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Who we are

Our goal is to deliver quality leadership development programming to our cadets so that they complete a college degree. 

Who we are

What we strive for

In order to reach our mission, we teach our cadets the knowledge, skills, and experience to thrive as leaders in college and the community as a whole.   Thus all of our endeavors stand upon three pillars of core focus: Character Development, College Readiness, and Community Engagement.

Some of our program topics are listed below.

College Readiness

  • Applications and college 101 overviews

  • Building a college resume

  • Financial aid

  • Managing finances and responsibilities

  • Organization

  • SAT test prep

  • Staying mentally healthy

  • Stress management

  • Time management

Character Development

  • A mindset towards growth and goals

  • Building a healthy self-image

  • Critical thinking

  • Finding purpose and passion

  • Maturity and self-awareness

  • Participation and engagement

  • Reflection

Community Engagement

  • Conflict resolution

  • Digital Citizenship

  • Dissecting news and current events

  • Empathy and active listening

  • Making a good first impression

  • Presentations and public speaking

  • Social justice and inclusivity

  • Teamwork and collaboration

What we strive for
What we do

What we do

About twice a month during the academic year, our cadets meet for YLA Saturdays.  On these days, the cadets participate in leadership training modules, where they learn from a variety of topics designed to improve their leadership and character.   Our cadets start this process in the 7th grade, and our YLA team gives them leadership training through high school graduation.  Our retention rate is over 95%, and our parent participation is at 100% for the 3rd year in a row.

Each of our cadets also belongs to a mentoring circle that meets before and after each leadership training module. There, mentors help our cadets prepare, process, and implement what they learn in each leadership training module.  At the end of each school year, these mentors give our cadets valuable evaluations and feedback for the future.

Outside of classroom instruction and guidance, our cadets attend yearly field trips and conferences aligned with our leadership goals.  They also participate in community service events and opportunities throughout each year.  For example, our cadets each choose a social justice issue to explore and address through service learning projects.  Past projects have included raising awareness of human trafficking in Illinois, opening dialogues about LGBTQIA issues in schools, and taking civic action to address racial and ethnic discrimination in education institutions.

At each step of the way, our cadets work with our diverse team of facilitators, mentors, and volunteers, who provide them with a support network that lasts even beyond the end of the program.



Focusing on each grade level allows YLA to accurately provide for the need of every cadet.


There are a few requirements that cadets must fulfill to continue to stay in the program.



Dressing for success is one of YLA’s distinguishing features as a youth leadership development organization in the community.



YLA uses the 5-Step Service Learning Model to provide cadets with a framework for understanding their talents and interests to help address community needs.

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