Board of Directors

Michelle Briegel

Michelle Briegel

President, Advanced Practice Committee

Leah Schmidt

Leah Schmidt

Vice-President South, Advanced Practice Committee

Arian Sweet

Arian Sweet

Vice-President North, Advanced Practice Committee

Asha Kumari

Asha Kumari

Treasurer, Events Chair

Pennie Sibbald

Pennie Sibbald

Director, Advanced Practice Chair

Pam Mullins

Pam Mullins

Director, Public Relations Chair

Andrea Christensen

Andrea Christensen

Interim Director, Advanced Practice Committee

Karlana Noel

Karlana Noel

Director

Kylie Schneider

Kylie Schneider

Director, Events Committee

Aju Varghese

Aju Varghese

Director, Events Committee

This could be you!

This could be you!

Director

Penny Thwaites

Penny Thwaites

Office and Web Content Administrator

Michelle Briegel

Michelle has been practicing in the field of child and youth care for over 25 years; with front line and management experience in residential services, community programs, treatment programs, and youth criminal justice programs. Michelle is currently an assistant professor at Mount Royal University in the Department of Child Studies and Social Work (Child and Youth Care Major).

Michelle is one of two CYCAA Board Members on the Steering Committee of FACT-AB, guiding legislation and working on the development of the College of Counselling Therapists Registration process. Michelle has been with the CYCAA in the role of Director of Research and Development, developing the online learning program; a member at large, Vice President, and Acting President.

Karlana Noel

Karlana has 18 years of experience in the helping professions working front line and is currently in the role of Provincial Manager for Roots and Seeds of Empathy and Program Manager Beaver County Victim Services. Her previous experience includes working with and volunteering on several boards while working as a Director of a Family Day Home Agency.  She enjoys working collaboratively and in partnership with various community agencies to support families and children with accessing services and supports. Prior to this, she worked with an early intervention organization in various capacities supporting families and their children to reach their full potential.

She is a certified CYC Counsellor since April 2019, Qualified Mediator, Certified Infant massage teacher, trained Roots of Empathy Instructor, Mentor, KPP, and trainer.  While completing her practicum in my Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology through Yorkville University. 

Asha Kumari

Asha was born and raised in India, where she founded a non-profit organization to support women and children escaping domestic violence. Nine years ago, when she immigrated to Canada and wanted to continue working with children and youth. That is how she ended up enrolling in the Child and Youth Care Program at Grand MacEwan University. Her international experience working with children and youth, coupled with a CYC diploma, prepared her for the beautiful yet challenging journey ahead.

Her work experience includes but is not limited to being a Family support worker, Intervention Case Worker with Children’s Services, group care, and other community programs. Asha can fluently speak and understand Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, and English language. Presently, she is working as a Foster Care Program Supervisor with Mountain Plains Family Services in Edmonton. She is also currently completing my practicum for the Bachelor of human services administration degree through MacEwan University.

She is a certified child and youth care counsellor since August 2020 and is passionate about working with children and youth. Asha is eager to learn and evolve as a professional by learning and contributing to the CYCAA Family.

Pennie Sibbald

Pennie has been in the Child and Youth Care field for over 30 years, primarily with Hull Services in Calgary. Pennie became a Certified Child and Youth Care Counsellor (CCYCC) in 1996 and has worked in multiple programs, including group care, school, family work, foster care, mental health, and staff development.

In 2007 Pennie became involved with the Child and Youth Care Association of Alberta and since has had several roles, including the Board of Directors, Chairperson of the Advanced Practice Committee, as well as the Alberta representative on the Canadian Council of Child and Youth Care Associations, where she has held positions as Director, Chair of the Communications Committee, Conference Committee member, Vice President, and currently, President.

Pam Mullins

Pamela has been in the field of Child and Youth Care since 1992. Her experience has encompassed youth justice, child protection and in recent years, a focus on trauma informed care primarily in foster care. This has included experience in residential services, community programs, and youth criminal justice programs.

She has a passion for working with children, youth and families from a trauma informed lens and supporting complex needs. Pamela has supervised and trained CYC and other professionals; facilitated training and program development.

Aju Varghese

Aju has called Alberta home since 2016. He was born and raised in India. He started working with children and youth after completing his bachelor’s in Social work from Calicut University in India in 2012. He worked with children in the institutions and worked as a child psychiatric social worker in a hospital-based setting and an HIV/ AIDS project for adults before moving to Canada in 2016.

He completed his diploma in Child and Youth Care from Lakeland College in 2018 and started working in residential care with Catholic Social Services. He moved to High Prairie in 2019 to work at the Government of Alberta Youth Assessment Center as a Child and Youth Care Counsellor. Currently, he works as Child and Youth Care Team Lead at High Prairie Youth Assessment Center, North Region, Children Services, Government of Alberta. Aju now supervises and trains Child and Youth Care Counsellors reporting to him. 

