Category: YMCA News

Individual impact on youth in the Y7G program


The high school drop-out rate in Calgary and Alberta is the highest in the country. Research shows that male and female students stop attending for very different reasons, but one key contributing factor is a lack of connection to their school.

Research shows that after-school programming can support the positive development of at-risk youth when it includes appropriate supervision and structure and competent qualified staff.  Practices that support the healing journey of Aboriginal youth involve addressing issues of cultural identity, social inclusion and mentoring.  They promote protective factors in youth and include Aboriginal cultural identity, adults modelling a healthy lifestyle, good physical and mental health, and healthy peer modelling.   Youth can reach their potential when connected with a positive adult, when they are connected to school and their community and when they can envision a positive future for themselves.

Our YMCA 7th Generation (Y7G) program is offered to aboriginal high school students in Calgary. It operates at three Calgary high schools and encompasses cultural teachings through storytelling, traditional activities, leadership skills, 7 Sacred Teachings, Medicine Wheel Teachings, Elders and cultural field trips.  Our partnership with the Calgary Board of Education enables the students in the YMCA 7th Generation Program to receive high school credits. It is a great opportunity for Aboriginal youth to reconnect with their heritage while building pride, a positive self-identity, and a positive connection to school.

Y7G participants connecting to culture through the program

On a blistery cold day in November 2015 the Y7G cohort gathered and made the journey to Blackfoot Crossing. This historic site is on the traditional land of the Blackfoot Confederacy and is where Treaty 7 was made between her Majesty the Queen and the Blackfoot people. There, the group was able to explore the life of the Blackfoot people before the signing of Treaty 7 – a rich cultural life that revolved primarily around their most important source of food, shelter, clothing, tools and spiritual connection with the buffalo. The group learned how drastically their ancestor’s lives changed when they no longer had buffalo to sustain their semi-nomadic way of life, and in turn how this led them to make Treaty with the federal government and its royal head of state. The chiefs and elders who were present on that historic day in 1877 had to struggle with a decision that would determine the well-being of generations to come – a true test of leadership that is difficult to imagine.

This was an unforgettable experience for both staff and participants alike. It was evident that the group was connecting with their history in ways that would not have been feasible in a classroom. The youth were able to walk the very ground where their ancestors made an enormous decision that would without a doubt have an immense impact on the generations that were to follow. Now, seven generations after this fateful event, the current generation of youth will soon step up as leaders and make decisions that will impact the next seven generations to come.
In spring 2016, the Y7G participants went to Writing on Stone Provincial Park. The bus ride to Writing on Stone was filled with chatter and laughter, as lasting friendships had flourished between the youth. This field trip was just south of Calgary where the land was still, quiet, and hauntingly beautiful. The river at Writing on Stone is surrounded by hoodoo rock formations (which legend tells were once people, petrified into the landscape), sacred hills where many had gone on vision quests, and massive rock faces filled with ancestral art. It was expressed by staff that you could “feel the land speak to you here, and it would tell you stories of the hundreds of ceremonies that had taken place in this sacred site.”

The group toured through paths that wound alongside rock faces that held the traditional ancestral art of the Blackfoot people. Incredibly this ancient form of communication was still evident, withstanding the test of time, bullet hole markings from Mounted Police target practice, and modern graffiti. Each picture tells a different story and can be interpreted many different ways by the various eyes that looked upon them. Consistently though, the images tell the story of the perseverance of Aboriginal people.

Being able to offer these types of experiential learning opportunities to our YMCA 7th Generation youth has had a tremendous impact on them. Connecting to the land, culture and history of indigenous people in a profound and meaningful way allows the youth to gain a sense of pride and self confidence in who they are. This is an essential building block for their successful transition into adulthood.

Thank you to our donors who have generously supported the Aboriginal Programs and Services department at YMCA Calgary.

  • United Way of Calgary and Area
  • The City of Calgary – Family and Community Support Services
  • MEG Energy Corp.
  • Anonymous Donor
  • The Calgary Foundation – The Moffat Family Fund
  • The Calgary Foundation – Anonymous Family Legacy Fund


To support YMCA Community programs, donate today.


Affordable Fitness in Calgary


On January 10, 2017, Saddletowne YMCA welcomed Global Calgary and host Leslie Horton to talk about affordable fitness and what YMCA Calgary has to offer. From conquering the climbing wall to spinning on the stationary bikes to an impromptu synchronized swimming duet, Leslie Horton and our staff had a fun time talking about YMCA Calgary’s fair-priced membership and classes. General Manager Tanya Connelly-Scott and Program Manager Steve Elliot were on site to discuss the value of YMCA membership and all of what the YMCA offers to those who come in our doors.


YMCA Calgary is more than just a gym, it is a community in which members and attendees feel welcome and supported with opportunities for the whole family. YMCA Calgary locations across the city are affordable and nobody is turned away due to financial need. This month is specifically cost-effective because we are waiving the joining fee for the month of January. That means you save up to $75! Not ready to join yet? We are also offering a seven-day free trial so you can try the Y for yourself! Additionally in 2017, for the second year straight, we will not be raising our membership price to make the YMCA fit into your budget even better.

