Scavenger Hunt!

During our first few days of a new school year, it’s important for us to spend time together to help the students settle into the new routine, become comfortable with staff and their peers, as well as familiarize them with the school setting. We had some exciting renovations to part of the building over the summer, so both new and returning students had some exploring to do! We planned a fun scavenger hunt for everyone to participate in with their Advisory Groups. 

The main goals of the scavenger hunt were to help the students feel confident in their surroundings as well as show them how to find key locations in the building such as the bathrooms, their locker, Lareesa & Brittany’s offices, the gym, and Steve’s office. 

There was an additional challenge to take fun and creative photos at certain locations. Take a look at some of the fun we had!

Mascot MAY-hem

The school spirit committee had an exciting announcement early in May – we are pleased to share that we will be implementing a SCHOOL MASCOT! We think this will be a fun way to increase team spirit and allow our students to explore their creative sides.

We had so many excellent submissions from students in both the middle school and high school, with fantastic descriptions of how their designs reflect the YMCA Academy’s school spirit, values, and student population.

Once we had all our submissions, the students had a week to vote on their favourite, with 42% choosing… drumroll please… MASCOT MARS!

One of our grade 11 students, Lex, submitted a cartoon version of our therapy dog (in training), Mars! Although Mars has got a way to go in her training and she’s still very shy, she’s won the hearts of our student body. She will now represent our school in more ways than one – Congratulations Lex, on your winning design!

A new four legged staff member!

Thanks to your fantastic fundraising efforts last Spring, we are thrilled to announce a new-ish addition to our YMCA Academy team; Mars!

We worked with an organization called “Companion Paws Canada” to find a rescue dog for the role! We loved that this organization rescues pups from shelters rather than breeding for their program. Mars came from a kill shelter in Texas, and she was only three days away from being euthanized, simply due to overcrowding.

Mars arrived in Canada on August 13th 2022 and her new paw-rent, Brydie, picked her up in Niagara Falls. As she is a rescue dog, she was very timid and needed to learn the basics. She’s come a long way since she arrived in Canada but given her history of being a stray, she’s still got some work to do before she can take the test to become a certified assisted therapy dog.

Mars has passed two training courses so far and is currently working on building her confidence in busy settings and with meeting new people. She attends the Academy daily with Brydie, and has made herself very much at home in the staff room! She’s started 1:1 and in small groups training sessions with some dog savvy students who are supporting her training – it’s been a great experience for Mars and the students! Given her background, she does take a while to feel safe and warm up to people, but she’s come on leaps and bounds with only good things to come!

Keep your eyes peeled for more posts about her on our blog, Instagram, and Facebook accounts!

“Mars is really adorable and looks like a hotdog. She helps me change my attitude when I’m feeling down. I like it when she comes to class.” – Dushan R.

“She’s very helpful, playful, interactive with people and very friendly when she gets used to you.” – Joseph W

“Mars is a sweet and caring girl and she is cuddly and soft” – Claire K

“She gives me kisses and she’s so adorable. I like hanging out with her and running on the terrace with her” – Asher A

“Mars is nice. She licks me on the hand. It tickles and makes me feel very talented” – David B

Value Awards

As a YMCA program, we strive to uphold the YMCA’s core values; Inclusiveness, Integrity, Kindness, Optimism, Respect, and Well-Being. We see our students demonstrate these values every day, but each year we recognize students who have been selected by their peers as someone who exemplifies each of these values.

As we approach the end of the 2023 school year, we would like to take the time to acknowledge our 2022 winners who have continued to uphold these values.

Inclusiveness: Sammy E
The award for Inclusiveness recognizes the student who ensures that all students, staff, friends and visitors at the Academy are made to feel welcomed and valued for their gifts, talents and contributions to the community. This student helps others, doesn’t judge people and welcomes anyone who seems like they need a friend or helping hand.

Integrity: Ben S
The award for Integrity recognizes the student who demonstrates a willingness to receive and offer feedback about strengths and areas for improvement and who always maintains the highest degree of honesty and truth in their relationships with others. They stick to their values and say their authentic feelings, ideas and beliefs.

Kindness: Griffin H
The award for Kindness recognizes the student who demonstrates a capacity for developing genuine relationships with others and who carefully weighs the needs of the individual and the community when making decisions. They take an active role in the happiness of others and above all else, show compassion for others.

