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Youth Conservation Corps Program Gains Financial Support


The Lake County Forest Preserves recently received two donations to support the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC), a program that provides jobs and environmental education to high school and college students interested in maintaining the forest preserves.

Gewalt Hamilton Associates Inc. of Vernon Hills gave $10,000 to the program and YCC gave $100,000 to the Lake County Forest Preserves to put back into the program. YCC Executive Director Jennifer Yonan said the money was raised at its annual golf outing. She praised the local forest preserves and all the work it takes the maintain them. “The forest preserves are a tremendous asset to our county. They are world class.”

Two members of the program recently spoke at a board meeting during a check presentation.  

Spencer Steeves, 19, said he spent the past four summers working to improve the Lake County Forest Preserves, an experience he says gave him life direction.

Steeves, a Lake Zurich High School graduate, works as an assistant crew leader for YCC. The program is designed to provide valuable conservation and forestry education and hands-on experience. Steeves, now a sophomore at the University of Illinois, is studying sustainable design. “Through my work at Lakewood Forest Preserve, I realized how big the world is,” Steeves said.

Debanhi Jimenez, a crew member, is completing her second summer at YCC. “It’s an eye-opening, awesome experience,” said the 17-year-old senior at Zion Benton East High School. “It’s nice to learn how nature grows and grow with it,” she said, adding that she plans to study landscape architecture at U of I.

At the recent meeting, Todd Gordon, CEO of Gewalt Hamilton Associates, presented the check to Angelo Kyle, president of the Lake County Forest Preserves. Gordon said his company looks for ways to give back to the community. One of their employees worked for YCC and suggested the idea. “It is such a positive program,” he said.

Dave Cassin, superintendent of natural resources for the Lake county Forest Preserves, runs the YCC program. “There are so many benefits. Students are exposed to environmental education while learning life skills,” he said.