CYL Alumni

The CYL program has been a significant part of the Ontario Co-operative Association since its inception in 1967. Each year, we are fortunate enough to gather nearly 100 participants and facilitators at camp. But we don’t want the impact and memories to end – that's why we created the CYL Alumni Instagram and Facebook pages - to keep the fun going! Make new connections, share lasting memories and form relationships with other like-minded people from the co-operative sector! You can follow the Instagram page @cylalumnigroup and join the Facebook group by completing this form. Check out the Alumni Facebook page here! Once you've done that, check out some of the memories that past alumni have shared with us, and if you keep scrolling, you can learn a bit about the people who ran CYL, past and present!

Past CYL Alumni Share their Memories on the Facebook page...
"I am the sixth of the life-long friend group. I attended CYL in 2011 and 2012 and I was sponsored by Gay Lea Foods Co-operative. I originally grew up in Grey-Bruce County on a farm, but I am now in London for school. CYL was an unforgettable experience and is responsible for some of my favourite memories growing up!"  - Nevinn Becker 
"Hi everyone! I participated in CYL as a participant in 2011 and 2012 thanks to Windsor Family Credit Union, and then as a facilitator in 2019, as I now work with Libro Credit Union! CYL has given me so many opportunities and ignited my love for co-ops when I was a teen. I'm so happy this group was started and I hope to get in touch with others that also love CYL!" - Cassie Hunter
"Hi! I was a participant with CYL from 2002 - 2004 and I did an advanced weekend in 2005. I then facilitated with the Gay Lea Foods Co-operative team almost every year from 2006 - 2013. I now work as an RN at McMaster Children's Hospital and have two amazing children. CYL had a huge impact on my life and I still miss it every summer!" - Kelsey Nash
"I was a CYL participant in 1995, 1997 and 1998 and was sponsored by Libro Credit Union (then St. Willibrord Credit Union). I facilitated for many years from 2001 - 2007 and worked for OCA as the Youth Program Co-ordinator over the summers of 2002 and 2003. I also received the Co-operative Youth Leader Spirit Award in 2003. After graduating from the University of Guelph in 2004 (where many classmates were also CYL alumni!), I started my career with Libro Credit Union and stayed until my oldest daughter was born in 2012. My husband and I farm near Statford with our four kids and continue to be a member of numerous co-ops and credit unions. CYL developed my leadership and public speaking skills and introduced me to many life-long friends, a career, and a way of business that works. I hope my kids will be able to attend CYL when they are old enough!" - Krista De Groot
"Hi everyone! I'm Emma Denotter and I attended CYL from 2011 - 2013. I was sponsored by AGRIS Co-operative and currently work for for AGRIS as a grain originator! I was a facilitator in 2018 and I hope to faciliate again in the coming years. My involvement with the CYL program has opened many doors for me, including the opportunity to attend the GROWMARK Annual General Meeting in Chicago and speak infront of a crowd of over 1,000 people! I currently live in Kingsville with my husband and help out on both our family farms." - Emma Denotter
"I participated in CYL from 2006 - 2008 and it was an awesome experience! The fashion shows, lip synch battles, massage trains, and helping sessions were particulary memorable. I now live in Toronto with my fiancé and our cat, and I work as an Epidemiologist. I'll always look back on CYL fondly, and it puts a smile on my face when old pictures pop up in my Facebook memories." - Allie Piat

CYL Directors' Spotlight
Carol Fleming, Director, CYL (2019 - present)

It has been one of the great joys of my life to be a facilitator at CYL for the last 18 years, and now the Director of the CYL program. My path to CYL was a “road less travelled” for sure. It was something I never anticipated doing as my feet were firmly planted in the world of credit and financial counselling for adults. What I was about to find out is how working with youth and other facilitators from the co-operative sector would provide me with the skills I needed to help youth members at our credit union, and focus on the larger co-operative sector. 

As I look back on my co-operative journey I know that working in the co-operative sector was something I was meant to do. I started my career in the financial world at a bank, and after a couple of years moved to work at a credit union, and the difference was very noticeable. The credit union way was definitely a kinder, gentler world that really focused on the helping members achieve their life goals. 

My first introduction to the larger co-operative sector came when I began my journey at CYL. Although I had spent many years working for credit unions, the provincial central and the credit union MasterCard Company, I was never really exposed to non-financial co-operatives. Read more... 

Kerr Smith, OCA Education Manager (2010 - 2015)

"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-operatives.

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. Read more...

Sonja Carrière, CYL Program Director (2008 - 2010)

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you say, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” - Maya Angelou

When I think of CYL, I cannot help but smile. I get warm fuzzies reflecting on my time in the program as a participant (1999-2001), facilitator (2003-2012), Program Coordinator (2005-2007) and Camp Director (2008-2010). 

As a first time participant, I remember feeling so anxious the closer I got to camp. I had no idea what to expect, no idea the profound impact that this program would have on my life. I went from being hesitant about approaching the facilitators and entering the facility to devastated that I had to leave just a week later. I am not alone.

So, what is this CYL magic that draws us all in and keeps us all wanting to come back for more? For one, it is the courageous individuals that enter as strangers and leave as friends. Additionally, it is the barriers that we break down and the masks we leave behind as we begin to realize that we can truly be ourselves in this safe space, where we will not only be accepted but encouraged and celebrated. Furthermore, it is finding power in working as a collective instead of having to stand on our own as an individual. Read more...