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Youth Leadership Academy


About Youth Leadership Academy

Our Staff

Dianha Ortega-Ehreth
    Executive Director

Kevin Stark
    Board Member & Support Specialist

Melissa Lane
    12th Grade Trainer

Reina Franco
    Bilingual Parent Meeting Assistant

Deborah Ficken
    10th grade Trainer

Jackie Lee
    11th grade trainer

Andrea Dominguez
    Parent Meeting Translator

Stephanie Maxwell
    8th grade trainer

Cory Bray

Karina Nava
    7th grade trainer

Michael Novelli
    9th grade trainer

Kate Stasiak

Maria de los Angeles Borrero
    Support Specialist

Helen Perez

Christine Padilla
    Administrative Assistant

Michael Causey

Randi Provost

Ross Ludwig

Tony Nieto
    Support Specialist

LogoYouth Leadership Academy
410 Renner Drive Map
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 847-214-6910

Character Development   -   College Readiness   -   Community Engagement

About Our Academy

The YLA is a 501c3 non-profit organization delivering a unique program for students from low-income backgrounds who want to go to college. We offer leadership training sessions two Saturdays per month during the academic year to our cadets (7th - 12th grade) from across the Elgin Community College District 509, which includes Illinois school districts U-46, D300, D301 and D303.  The YLA also offers field trips to visit colleges and universities, exposure to hands-on community service learning and volunteering experiences, classes tailored for parents of YLA cadets and free tutoring. Students apply in the 6th grade and if selected, participate in the program until high school graduation. At the conclusion of their six years with the YLA, if students are in good academic standing when they graduate from high school, they will be awarded a full tuition scholarship to attend Elgin Community College for two consecutive years to complete an associate's degree. Further, additional full tuition scholarships at Judon University, a private liberal arts college also located in Elgin, Illinois, for an additional up to three years may be available.

LOCAL and NATIONAL Recognition

* YLA cadets are involved in over a dozen community service learning project every year. One project back in 2010-2011 partnered with a coalition of Latino organizations and focused on encouraging Latinos to vote in local elections. It was awarded an Elgin Image Award in 2011.

* AT&T Investing in Illinois Award recipient 2012

* The College Board, the national organization dedicated to college readiness supports for schools, organizations and higher education institutions, named the YLA the 2013 Midwest Regional winner of the Getting Ready (for College) Innovation Award.


Some YLA numbers 

  • Since its first graduating class in 2002, the YLA has helped more than 130 students from the community to gain access to higher education. This number is expected to double within the next six years.
  • 100% parent participation rate in the YLA Program 2014-2015 academic year. (Parents are required to attend a minimum of 4 parent meetings per year.)
  • 92% of parents attended more than the required 4 parent meetings per year during the 2014-2015 academic year.
  • 80% of YLA graduates enroll in Elgin Community College after high school.
  • 360- the number of minimum  number of leadership training hours completed by YLA cadets over 6 years.
  • 602- the total number of volunteer hours completed by YLA cadets in just the summer months of 2015.
  • 20- the number of people in the YLA staff team which includes administration, trainers, mentors, tutors, and other volunteers.
  • 4.5:1 ratio of YLA staff to cadets
  • $0- the amount it costs families to participate in the YLA.


YLA offices are located at 410 Renner Drive, Elgin, IL 60123. Saturday class sessions are held at the ECC main campus.

YLA Office Hours

  • Monday - Friday 9:00 am - 3:00 pm
    847-214-6910 or 847-214-6965
  • ECC is closed on Fridays during the summer months

Questions about the program may be directed to Dr. Wes Scott, YLA board president, at; or Dianha Ortega-Ehreth, YLA Executive Director,