Camp Rainbow, now known as The YES, was brought over from Saskatchewan in the 1970’s by Cliff Monteith as a Co-operative Youth Leadership Camp. It was originally established to teach youth to be future directors of credit unions and co-operatives.
Under the direction of people like Bryan Robinson of Nanaimo, a long-time co-op volunteer and founding director of RYES, the program began to concentrate on personal development skills (often now referred to as "life skills") as a basic prerequisite for leadership.
The camp became a "permanent fixture" when its management was assigned to CUPAC Services Ltd., a community-service based subsidiary of BC Central CU. CUPAC manager Ted Blair, along with Bryan Robinson and other volunteers (usually employees of Co-ops and Credit Unions), broke the program into four areas of concentration:
· Self Awareness
· Communication Skills
By the early 1980s it had evolved into two one-week basic programs hosting from 80 - 100 participants, all 14 - 16 year olds sponsored exclusively by co-ops and credit unions and became know as "Camp Rainbow".
The name "Camp Rainbow" was derived from the Rainbow flag, symbol of the International Co-operative Alliance.
Due to participants' requests to keep coming back, an advanced program was developed with 4 main topics (Crossroads, Pathways to Success, Turning Points and Building Bridges) presented on a four year rotation so that participants could continue attendance up to age 18.
Returning participants developed an immense loyalty to the program and its sponsors, and developed many very useful skills, and soon became a recruiting ground for volunteer camp staff. By the mid to late 80's it became evident that the most effective presenters were often the returning participants and the concept of, "for youth, of youth, by youth" soon guided our program design and delivery methods.
Although the program topics remained consistent from camp to camp, the actual program was personalized to the talents and skills of the volunteer presenters. By the early 90's, special skills in first aid and crisis counselling were added to the program staffing requirements.
In 1990, CUPAC Services Ltd. was dissolved by the Credit Union system. In an effort to keep The YES/Camp Rainbow program alive, 5 volunteers formed the RAINBOW YOUTH EXCELLENCE SOCIETY (RYES). At that time, all formal connections to the co-op and Credit Union systems were lost, but the program and its intents remained unchanged. Individual co-ops and Credit Unions continued to sponsor individuals to the week-long programs.
In 1992 a resolution was passed at BC Central's semi-annual meeting to contribute 2.5 cents per credit union member to RYES from dues funding. After two three-year trials, the funding arrangement was made permanent. BC Central is now known as Central1.
In 1993 efforts were made to expand the program (to make it self-sustaining) by doing workshops for specific clients such as School Districts, often sponsored by local CU's. The goal was to finance a full time office and manager, as it became apparent to the directors that "part time" or "volunteer only" wasn't going to make it without direct administrative support of the sponsor base.
In 1998 an alliance was formed between RYES and the BC office of the Canadian Cooperative Association (CCA-BC). CCA-BC, whose members include co-ops and credit unions from around the province, identified youth services as a priority for their activities, and RYES and CCA-BC formed a partnership for the administration of Camp Rainbow and the CCA-BC Youth Programs. CCA-BC has since incorporated provincially as an independent organization and thus goes by the name BC Co-operative Association (BCCA).
RYES became The Youth Excellence Society or YES in 2005 following a review of our branding and further work was put into developing classroom and leadership workshops for youth across the province.
In 2009 the summer programs offered by The YES expanded, with a total of six weeks of summer programming; four weeks of Roots (14-16 year olds) and two weeks of Pathways (16-18 year olds). Along with our fall Reunion camp.
In 2012 The YES ran our first school change program called Change it Up! offering a pilot program in 100 Mile House BC.
In 2015 The YES board decided to end the administrative contract with BCCA and look to keep expanding the program and it’s impact on BC’s youth and the cooperative movement.
Currently The YES runs our six weeks of summer camps, our reunion program, multiple weeks of classroom workshops around BC, Change it Up! programs on request, as well as professional development workshops for educators, staff teams at co-ops and credit unions, and customized workshops for other school groups and organizations.
We serve over 90 communities throughout BC, benefit from the generosity of over 50 sponsors and donors annually, and continue to provide excellence in leadership and self-development programming for youth across the province.