Our Cadets and Parents

Our cadets are students ranging from 7th to 12th grade who live in Elgin Community College District 509, which includes Illinois school districts U-46, D300, D301 and D303.  They train together to be future leaders in college, the post-college workplace, and the community at large.

Parent participation is one of our greatest factors as an organization.  For the past 3 years, 100% of our parents participated in at least 4 workshops per year with an average of 51 parents per workshop.


Our Staff

Mrs. Kathy-Ann Pegues

Executive Director

"​Good leaders set standards, examples, and visions for others to see.  This comes from accepting what is learned from other cultures and people as a gift to build on and to make yourself a better person."

Phone: (847) 214-6910

Email: kpegues@elgin.edu

Kathy-Ann Pegues started off her adulthood wanting to be an aerospace engineer.  However, after she married and gave birth to her first child, she saw the power of educating and teaching our young children, and she changed her major to education.  She now holds a Master of Education from Indiana Wesleyan and a Bachelor’s Degree from Purdue University.  She has been in education and worked with students for over 27 years.  In that time, she has taught in the classroom, led a grade level of teachers and staff to implement impactful programs for student success and growth, and helped create curricula for schools and districts that have had meaningful and lasting impacts on achievements. 


Prior to Youth Leadership Academy, Mrs. Pegues was the founder and executive director of a private school in Atlanta, GA.  She moved to Chicagoland when her husband accepted a job in the area. Today she enjoys spending time with her children more than ever, inspiring them to achieve their dreams and goals.  The oldest Jamila is now an astrophysicist working on her doctoral degree.  Nia is a senior who dabbles in theater, plays field hockey, and is a soccer goalie. Eli is the youngest with a corny sense humor (like his dad) who enjoys basketball and golf.  Lastly (but certainly not the least) is Velvet, a dog of mixed Yorkshire and Dachshund heritage who thinks she's much larger than she is.


With her experience, Mrs. Pegues aims to build on the great foundation at Youth Leadership Academy, so as to help other families achieve their goals and dreams of sending students to college and creating impactful futures.

Christine Padilla

Administrative Coordinator

Tel: (847) 214-6965

Email: ylaadmin@elgin.edu

Christine Padilla is the Administrative Assistant for the Youth Leadership Academy. She started this position in August of 2017 and has really enjoyed getting to meet the YLA families, as well as getting to work alongside such a talented and dedicated staff. In addition to her work at YLA, Christine is also the Administrative Assistant for the Information Services Department at Gail Borden Public Library. She has been working at Gail Borden since July of 2014 and is very passionate about the work, staff, and community at the library.​

Christine was born and raised in Elgin, so she takes great pride in working for two organizations that have such a positive impact on the local community. In 2000, Christine attended the Annual Latino Awards Banquet, where she was awarded a 2-year academic scholarship by Club Guadalupano of Elgin. Christine attended Elgin Community College, where she received her A.S. with Honors. After graduation, Christine transferred to DePaul University’s College of Commerce, where she studied Business Administration. Christine plans on continuing her education, as she firmly believes that a strong academic foundation provides both personal and professional benefits all throughout life.

Melissa Lane

Expert in College Readiness

"A good leader takes ownership of a project or situation and follows through on everything!"

Melissa Lane has volunteered with YLA since 2012, and she became the 12th grade mentor and facilitator in 2015.  She enjoys working with the seniors as they begin their steps to future university and career success!

​Melissa has extensive knowledge with the college and university application process, scholarship availability, and financial aid.  This knowledge has been gained through her cooperative work with public and private high schools in the Elgin area and through hands-on experience with her own two children. Her son Jeremy graduated from Illinois State University in 2012 and her daughter Amanda graduated from University of Illinois – Urbana/Champaign in 2016.

Melissa and her husband Doug live in Elgin. She is a graduate with a B.S. from Michigan State University, and a M.L.S from Dominican University. Melissa has worked at Gail Borden Public Library since 2001, working in various departments, but with the majority of her time spent with departments assisting high school-aged students through adults.

Stephanie Maxwell

7th Grade Mentor

“A good leader is never born a good leader. A good leader is composed from gradually gained wisdom, continuing education, and a strong-willed confidence that just one individual can change the world.”

​Stephanie Maxwell has been a resident of the Elgin area all of her life. She is a graduate from Elgin High School and earned her Associates in Science and Associates in Arts from Elgin Community College.


Stephanie currently works full time for Women’s Specialized Cancer Care at Northwestern Medicine, and she is a published writer who enjoys creating poetry and reading fiction in her spare time. She also advocates for gynecologic cancer care and rare brain disorders by volunteering and hosting local support group events and fundraisers through various organizations.  In the midst of it all, YLA has been, and always will be, her “favorite job”.

Michael Causey

7th Grace Mentor

Michael Causey is currently Assistant Dean at Larkin High School.  He has been with the Youth Leadership Academy for 3 years, and he loves working with students.

Michael is an active member of his church and is heavily involved with the youth ministry.  He is passionate about guiding students to be the best that they can be.

Brianna Bradford

8th Grade Mentor

“Leadership is living your life every day with a purpose, to make a positive impact on the world and the people living in it.”

Brianna Bradford is a recent graduate of the University of Illinois College of Business with a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Business Process Management.  She currently serves as the Coordinator/Administrator at ACL Laboratories, which is a part of Advocate Aurora Health.  Prior to joining Advocate, she worked for Heartland Blood Centers.  One of her recent key accomplishments was obtaining the Project Management for Professional (PMP) Certification from the Project Management Institute.  Her career endeavor is to improve the quality of life for individuals through efficient healthcare management. She is passionate and is also making a difference in the lives of youth through her involvement in her local church and through volunteering with other non-profit organizations like Building Up Our Youth (BUOY).

