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Creating a Co-Op That Can Last

We can do better when all work together. Just ask Emily Nail, executive director for The Cooperative Council of North Carolina, an organization created to educate, promote, and connect cooperatives from all industries across NC.

She has many responsibilities in her role as executive director, but of the biggest is coordinating the Cooperative Leadership Camp. Held each summer in White Lake, NC, the week-long camp is open to rising high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Through energetic and interactive workshops and presentations, students make lasting friendships with youth from across the state. All the while learning about the benefits of a cooperative-first mindset.

The camp, which just marked its 68th anniversary, is a highlight for the more than 50 students who attend each year. “It’s an intense week,” Emily notes. “The campers elect a board, start a member-owned co-op, and then sell a product. At the end of the week, they decide where the profits should go.”

What’s even better? The entire camp is free for those who attend. “Thanks to our generous sponsors, we can ensure students, no matter their background, have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Nail notes.

A proud supporter of co-ops, Coastal paid the way for 8 teens in 2016.

“But Coastal doesn’t just sponsor. They actively participate in the program,” Nail notes. “They volunteer their own staff to come teach one of our most popular workshops, The Reality of Money.” In the workshop, students enact different life scenarios to see the ways money factors into decisions.

How popular is the class? Just ask Susie, a 2016 camper, “I really enjoyed the Reality of Money. Thank you for making my summer camp an amazing experience. I will cherish these memories forever.”

And it’s not just memories and friends made at camp. It can have far longer reaching benefits, as well. “We had one former camper go on to become COO of an electric co-op,” Nail says. “They come here for a week, but we hope we can leave them with a lifetime of learning.”

Go to to learn more about the camp and how you can get involved.