He enjoys working with children on the frontline as it motivates him to learn and sharpen skills to deal with human behaviour and be part of the healing process for children who have experienced trauma in their lives.

Andrea Christensen

Andrea was born and raised on Treaty 7 Territory, in a small farming community. She is of settler heritage with her ancestors being Danish, English and Irish. Even after travelling the world, the prairies have always been home to Andrea.

Andrea has been working in the field of Child and Youth Care for over 13 years. Her career has brought her to all three coasts in Canada, as well as internationally to Malaysia and Nepal. Andrea has graduated with a degree in Child and Youth Care from MacEwan University and a Master of Social Work – specializing in International and Community Development from the University of Calgary. Andrea’s previous work experience has been predominately frontline in youth residential settings, working with a wide variety of young people. Some of the most memorable moments of her career are from her time in Nunavut working with teenage boys, as a live-in Child and Youth Care Practitioner.

Andrea has always enjoyed sharing her passion and love for the outdoors with the young people she works with. She has created wilderness programs for different agencies and enjoys collaborating with community organizations to break down the barriers around accessibility to wilderness here in Alberta. After leaving frontline work, Andrea continues to stay passionate about connecting young people to the outdoors and is a current board member of Crossing the Divide.

Andrea currently works as an Instructor in the Child and Youth Care program at Bow Valley College in Calgary. She has enjoyed this new learning opportunity and is very excited to share her passion for policy, systems and social justice with the next generation of Child and Youth Care Counsellors.

Arian Sweet

Arian has been practicing in the field of child and youth care for 15 years; with front-line child welfare experience including management, supervisory and specialized roles in assessment and case management. Arian has experience in residential group care and treatment programs, with Catholic Social Services and Chimo Youth Retreat. Throughout Arians CYC career he has primarily focused his areas of interest in child welfare assessment and intake. Arian has extensive training in forensic interviewing of sexually exploited children, violent risk threat assessment and working with Indigenous peoples. Arian is well known in Treaty Six as an advocate for Indigenous peoples’ cultural values and traditions. He works tirelessly in supporting truth and reconciliation and improving the way child welfare works and supports Indigenous service recipients.

Arian is a Certified Child and Youth Care Counsellor and graduate of two programs from Grant MacEwan University, Bachelor of Child and Youth Care and a Diploma in Mental Health and Addictions. Currently, Arian is Manager with Government of Alberta Children’s Services Edmonton Region CS. Arian’s passion for this work has seen him glean and hone his craft from working in all areas of Alberta learning from Elders, leaders and First Nations community members. Arian has always been known for his exceptional relational skills and practice, as well as, his ability to connect and build relationships by creating great partnerships through solid collaboration and team building.

Arian is honoured to be on the Board of Directors for the Child and Youth Care Association of Alberta and looks forward to moving the Association in the future to support all CYC practitioners in their field.

Kylie Schneider

Kylie is a recent graduate of MacEwan Universities Bachelor of Child and Youth Care degree program. Throughout her time at MacEwan University, her passion for Child and Youth Care continued to grow through her diverse practicum experiences. So much so, she intends on continuing her studies in September via Strathclyde’s Masters in Child and Youth Care program. Kylie’s past work experience includes time spent working in group care, recreation and activity programming, and mental health programming.

She currently employed with Chimo Youth Retreat Centre in Edmonton as a Family Wellness Permanency Coordinator in their Collaborative Service Delivery, Family Wellness program. This is a newly created position that she is excited to help develop alongside the Family Wellness team. She excited to be a part of the Board of Directors for the Child and Youth Care Association of Alberta as she is eager to get involved with the development and expansion of the Child and Youth Care field.

Leah Schmidt

Leah graduated from the Child and Youth Care program at the Lethbridge Community College in 1992. Her experience includes residential group care, alternative junior and senior high school and early intervention and prevention work with the Parentlink Centre initiative.

Currently, Leah is a Programs Manager with McMan Youth, Family and Community Services Association in Medicine Hat; overseeing Children’s Services contracts and utilizing her experience to assist with policy revision, service delivery consultation and leadership development. Leah completed her Master of Arts in Leadership from Royal Roads University in 2018 and values continuous learning as well as personal and professional growth.

Vacant Director Spot

 

Penny Thwaites

As the Office and Web Content Administrator, Penny ensures the smooth operation of the office and website. She also serves as the primary contact for the office. With over 30 years of experience in both public and private sectors, Penny has experience in website development and maintenance, technical support, administrative duties and customer service.

Penny skillfully manages administrative duties and member relations for the Board and Committee Members at CYCAA. She assists members with understanding membership and certification requirements.

Growing up in Colorado, she always wanted to have an accent, who knew that she had one all along by moving to Canada. When she is not knee-deep in work, she can be found reading, gardening, sewing and enjoying time with her husband and their giant doggo.