Janice Hare

10th Grade Mentor

From early on, Janice Hare has been excited about helping others.  After receiving a Certificate in Human Services in 2004 from ECC, she went on to earn her associate degrees for Human Services Mental Health in 2005 and for Mental Health Generalist in 2007.  She then acquired her bachelor’s degree in Human Service Interdisciplinary Mental Health Studies from Columbia of Missouri in 2009. She earned a master’s in Counseling and General Studies in 2011 from Capella University.  Today, she is working towards her doctorate in Public Administration and Leadership from Capella University.  Janice Hare also works at ECC as an Administrative Assistant III in the TRiO department.  She provides her students with support services that promote retention and academic success, all while engaging her students in a variety of support service activities that ensure progression towards graduation and subsequent career and transfer goals.  Janice Hare also serves as a leader in her community. She has had the pleasure of serving on many community organization committees, such as the City Of Elgin Police Department Re-Entry Program and the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) of Elgin.

Cory Bray

10th Grade Mentor

“A leader is someone who is capable of creatively communicating a vision to individuals in a way that inspires and motivates them to work as a team.”

Cory Bray is an engaging speaker who expounds on and advocates for the entrepreneurial mindset: utilizing one’s abilities, network, and recourse to create an economic model that finances a future aligned with one’s purpose. As an infant, Cory was adopted by parents who served as high risk youth foster caregivers. Growing up in this household gave him a unique perspective on how it is possible to change the trajectory of a youth’s life by providing them with positive experiences.  Graduating from Elgin Community College in 2015, Cory elected to pursue his passions and purpose.  As a result, he has affiliated himself with organizations such as the Youth Leadership Academy to fulfill the reason he was placed on this earth. He is the founder of the band Accidentally On Purpose and is currently authoring a human development book, titled Accidentally on Purpose and set to be published in the winter of 2019, that encodes the philosophies of the entrepreneurial mindset.

Briana Hamilton

12th Grade Mentor

Bio soon!

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Our Board

Stephanie Maxwell

Staff Representative

Dr. W. E. Scott

President/Board Chairman

"A good leader is someone that can get more out of folks than anyone ever predicted - someone that has the ability to influence others to follow."

Email: wscott@elgin.edu

Dr. Wes Scott, the YLA Board President, is a retired military officer with over 30 years of federal service, including with the US Army Corps of Engineers, Army Medical Command, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Center for intelligence. He has also worked for Smith Klein Medical Laboratories and the NSC.

Wes holds advanced degrees in Medicine, Engineering, Business Management and Theology and graduated with honors from the University of Maryland, Howard University, and Harvard University.  He is currently the President and CEO of Global EHSS Leadership Solutions.

Kevin Stark

Vice President

Tiffany Via


Shimon Blanchard


Gregory Robinson


Gregory D. Robinson is a seasoned student-development professional with 25 years of experience in higher education.  He is the Dean of Student Services and Development at Elgin Community College (ECC).  He also held positions as a Professional Counselor and Associate Professor in Social Science at Harry S. Truman College and the Dean of Students at Olive-Harvey College (OHC).  Gregory served as a faculty advisor, mentor and coordinator to several student clubs, organizations and programs including but not limited to the African-American Male Retention / Support Group, Black Student Organization, Illinois Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (ILS-AMP) Program, TRiO Support Services Program, Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society, and Psi Beta National Honor Society in Psychology.


Throughout his tenure in higher education, Gregory has been recognized for his work with student organizations, as an administrator, and for his academic achievements.  Gregory received the Phi Theta Kappa Horizon and Paragon Advisor Awards between 1998 and 2008, was the Distinguished Administrator at Olive-Harvey College (2009-2010), a recipient of the National Resource Center Outstanding First-Year Student Advocate award (2012-2013), and of the 2015 Advancement in Education Award, sponsored by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Black Alumni Network (BAN).  Recently, he received the 2017 Illinois State University’s Department of Educational Administration and Foundation Edward R. Hines Endowed Scholarship for Higher Education Doctoral Students and the 2017 Illinois Community College System Administrative Leadership Scholarship for his dissertation proposal.


Gregory is a life-long learner, earning his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Industrial Design from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and his Master of Science in Guidance and Counseling: Organizational Counseling from Tennessee State University in Nashville, TN.  He also completed several post-graduate courses in Counselor Education and Educational Administration at various Illinois universities including a graduate-level Career Specialist Certification from the University of Illinois at Springfield.  He is currently pursuing a Ph.D in Higher Education Administration at Illinois State University.  Gregory is a member of NASPA - Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, National Academic Advising Association (NACADA), Illinois Council of Community College Administrators (ICCCA), Illinois Community College Chief Student Services Officers (ICCCSSO), Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and serves on the Board of the Youth Leadership Academy (Elgin, IL).

Mia Hardy


Anthony Bell

Alumni Representative

"A good leader is someone who not only excels during the easy times, but also perseveres through the challenges that are thrown their way."

Anthony Bell is the Youth Leadership Academy Alumni Representative. He graduated from YLA and Elgin High School in 2009. From there, he went to Elgin Community College and graduated with an Associate's Degree in Communications in 2011, and then from Judson University in 2013 with a degree in Communication Arts and a concentration in Speech Rhetoric. During his time in YLA, he was often characterized as shy, withdrawn, and all around introverted. It is interesting to note that he is now seeking work in the broadcasting and voice-over field because “people enjoy hearing him speak.” He credits this transformation to his time in YLA.

Miriam Mata

Parent Representative

Jasmine Williams

Parent Representative

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