TransfORming Our Globe – Margaret Coons ‘08

For this month’s installment of the TransfORming Our Globe series, we’re sharing the story of alumna, Margaret Coons ‘08, who has developed a unique alternative to dairy cheese using cashew milk and is now selling her products throughout Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes.

Margaret began her Ridley career in 2006, as a Grade 11 student. Passionate about sports, she joined the harriers, rugby and swim team; enjoying the physical activity that was and is such a crucial part of a Ridley education. After graduating from Ridley in 2008, Margaret attended the University of Western Ontario and pursued a degree in English Language and Literature.

It was while she attended university that Margaret found a job that combined her love of cooking, vegetarianism, and acute business sense. She began work at a vegetarian restaurant in London, Ontario and quickly assumed the role of chef and restaurant manager.

“I had the opportunity to perform cooking demonstrations on the local television stations and at the annual ‘Veg Fest’… in London and over the years of working as a chef greatly enjoyed creating recipes and alternative versions of more conventionally available foods” – Margaret Coons ’08

The retirement of the restaurant owner and the imminent closing of the restaurant granted Margaret the opportunity to begin designs on owning and operating her own business. The result was Nuts For Cheese, a product-based food manufacturing company that makes artisan dairy free cheeses from cultured organic cashew milk. Margaret was making many of these cheeses for the restaurant and for her own enjoyment so, in May of 2015, she decided to open a farmers’ market booth in London to sell the five varieties of vegan cheese.

The demand for this cheesy alternative was high and Margaret soon found she was renting out kitchen space late at night to make cheese for the farmers’ market and the retail accounts she had accrued. From there, Margaret has grown her business to include its own manufacturing plant distributing to nearly 50 retail locations across the country. Margaret hopes to continue to grow Nuts For Cheese into a product that is available in specialty food shops across the country as well as show people just how delicious vegan cheeses can be.

Margaret says her time at Ridley taught her a lot about discipline and focus.

“The skills that running my own business requires are backed up by an ability to be dedicated to my work and passionate about what I put my time into.” – Margaret Coons ’08

Working with food and creating new recipes are Margaret’s favourite aspect of her career. Having been a vegetarian since age 12 and having always possessed a love of cooking, she feels this is the ideal career for her to channel those passions. Margaret also enjoys working as a business owner with her great team and connecting with the “supportive and inspiring” small business support network. Her love of great vegan alternatives continues to motivate her personally and professionally.

“Consumers of products like ours have for a long time been faced with the decision to purchase low quality alternatives, giving vegan food products a bad name, or to forgo consuming a certain type of food for a variety of ethical or health reasons. Making cheese products available to people who can’t or don’t eat dairy for whatever reason is very exciting for us.”                        – Margaret Coons ’08

Margaret’s advice to any young Ridleans about to explore their academic and/or professional careers is to throw yourself at whatever you’re doing without overthinking it too much. While she says her unique career in vegan cheese was “almost by accident”, the success she has enjoyed thus far was a result of passion and deliberate dedication to her project.


TransfORming Our Globe is a blog series where we share the exciting stories of alumni who are leading flourishing lives and changing the world. It is important to Ridley College to support our alumni and share the stories of Old Ridleians, who discovered their passion and found success and happiness down the path of their choosing.

Do you know of any classmates that are living flourishing lives or transforming our globe? Email any suggestions for the TransfORming Our Globe blog series to development@ridleycollege.com.

Students Think Big at Annual Model U.N. Conference

During the February long weekend, a group of students, along with their supervisors, travelled to Washington, D.C. for the 54th annual North American Invitational Model United Nations, hosted by Georgetown University‘s International Relations Association. This annual trip is an opportunity for our Ridleians to gain experience, develop research and thinking skills, and engage in great discussions about current global issues.

With over 160 schools and 3,500 students from around the world present, this event is a superb opportunity for students to network with peers. The Ridley College Model United Nations team – made up of Ridley’s model U.N., politics and debating clubs – was comprised of students from seven countries; adding to the diversity of the prestigious experience.

  

In addition to the debates and discussions that took place at the Model U.N. Conference, the students had the opportunity to listen and engage with experts on topics within international relations. One of the highlights was Retired Under Secretary of State for International Security Affairs, Thomas Countryman’s keynote address.

