History

Since 1974, Youth Conservation Corps has provided the life-skills training that young people in Waukegan, Zion, North Chicago and other communities in Lake County need to thrive. Youth Conservation Corps has grown enormously over the years, impacting thousands of young lives and our community.

1974 – Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) began as a program for high school youth to offer environmental education through hands-on conservation work in Lake County. In the early years, our program was entirely funded by the U.S. Conservation Corps, a nationwide program to preserve public lands and encourage young people to consider land management as a career path.

1981 – In light of the great benefits of our programs, local businesses and community members established a committee to keep our opportunities growing and to establish our first private funding sources. Our community of supporters saw the lasting value in teaching young people conservation skills, while providing for the upkeep of our local lands. Today, our summer conservation program thrives thanks to our public-private partnership with Lake County Forest Preserves.

1994 – We received our 501(c)3 non-profit designation to expand the programming and enhance fundraising efforts to support our growing programs.

2001 – Seeing the increasing need in our community, we launched a new program to serve at-risk youth: YouthBuild. In July, we began our first year-round comprehensive youth development program.

Based on the national model of YouthBuild USA, this program is designed to serve youth who have not completed high school, are unemployed, disadvantaged and/or face other challenges.  We provide practical, cost-effective services that prepare youth for the workforce, including GED prep, life skills development and vocational training in construction and hospitality.

2018 – To further expand trades training and certification for our youth, we partnered with College of Lake County to launch our HVAC/R program. Graduates of our YouthBuild program take this 16-week course to gain HVAC/R and EPA certifications, and they earn college credits, all while working toward a lifetime of higher wages.

Today – We continue providing – and expanding – programs to serve young people in Lake County who need educational and vocational training to rebuild their lives. Learn more about our work.