Optimism: Sam C
The award for Optimism recognizes the student who demonstrates an attitude of positivity in their identity and voice at the Academy. They are hopeful and work hard to see the positive side of things. They believe they have the skill and ability to make good things happen!

Respect: Ella K
The award for Respect recognizes the student who is developing a greater sense of self and their place in the world. This student treats others the way they would want to be treated, pays attention and listens in all situations. They recognize the value in all people.

Wellbeing: Lex B
The award for Well-Being recognizes the student who has become to incorporate into their young life a valuing of well-being and who is developing attitudes and habits that promote healthy living in a holistic way. The student not only values physical fitness, but values emotional, mental and spiritual fitness as well.

YMCA Academy Community Involvement Award: Ally B
This award is presented to a senior student that shows exceptional commitment and dedication to all facets of the YMCA Academy school experience. This student demonstrates an unparalleled investment when supporting the community life of the Academy, including involvement in school events both at the school and events involving our many partnering organizations.

Back Again at Cedar Glen!

There are many things we have all missed out on over the past two years. As life continues to flow ever closer to normalcy, we are all benefiting from being able to do the things we have not been able to. One of those things here at the Academy is the annual expedition to Cedar Glen. Although we were able to do a day trip there last year, is it really a Cedar Glen trip if it isn’t overnight? This school year, the school was once again able to journey to our 262 Acre home away from home, a pilgrimage we look forward to with excitement.

Our trip this year started on Wednesday October 19. After packing up 3 buses with bags, students and staff, the school made its way to Schomberg Ontario where Cedar Glen is situated. As always, our trip began with the students rotating between volunteering on the farm and playing various field games led by the amazing Cedar Glen staff. After lunch the Navy and Maroon squads faced off in a forty five minute game of capture the flag. Students zipped, dodged and zagged to steal each others’ flags while trying to avoid capture. Having moved into cabins and with food in everyone’s belly, students spent the evening doing various indoor activities as the weather outside although not frightful was bad enough to prevent the campfire and night hike.

Thursday morning’s activities had students choosing to partake in one of several activities. While some tested their balance on the low ropes course or played various field or arctic games, others tried channelling their inner Legolas at the archery range. The main focus of Thursday, however, was the fourth annual instalment of the Academy Games. Although young in its inclusion into the Cedar Glen trip, the Academy Games has very quickly become a source of fierce competition between the school’s to squads. Reigning three time champions Maroon were looking to defend their unbroken streak of victories to steal a fourth win, while the Navy team aspired to dethrone Maroon’s string of successes.

After lunch, both squads gathered to receive this year’s team swag which were Navy and Maroon hoodies. With their newly acquired swag on, and some previous ones as well, both teams faced one another and cheered off, trying to outdo one another. When both teams quieted, the official start of the games was announced and both teams ventured to their first stations. After about two and a half hours, the squads slowly started gathering at the final station that pits Navy and Maroon in a fire building competition that is mired in much controversy. The Navy team was first to show up with two of its four squads. Eventually a Maroon team arrived and in the blink of an eye, all four teams from each squad were present.

After looking over penalties and rewards gathered during the game, it was an even start for both teams. With representatives chosen for each team, it was now up to a few members to build the fastest and tallest fire in order to burn through three heights of rope before the other team. Both teams started slowly, battling the dampness in a lot of the tinder, kindling and wood they had gathered from the multiple bouts of precipitation from the day before, and that very morning. Eventually, the Maroon team’s flames started to rise and reach ever higher. The Navy team battled relentlessly to catch up, but had difficulty getting their fire to hold long enough to ignite the larger pieces of kindling and wood. Eventually, time and circumstances conspired against a first ever Navy win, and with the third and highest rope burnt through, the Maroon squad secured its fourth straight Academy Games championship, and still remains undefeated.
Both sides walked back to the main cabin together for dinner. One student disclosed that they had hidden some wood for next year’s game! After dinner students finally got to enjoy the campfire that was cancelled the night before as well as a night hike for those who wanted one.

On our last day we took part in our usual ritual of doing more archery and playing the now infamous teachers vs. students animal survival game in the woods. Eating one last meal at lunch, students packed up the buses and headed back to the Academy. Despite the weather not being great the first two days, everyone toughed out the elements and had a great time. This year’s experience at Cedar Glen was special. It brought everyone another sense of normalcy from the past, and gave an opportunity for some to experience Cedar Glen in its truest form for the first time. We can’t wait to be back next year.

Check out the rest the rest of the pictures on our Facebook page!

Album One | Album Two | Album Three