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2014 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Illinois Leadership Seminars (ILS)

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Children & Youth, Youth Development - Business

Mission: Unleashing the Leadership Potential of Illinois Youth!

Results: Thousands of young leaders have found confidence in their own leadership abilities!

Geographic areas served: Illinois

Community Stories

37 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

1 Maddie K.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I went through seminar in 2016 and have been involved ever since! Going through the seminar helped me become more confident in who I am both personally and as a leader.

It's impossible to describe seminar without personally attending, but trust me when I say that it is truly lifechanging. Stepping into seminar, I was scared. I would have to talk to and spend an entire weekend with people I didn't know. However, as soon as my parents dropped me off, I knew that ILS was going to be an irreplaceable experience. By the end of seminar, you truly feel a part of the ILS family.

During my seminar I got to interact with a diverse group of people (something I wasn't exposed to in my small hometown) while learning more about being a leader. ILS is accepting of everyone as they are, and that really shines throughout the seminar. This seminar isn't a weekend full of "to be a leader you need to be in charge and outgoing," it teaches you how to actively become a leader in your community--no matter if you are loud and talkative, or quiet and more reserved. ILS has given me skills to bring back my high school and now my college. Everyone you meet in the organization is welcoming, and open to conversing and getting to know you.

The seminar is amazing all in itself, but the alumni community is even more impactful. I've met amazing friends through this organization, and have earned valuable experience in my future career of media through volunteering on the media team each summer. This org has given me a support system I know that I can always turn to, and I honestly cannot imagine what my life would be like without having gone to and stayed involved with ILS.

Review from Guidestar

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

ILS was an amazing experience for me and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to be involved with this organization. It has made me realize who I am and has encouraged me to not be ashamed of who I am. I love this organization and think that its impact is life long

Review from Guidestar

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

I went into ILS thinking that I had no right being there and that this weekend would do much of a difference for me. Oh boy was I wrong ILS weekend has changed my way of thinking and how I view my leadership in more ways than one. Without this amazing organization I would not be the person I am today!

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I attended Illinois Leadership Seminar's flagship seminar in June of 2015. Each subsequent year I have participated as a coach. This organization truly impacts our future leaders. The different paths: discussion, keynote speakers, hands-on activities, allow each leader to take in information in the best way possible for him/her. I will continue to volunteer with this group because of the influence it has made on me and the influence I am able to make on future leaders.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a part of ILS for five years, and each year the program gets stronger. ILS does a great job of tackling current issues and challenging students to consider different perspectives while embracing their own. Each student is encouraged to face their fears and consider their strengths and weaknesses as a leader. Additionally, ILS has an extensive network of connections, so leaders have access to people in numerous career fields, universities, trade jobs, and more. Overall, ILS is an incredible organization designed to build long lasting relationships, promote self-reflection, and be a continuous support-system for years to come.

Review from Guidestar

Client Served

Rating: 1

“ILS” does not stand for “Illinois Leadership Seminar” but rather “Illinois Liberal Seminar.” I was extremely disappointed in the program. Leadership is learning to listen to another’s opinion while being able to support your own. This program is quite the opposite. This program is a scam and their main goal is trying to convert students to the program’s own political beliefs. I should add that I consider myself a Democrat, and yet this program was way to much for me. I couldn’t wait to go home.

Review from Guidestar

1 Ashley97

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Illinois Leadership Seminars changed my life for the better. I was chosen to be a leader sophomore year and when I say this three day seminar is like no other I really mean it. I learned the true meaning of phrases like "Don't be scurred", "Break out of the box", "Diversity", and "Friendship". I learned about my leadership style and how to be the best leader for my community. But most importantly I learned to believe in myself and to not anyone knock me down because I am going to be a leader that changes the world. I have made friends from ILS that I will have for a lifetime and I am so blessed that I got to go through this seminar. My leadership potential was most definitely unleashed, and now I go back to the seminar and lead future leaders so the same will happen to them.

