YCC YouthBuild

Through this program, young people learn lifelong skills as they build affordable homes in Lake County.

YouthBuild is our core program to help young people get back on track and become self-reliant. Most of the young people in this program have left high school without a diploma and is unemployed. We provide these youth with the pathway to continue their education, develop lifelong career skills and become self-reliant, all while achieving their goals.

Many youth in Waukegan, Zion and North Chicago face multiple barriers to success. With high rates of unemployment and poverty, and low graduation rates, these areas have a clear need for vocational training, sustainable career opportunities, alterative educational paths and affordable housing. YCC is committed to providing each of these, while giving young people a second chance.

Our YouthBuild program is built on the proven model of YouthBuild USA, a nationwide network of more than 260 programs like ours.

Through our competitive application process, young people earn a spot in our YouthBuild cohort. Over the course of the 10-month program, young people receive:

  • Hands-on construction training and certification while building affordable and energy-efficient homes
  • Hospitality industry certifications, including hotel maintenance to expand access to career opportunities.
  • GED coursework, tutoring and other prep to ensure they can complete their education.
  • Income through stipends for construction work and completion of certifications.
  • Service learning experience, including trash pickup days and other volunteer events to demonstrate the importance of investing in our community.
  • Life skills training and mentoring, equipping them to succeed as independent, professional adults.
  • Team-building and leadership trainings to develop relationships, accountability, communication skills and trust.
  • Career-readiness and placement services with local business partners.
  • On-site access to food from Northern Illinois Food Bank, as well as showers, clothing, bus tokens and other basic necessities.

Each area of our program is specifically designed to ensure that Lake County’s young people in need can build lifelong skills to survive and thrive, while improving our communities.

Construction skill training and certification

YCC YouthBuild Member, Dionte, installing energy efficient windows under the instruction of our Construction Manager, Ed Roucka.

The foundation of YCC YouthBuild is training in construction trades, which comprises 50% of their time with YCC. Through this training, people develop the skills needed to enter an apprenticeship program and continue down a sustainable career path.

Every young person receives training for the NCCER certification, including basic safety requirements, construction math, hand tools, framing, drywall, roofing, power tools and blueprints. Additionally, they receive training in the OSHA 10. Supervised by a construction manager with more than 25 years of experience, our YouthBuild cohorts build much-needed low-income, energy-efficient homes in Lake County.

Following the completion of the program, young people work with YCC’s career specialist to be placed with internships and employers, or to apply for college. Learn more.

General Equivalency Diploma (GED)

Students in YouthBuild spend 40% of their time on educational advancement to ensure young people can earn their GEDs. Our curricula and courses incorporate various learning styles, ensuring that materials are accessible to young people for whom traditional high school was not a good fit. Learn more.

Service learning

Throughout the program and our volunteer opportunities, we demonstrate the importance of investing in our community. In fact, service makes up 10% of the YouthBuild program. We volunteer throughout the year to clean up Lake County by picking up trash, building raised garden beds, planting flowers and more. Learn more.

Hospitality Certifications

In addition to learning construction skills, young people in our YouthBuild program can earn hospitality industry certifications: front desk representative, restaurant server, customer service excellence and maintenance technician.

To further expand their career opportunities, young people receive training and certifications for employment in four hospitality career pathways: front desk representative, restaurant server, customer service excellence and maintenance technician. Hospitality makes up 31% of the available jobs in Lake County, and many of these positions are along public transit routes that our youth rely on to get to work.


Throughout the program, young people receive stipends for their work. Youth have additional opportunities to earn merit-based bonuses for completing certifications, perfect test scores or outstanding attendance.

Life skills training and mentoring

Most of our young people face multiple competing issues, such as poverty, homelessness, parenting, living with disabilities and/or involvement with the justice system. Through a “tough love” approach, we help young people clear roadblocks to success and equip them to be responsible and professional. Learn more.

Get involved

You can make a lasting impact on youth who are building lifelong skills in Lake County! Here are a few ways you can make a difference:

  • Donate. Our youth do not have access to many of the resources they need, including food, clothing and other basic materials. Your financial donations ensure that we can provide these necessities for our young people, beyond the limited allowances in our grant funding. Give now.
  • Volunteer. We have various opportunities for individuals, workplaces and other groups to get involved with our program, including volunteer days, site cleanup and more. Learn more.
  • Mentor. We seek adults from all walks of life to volunteer as personal and professional mentors for our young people, equipping them with the relationships and skills they need to thrive. Learn more.