Youth Conservation Corps operates five programs for youth ages 16 to 24 in Lake County. Each of our programs meets multiple needs for our community, including educational and employment opportunities for youth, construction of affordable housing and conservation of Lake County’s natural lands.

The majority of our programs are specifically designed to serve young people who have dropped out of high school and face other challenges, such as being low income, homeless, single parents, persons with disabilities and/or foster youth. Through our caring staff and community partnerships, we work to provide our young people with every opportunity they need – and deserve – to rebuild their lives.

YCC YouthBuild

As our core program, YCC YouthBuild equips young people with educational and professional opportunities. Based on a national model, our YouthBuild program is a pathway for young people to lift themselves out of poverty with education, training in sustainable construction work, livable wages and access to affordable housing. Learn more.

Through YCC YouthBuild, young people spend 50% of their time on construction projects, 40% on educational programs and 10% on leadership and life-skills, including service projects.

Corps Network

Supported by the Corps Network, youth in our YouthBuild program use energy-efficient insulation and windows, seal air gaps and make other environmentally-friendly choices in the homes we build. In addition, Corps Network provides education awards for young people in our summer conservation and YouthBuild programs. Learn more.


Through this advanced program, graduates of our YouthBuild receive an additional 16 weeks of employment and training in HVAC/R services. Young people have the opportunity to receive additional vocational training, earn higher wages and continue accessing the social support they need. Learn more.

Alumni Construction Crew

As an extension of our YCC YouthBuild program, graduates of the initial cohort continue working as a team on more advanced construction projects. Young people in this program continue earning living wages and education awards while working together to affirm their skill-building, leadership and shared experiences.

Summer Conservation

As our founding program in 1974, our summer conservation program provides students ages 16 to 18 with paid, 8-week internships in Lake County’s natural areas. Throughout the summer, young people learn and apply environmental conservation, management and preservation techniques. Learn more.

Social Supports

Young people in our construction-based programs face multiple challenges. To help them stabilize their lives and be successful today and tomorrow, we offer on-site social work, therapy, clothing and a fully stocked pantry, courtesy of the Northern Illinois Food Bank. Learn more.

Our Impact

Across our programs, we have:

  • Trained more than 2,000 young adults in educational, vocational and/or life skills
  • Provided more than $250,000 in education scholarships
  • Performed over three quarters of a million hours of community service.