL Alumni Group, you may wonder how you can stay involved in CYL. We have a few suggestions for how you can engage in the work that we do:
  • Volunteer your time to CYL by becoming a facilitator for one of the weeks at camp - this involves joining us at the CEC for facilitator training one weekend in late May, and then joining us from Sunday to Friday for a week with participants. 
  • Make a donation to CYL to help us give youth a free week at camp, or help cover the costs for all the amazing activities we setup for our youth.
  • Promote the CYL program by sharing our posts on our social media channels including Facebook and our new Twitter page, or by letting your friends and family know about the program and promoting CYL through your co-operative or personal networks.
  • Contribute to the CYL Alumni Newsletter - by writing a piece for our CYL spotlight story on yourself or another alumni member, sending us throwback photos from your time at camp, or suggesting new topics to be written in our newsletter.
Remember to Officially Register for the CYL Alumni Group
You can formally register to be a part of the CYL Alumni Group! By creating an Alumni Group, we hope to help you reconnect with old friends, make new friends and remember what made CYL so special.  Your experiences are the same from many perspectives, but your journey to CYL and your path afterwards, may be very different. We can’t wait to see how this group grows and develops with your involvement!
Follow Us on Social Media!

Follow us on our various social media channels for more camp memories, CYL updates and more fun information you don’t want to miss by clicking the buttons below! You can also follow us on TikTok by searching for @cooperativeyoungleaders.
For all your  inquiries, contact CYL Program Director Carol Fleming at:
Tel: 519-763-8271 ext. 25
The OCA staff team, at their recent outdoor mini retreat near Rockwood ON (Lee not pictured), wish you all a very healthy, happy and safe holiday season, followed by a prosperous New Year. We look forward to connecting with you in 2021!
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To view a past CYL Alumni Newsletter, CLICK HERE.

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