Thank you so much to Global for joining us to discuss affordable fitness in Calgary!




Volunteer with Youth at Melcor YMCA at Crowfoot!

Are you looking to engage within your community? Instruct a new sport or provide leadership? We are looking for volunteers to work with youth in a variety of programs! Instructors follow a curriculum which helps youth build fundamental skills through physical literacy. Instructors will utilize their own experience, creativity, leadership and help youth grow into themselves and their community. Instructors choose a program to lead, volunteer 1.5 hours/week, gain leadership skills and participate in valuable training!group-diverse-sitting-close_78817786

Benefits of Volunteering:

  • Free Membership to the YMCA
  • Leadership experience
  • Looks great on your resume and we’d love to be your next reference!
  • Build a relationship with the YMCA – We may be your next dream job!


How to apply:

  • Fill out an application at the front desk or online.
  • Or contact David Francis to begin your volunteer journey with Melcor YMCA!

Sheena Swierenga’s announcement of the 2016 YMCA Calgary Leadership Awards

The 2016 YMCA Calgary Leadership Awards are the result of nominations from colleagues, supervisors and staff and recipients will receive $1000 for a professional development opportunity.

Before celebrating the 3 recipients, I wanted to acknowledge all the leaders who exist at YMCA Calgary. So many of you show up and deliver quality experiences to our members and program participants and lead successful teams. This is a testament to your resiliency and passion and is what makes the YMCA a place where so many belong and thrive.

This year’s three recipients possess different qualities which make them exceptional leaders, what links them all is the profound impact they have on those they serve – members, youth and their staff teams.

Maris Vazina supports indigenous youth of Calgary by creating a place for community that nurtures self esteem, self worth and healthy relationships. The result is strong and confident young people. Maris’s greatest strength comes from her ability to walk in two worlds and to support her youth as they wear a moccasin on one foot and a shoe on the other. She has built strong relationships with elders and applied their guidance and teachings into the Y7G program. Elder Randy Bottle would humbly call her “an ally, advocate and a strong woman with a heart of pure love for her youth”

Safety is a priority across the Y and the opening of an aquatics space in a new facility provides unique challenges and opportunities for leadership. Nick Mansfield, Aquatics Director at Remington faced challenges with a consistent positive and professional attitude. His quiet leadership means that every guard stepping on deck is supported and experiences a positive work environment. Nick tirelessly creates a strong sense of community by building relationships with each lane swimmer, swim lesson participant and parent. Nick’s determination and hard work continue to lead the Aquatics department at Remington to the accolades of members.

From successfully deescalating issues to creating a space for her staff team to cooperate and collaborate, Jill Harbour has made YMAP a place where staff and approximately 300 youth a week feel a sense of respect and belonging. Jill’s unwavering determination for building and improving YMAP has led to collaborations with other organizations, staff being successful in their program delivery and ensure the broader needs of the community are met. For program participants this means a program built on the foundations of trust, judgment free conversations and organically formed relationships that honour the individual. Jill’s approach to leading YMAP has made her a role model and ambassador of building healthy communities.

I am pleased to present Maris Vanzina, Nick Mansfield and Jill Harbour with the 2016 YMCA Calgary Leadership Award.

Community Outreach Participants Win Holiday Contest


The Community Outreach Department runs a School Support Program in the Beltline area at Connaught School that provides after school support for kids aged 7-12. 

Program participants went out into their local community to learn about the meaning of community, how they can get involved and what are the needs of their community.

As part of the Lougheed House celebration this year, they held their annual gingerbread house contests with a fire hall theme.  Lougheed house and the Firefighters Museum of Calgary joined efforts for their Pomp and Circumstance exhibit.  This exhibit explores the history of Calgary fire brigade and how they have impacted the Calgary community.

Our participants worked hard on their gingerbread house during program and were given the opportunity to present their creation at the Lougheed House on November 18th 2016 to the local fire crew on site. 

Today, Lougheed House announced that the participants at the Connaught YMCA School Support program were named the winners of this year’s contest!  Their creation will be on display at the Lougheed House until January 29th 2017.

A big congratulations to our participants at the Connaught School Support program and their leaders; Owini and Wendy. 




Christmas Tree Sales at Melcor YMCA in Crowfoot

Tis the season to be jolly! This year, support Melcor YMCA youth leadership programs with your Christmas tree purchase! Bring the spirit home by purchasing a YMCA Christmas Tree. Trees are available at the Melcor YMCA in Crowfoot. You may purchase a tree for $5.00 per foot. We will be selling trees from now and until we sell out!

