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GEN NEXT is all about the future for Canadian Federation of University Women

July 8, 2021   ·   0 Comments

For nearly 65 years, the Aurora and Newmarket chapter of the Canadian Federation of University Women has been focused on empowering women’s lives and promoting education.

Now boasting more than 220 members and becoming one of the network’s largest clubs in Canada, the organization is focused firmly on the future with the launch of GEN NEXT, a new virtual community specifically designed for young women 18+.

GEN NEXT was officially launched by the Canadian Federation of University Women Aurora-Newmarket (CFUW) last Monday, June 28, with an online meet-and-greet and keynote address by business leader Leah Taylor Roy.

“Our GEN NEXT vision is to empower women in their lives through friendship, through education, through outreach and advocacy,” says CFUW’s Grace Cantarutti. “Our members are active in many disciplines: public affairs, working to raise social, economic and legal status of girls and women, as well as improving education, the environment, peace, justice and human rights. Our goal is to get younger women engaged in this vision that we all share.”

GEN NEXT, she says, is focused on three key pillars: Learn, Achieve and Lead and they hope to only grow from there.

“We want to develop an ambassador program and mentorship program with some of our more established members mentoring these young ladies as they move forward,” says Ms. Cantarutti. “We have a lot of accomplished women in their careers from many walks of life and I believe being able to provide mentorship [is important]. I know as a former Guidance Department head I often heard young ladies say, ‘I just wish I had a mentor, someone I could go to to help me as I go through my early stages of career and education.’”

The seeds for the GEN NEXT initiative were planted by just one such young woman.

The CFUW has a charitable trust raising money to provide awards to secondary school students.

One of last year’s award recipients said they wanted to stay engaged and involved in the group and that, in turn, sparked a conversation about just how to achieve that.

“We’re finding this is an opportunity to get some of the younger ladies in the community involved,” says Ms. Cantarutti. “Hopefully our girls are learning as well through our speaker series and attendance is one of our measurable goals. If at the end we see them leading and taking on new projects that are of interest to them and developing new skills, new projects, events and interest groups, then we will know we’ve probably been met with some success.”

The CFUW hopes to meet monthly and have speakers lined up that will speak to such varying subjects as wellness and self-care, mental health, managing finances, and how to prepare for success in the job market.

“Our tagline is, ‘Do you want to make a difference?’ and I think that is going to be the focus. We want these [young women] to be part of a vibrant conversation around change and having read their applications for these awards, these are all young women who definitely have the skills already to make change in their communities. That’s the pitch for potential new members: ‘Do you want to make a difference and do you want to be a voice of change?’”

GEN NEXT is just one of several ongoing initiatives of the CFUW. In addition to their focus on education, members recently hosted a Care-to-Share dinner and virtual cooking class where more than 130 Federation members, members of the Aurora Seniors’ Centre, and community members at large purchased meals that included a $10 food bank donation benefiting the Aurora Food Pantry, King Township Food Bank and the Newmarket Food Pantry, each of which received a donation of $500 from the cause.

“Food insecurity has had an impact on the residents of York Region, so we felt compelled to support the families who struggle to put good food on the table because of layoffs and the economic downturn caused by the pandemic,” said CFUW Aurora-Newmarket Social Committee Chair Carolynn Schiller.

This year’s Care-to-Share dinner was once again held remotely and featured a three-course meal and lessons on French cuisine led by Chef Martial of Le Brehandaise Market.

“The support and generosity made this event a great success – it was the perfect way to end our year,” said Anne Marie Devine, Communications Chair for the Group. “We appreciate how our members and the community rallies behind our fundraising events to support projects like this as well as our scholarship program.”

For more on the Canadian Federation of University Women Aurora/Newmarket, as well as GEN NEXT, visit

By Brock Weir
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter



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