While in D.C., our students were able to explore Washington’s vast cultural and political offerings – from the African American Museum of Culture and History to the Lithuanian Embassy.

“Reflecting on my weekend in D.C., I will have a lifetime of memories with friends, teachers and new friends I’ll never forget. I have learned exactly the format of real UN Conferences and now create awareness for new issues and resolutions discussed around the world through different conferences. My collaboration skills improve year by year through these experiences, and will definitely continue to only get better in the future.” – Bart Scala ‘19

“The MUN to trip to D.C. was a wonderful experience. That was my first time visiting the USA and I really enjoyed it. I had the chance learn about US and also take part in MUN and improve myself.” – Alp Sagra ‘18

“I got to know more about United Nations and different people. I went to Washington for the first time.  This was a great experience. I learned a lot and MUN indeed expanded my horizon.” – Nicole Liu ’19

The Speaking Arts at Ridley continue to thrive, thanks to the support of parents, faculty and of course, the W. Darcy McKeough ’51 Fund. The importance placed on debating, public speaking and active global commitment engages students and student interest has grown, year after year. This year’s Model U.N. Conference trip was a chance for our Speaking Arts students to further instill a love for this co-curricular, while contributing to the wider community.

Musicians Come Together for Annual String Fling

Melodic notes filled the halls of Ridley College last week, for the second annual Spring Fling workshop and concert. Young string musicians from Ridley and the local community joined together for workshops on both February 2nd and 3rd, and performed a spectacular performance to conclude the event.

The workshops – led by special guests, Dr. Metro Kozak and the Walker String Quartet – were an opportunity for the students to synchronize, while preparing for the Friday night concert. Each session was specialized for the group of students participating and which ensemble they were a member of: String Fling Orchestra, String Fling Quartet, Chamber Orchestra or Junior Chamber Strings.

After an enlightening two days of musical training, the students were ready to showcase their talents during a performance in the Mandeville Theatre. Over 60 students who filled the stage had the chance to play alongside professional string musicians and workshop mentors, The Walker String Quartet. Ten songs were performed; ranging from historic pieces by Mozart, to cinematic songs from major motion pictures. Our special guest, Dr. Metro Kozak led the students gracefully through each piece as their conductor, while the audience remained captivated in their seats.

“The students at Ridley were very open to new concepts and were cooperative. Many of them were relatively new to their instruments and made terrific strides in their abilities. All in all, an exciting event.” – Dr. Metro Kozak

This musical experience gave our students a chance to bond with individuals from our local community, while learning from professionals. It was also a wonderful opportunity for our Lower School students to collaborate with students from the Upper School.

Ridley’s dedication to the arts is ever growing. There are endless opportunities for students to expand their artistic education. These opportunities don’t end when school is out, nor are they limited to Ridley students. Our Summer Programmes offer a wonderful opportunity for art exploration of all kinds.

This summer, students who are interested in learning more about music can register for the Summer Symphony Boarding Experience at Ridley. This is a wonderful opportunity to enhance your musical skills, make friends and explore the Niagara region! For more information, visit our website.

See photos.
View video.

Richard B. Wright – 1937 – 2017

Ridley is saddened to share the news that former faculty member, Richard B. Wright passed away suddenly this morning, February 7th, 2017. He was 79 years of age.

Richard was a distinguished novelist, member of the Order of Canada, and won three major Canadian literary awards – The Giller Prize, the Trillium Book Award, and the Governor General’s Award – for his 14 novels and published memoir.

He was also an outstanding and beloved teacher of English at Ridley from 1976 to 1980 and again from 1986 to 2001. During his time at the School, and as holder of the first Cronyn Chair, Richard made a tremendous impact, established Voices (the literary journal) as well as the Literary Dinner. He will also be remembered for his enthusiasm in coaching league soccer.

Richard will be dearly missed by a far-reaching community of Ridleians. Details of a memorial service will be forthcoming.

Our heart-felt condolences go out to Richard’s family; his sons Christopher (Vicki) and Andrew ‘90 (Wendy), and grandchildren Gage, Millie, Sydney, Abbey and Nathan.

Listen to the 610 CKTB Interview with Wendy Darby.