Stop by the front desk for more information, call 403-547-6576 or look for the YMCA Leadership groups awaiting your donation in our lobby after school hours. Follow the Christmas music to find them! The proceeds from your purchase will allow our YMCA leaders to attend the Western Canadian Leadership Conference held in February and fund the YMCA Strong Kids Campaign! These leaders meet every week to gain skills and to give back within their communities!

We thank you for your generous support and we hope you find your perfect tree to light up your home during the holiday season!winter-teen-group-outside_54060982

New YMCA Youth Basketball Leagues

Invented in 1891 by a Canadian YMCA Physical Education Director, basketball has a special at the YMCA.


We’re getting back to our basketball roots this winter and we’re continuing on our mission to develop the spiritual, mental, physical and social development of the community by offering basketball leagues.

YMCA Calgary will offer youth basketball leagues from ages 5 – 17 (age groups offered vary between locations).  Based on the national Steve Nash Basketball program, our leagues will include one practice and one game on set days each week.

Our leagues will promote friendly competition, include intentional, progressive skill development and will teach kids sportsmanship and team skills. A fun way to build friendships, keep active and build life-long skills.

CLICK HERE to register.

Active Exercise Recovery

You train hard and recovery is an important part of that program.  Recovery is important for many reasons.  Recovery allows the body time to adapt to a workout program.  It allows time for the body to repair tissue that has been damaged working out as well as replenishing depleted energy stores.  It also allows the body the rest required to keep from over training and eventually burning out.

Active recovery really means a day off – from your program.  That means that you take a day to live your life actively or doing a workout that is less intense.  This could be walking the dog, enjoying a yoga class, going for a swim or bike ride, hiking, stretching, or even grabbing a foam roller for some much needed self-myofascial release (SMR).

Rest and relaxation refers to the down time away from training altogether, allowing the body the needed time to do those tissue repairs, strengthen, and replenish.


Influence and Inspire positive change at the YMCA

Each year YMCA Calgary gives the community an opportunity to provide feedback on our facilities, programs, services and more through the YMCA Annual Impact Survey.

Feedback helps us identify ways to better meet the needs and expectations of those who use YMCA Calgary facilities and who participate in programs.  Feedback from the community influences and inspires us to evolve and change.

Following completion of the 10 – 20  minute survey, respondents will have the opportunity to enter to win great prizes (one-month Plus Membership/upgrade, heart rate monitor, gym bag and more!).

Help us provide quality facilities, programs and services and help inspire us to do more by completing YMCA Calgary’s Annual Impact Survey.  Survey must be completed by November 30, 2016.  Click here to get started.




Finding connection and community at the YMCA

Long-time volunteer Cindy Pocza finds connection and community at the Shawnessy YMCA

Cindy Pocza moved to Calgary’s deep south just as the Shawnessy YMCA opened in 2002. An experienced fitness instructor, Pocza offered her services. She’s been volunteering there ever since.


For Pocza, volunteering is a way to stay fit and active. More importantly, it keeps her connected to her community. “I just love the interaction with other people. You get to know everyone, and you can learn from them and give back —to me that’s the greatest thing. Just having that connection and being able to help others and have them help you.”

As a fitness volunteer, Pocza teaches exercise classes including a morning cycle class, YBO (a martial-arts aerobics activity similar to kickboxing)

and sometimes step aerobics and interval training. “They also have programs for teenagers through Bishop O’Byrne High School, so I volunteer for some of those when I can fit it in.”

One of more than 400 volunteers at the Shawnessy YMCA, Pocza teaches for a couple of hours each week — more when her schedule as

a full-time accountant allows. “I’m there all the time. I help out whenever I can. “Pocza says the YMCA has become a true gathering place for Shawnessy and the surroundingarea. “We never had anything like that in the community before, where we could all come together in one location and share whatever we’re sharing.”

Former Shawnessy YMCA general manager (and current Remington YMCA general manager) Jenny Miron says it’s not unusual to see people from a wide range of ages and backgrounds using the facility. “We see every type of person, from newborn babies to people in their 90s. Young families, single adults — there’s a whole variety of folks coming in, all for different reasons. Some people come because they’re new to the community, some have a specific fitness goal, some want their kids to learn to swim or socialize.”

In the past, Pocza has worked as a fitness instructor in conventional gyms, through the City of Calgary and the YWCA. She enjoyed all those experiences, but to her the YMCA feels like home. “It’s comfortable. It’s easygoing. Anybody can come in and join the class.”

Miron says that because the YMCA relies so much on volunteers to handle everything preschool and youth programs to the conditioning centre, member services and babysitting, the atmosphere can’t help but be welcoming. “They don’t have to be here; they choose to be here. Our staff and our

volunteers create a great energy, and our members feel that.” Currently, Pocza is training through the provincial government’s Living Well Program to

gain her Older Adult Certification. The program assists people with critical illnesses when they return to their communities. Once certified, Pocza intends to bring her skills and training to her community through the YMCA.

She plans to stick around for a long time. “Many of the volunteers have been here forever, and it’s the same with members. I’ll be here when I’m 80.”

– by Julia Williams