Client Served

Rating: 5

When I learned that I was selected to attend ILS this past summer, I was beyond excited. My situation was a bit different than many leaders, due to the fact that I had family that had gone through seminar. I dreamed of attending ILS ever since I was 12, but I could never have even dreamed of what I experienced. When I walked onto the North Park campus on an early Friday morning, I was greeted by the most welcoming group of people I had ever met. I could never have imagined what I experienced in those three short days. ILS is an organization that not only helps to build leaders, but builds confidence and encourages students to "destroy their box" and be themselves. Even better than the things I learned about myself as a leader were the people who I spent this unforgettable weekend with. People who had already gone through seminar told me as soon as I found out what a family ILS became in only three days. I thought to myself, "How is that possible? How can people who have never met become so close in such a short amount of time?" I have never been more wrong about anything in my life. After just one day together, everyone was dancing, laughing, joking, and having conversations like we had known each other since birth. When I first learned about ILS, I never expected what I was going to experience. ILS forever changed my life, and I never pass up an opportunity to spread some of the knowledge I gained or encourage someone to take advantage of the opportunity to experience this outstanding organization.

1 Alexis6

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Illinois Leadership Seminars is not just "another leadership thing". The leaders, volunteers, and families of both are changed after this weekend seminar. When I found out I was selected for the program in 2012, I was nervous, apprehensive, and a little bit scared. I didn't know that the people would become my family. I didn't know that the program would help me realize my leadership potential AND give me the tools I needed to put that potential to work. Before this seminar, I was a close-minded kid who definitely didn't think she was a leader. After this seminar, I became an open-minded, strong willed leader who does her best to help others see their own potential. ILS has been one of the best things in my life.

Previous Stories

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I attended ILS in 2012, and because I had such a great experience that I came back this year on staff. You may think you know what a "leadership seminar" is, but ILS doesn't fit whatever you're thinking. ILS teaches confidence, motivation, better listening skills, and how to be yourself (unapologetically), all while creating a family that will last a lifetime. ILS is truly the best experience I have had in my life. I encourage everyone who has the opportunity to be a part of it to stay involved.

Client Served

Rating: 5

The Illinois Leadership Seminar is probably one of the most spectacular things I have ever had the honor and joy of being a part of. It is enlightening, and creates leaders who really do become leaders in their communities. It teaches essential skills and makes us all better people overall, as well as giving the people who go through the seminar amazing connections that will last out entire lives. There really are no words to describe how phenomenal this program really is and the impact it has on the people who go through it.

Leah V.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This organization actually changes lives. Not too many places can say that! When I went through the seminar in 2006, my life changed and I knew that I needed to pay it forward and help change the lives of the future. In fact, ILS is what inspired me to become a teacher. I had never thought about that career until ILS helped me to realize my potential and created a brand new dream for me. And now I am a successful and happy teacher and love every day of my life and I owe most of that to ILS.

Previous Stories

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I went through ILS in 2006 and it completely changed my life forever. I try to think about where I would be today if some other student had gotten picked instead of me, and I know that my life would look very different. ILS is a cause that I believe in wholeheartedly and has inspired my choice of career as a high school teacher. ILS inspired my passion of being a positive role model for young people. I am grateful every day for ILS!

Client Served

Rating: 5

When I first found out I was chosen to be the sophomore from my high school to participate in ILS, I assumed that I was going to attend a conference that would sit me down and just tell me a whole bunch of tips on how to be a better leader. I expected to meet a few new people to whom I would connect, and there would be a whole bunch of people who would not really take me seriously. What I didn't expect was what actually happened. I didn't expect that I would be able to show my true personality to everyone and be accepted for it. I didn't expect that I could state my opinions truthfully and wholly without getting ridiculed. I didn't expect to meet and connect with so many people there. I didn't expect that I would have so much fun in only two days. I didn't expect that I would create lifelong friendships in just those two days. I didn't expect that the friends I created in those two days would know me better as a person and value me more than some of the people back home that I consider my "friends." I didn't expect all the adults involved in the program to treat me as an equal. I didn't expect to be so encouraged to be silly and truly be unashamed of myself. I didn't expect a place full of welcome people. I didn't expect a place where I felt at home among people I would have called complete strangers the day before ILS started. I didn't expect people who I would eventually call my family. I didn't expect to be so emotionally moved by the seminar. I didn't expect that I would learn so much about myself and others. I didn't expect that by the end of the seminar I would want to tell everyone around me about my life-changing experience and want to encourage countless freshmen to try to apply to become a part of the seminar. I didn't expect it to be what ILS is: a community, a family, a place of utter acceptance for who you are, and a life-changing experience.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Illinois Leadership Seminars brings things out of young aspiring leaders that few other experiences can provide. My personal experience going through the seminar shaped the voice that I would use through high school and college - that of a vocal and powerful leader. That is just one experience. In several years of volunteer work with the organization, I've heard countless other stories of growth, ambition, courage, and hope. The experience provided is one of power and influence on the lives of young people.

