Youth Conservation Corps, Inc


Brief History

YCC started as part of the Lake County Forest Preserves in 1974 with a summer youth forestry conservation program. In 1994, YCC split from the Forest Preserves to become an independent 501c3 nonprofit. In 2001, YCC expanded to offer programs to opportunity youth. Since its inception, YCC has served over 1750 young adults throughout Lake County.

Mission Statement and/or Core Values

→ YCC Mission Statement: YCC empowers and mentors young adults to succeed through education and training in life skills, career pathways, and environmental stewardship.
→ YCC Vision Statement: Every young adult has a pathway to success. YCC Core Values: Accept others, keep it real, give respect, honor your commitments, be compassionate, show up with effort, build trust, be active in your community.

Student Demographics

 YouthBuild members are ages 16 – 24 and primarily from  Waukegan, Zion, and North Chicago. Summer Program members come from  communities throughout Lake County. 89% are from low-income families Ethnicity:  Hispanic/Latino – 58.7%; African American – 23.9%; White – 10.7%; Biracial – 6.5% 


Educational and Placement The last 18 months of Covid have been challenging. In a typical year, YCC expects 75% to earn a HSD or occupational certificate before completing the YouthBuild program. In our Graduate program, 80% of members typically earn their occupational certification. Our team works to place all students in jobs or college with 60% typically placed within 6-months of program completion. YCC's Holistic services and supports: YCC has a food pantry, provides one on-one tutoring, transportation support, mental health services, and referrals to other services like housing or childcare if needed.

Programs Offered

  • Summer Conservation Program: YCC members are young adults who are  interested in working outside and pursuing conservation and environmental  careers.
  • YouthBuild Program: YCC members are opportunity youth – young adults who  are typically not in school or working. YouthBuild members often do not yet have  a high school diploma or equivalency.  
  • Graduate Program: members have a high school diploma and are earning  stackable career/occupational credentials in pursuit of high demand career  pathways.

Career Pathways

  • Construction 
  • Information Technology (CompTIA)
  • Trade

Success Story

Jimmy Ollie “He handed me a hammer and it changed my life”. Jimmy came to YCC in 2010. He had been in a gang, served time in jail, was using drugs, had been shot and stabbed. The mother of his children told him he needed to come to YCC to change his life, so he did. During his time in the program, he realized that people believed in him, trusted him and saw a leader in him. He realized he loves construction. Jimmy told our board members, “One day the construction Manager handed me a hammer and it changed my life.” Today, Jimmy a member of the YCC staff and serves as our Construction Trainer, teaching other young people valuable construction skills and providing opportunities for a brighter future.


  • Executive Director: Jennifer Yonan 
  • Program Director: Karen Rios