Staff is top notch and professional; the range to bring in young leaders with a goofiness and charisma and then drive a lasting impact through a distinct brand of wisdom and honesty is a skill that has never failed to amaze me. Countless hours poured in by an unbelievably dedicated board, a diverse and committed volunteer staff, and a well-developed and poignant programming schedule make this organization nothing short of a great non-profit.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This organization changed my life. It has helped me to become a better person. ILS is the most inspiring program. This organization, which I now consider my family, has helped me to realize my full potential. In addition, making me feel at home and accepted.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am very grateful that my son was able to attend ILS. It has helped him open up and celebrate the person that he is. He is eager to share his experiences with others at his high school. He is responding to the leader within himself. Thank you to all the people who have made this experience possible for my son.

Client Served

Rating: 5

ILS is an experience every young teen should be able to have at least once in their life. What I've realized throughout the weekend is that the purpose of ILS is not to teach how to be a leader, but it helps us express our leadership potential through our individual personalities. ILS connects to young teens in many different ways that they all can relate to which is what makes every one of us comfortable with who we are. Personally, I've overcome barriers that I never knew I had until going to ILS. It helped me grow within myself; and now I can carry the things that I have learned to help others grow, which is how we're making a difference in the world. ILS is making a difference in the world through young teens, one leader at a time.

Client Served

Rating: 5

ILS is a great opportunity for young individuals all across the state to unleash their leadership abilities. I personally can say that I am coming out of this experience as a changed person and I am going to bring change to my community. Although I was a little nervous at first, this experience has helped me become more confident in my abilities and I feel as though that alone makes a statement. I strongly encourage students all over to get involved and apply to be a leader at ILS. It will change their life.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

ILS is a wonderful organization to be a part of--a great group of people with a sound mission. I originally went through the seminar over a decade ago and have been able to come back as a senior coach and Board Member. It is a fantastic experience for me to be able to give back to an organization that taught me so much about my own leadership ability and how I can make an impact on others and my community. I am consistently renewed by the positive, inspiring energy I feel around this impactful group of leaders.

Austin6

Client Served

Rating: 5

So I just finished my indoctrination period at the United States Merchant Marine Academy. I've got to say that ILS helped in the application process to get here and now that I am a follower for the next three years, and a leader my first class/ senior year and hopefully can put into practice all the things I learned at ILS, and maybe when I graduate I can actually attend some events.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My weekend at Illinois Leadership Seminar back in 2008 paved the way for me to become the person I am today. I learned how to be strong on my convictions, while still listening to others with an open mind and heart. I learned how to lead by example, and I made many friendships that will last a life time. I continue to go back and volunteer at ILS each summer, because I believe in the mission of the organization, which is to encourage leadership development through emphasis on personal responsibility, volunteerism, increased awareness of social and community issues, and an open-minded analysis of all sides of an issue when making decisions. As a teacher or parent, you will never regret sending your student leader to this life changing weekend.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This truly is a life-changing organization. I attended seminar a couple of years ago, and since then I have not been the same. It not only opens your eyes to so many more things in the world, but you make life long friends and a family that is always there for you. I learned so much when I went through seminar, but I keep learning so much every year that I go back to volunteer on staff. It has changed my life so much and I would not be who I am today without ILS.

Jonathan16

Volunteer

Rating: 5

One of the most amazing and impactful experiences I've had in my life. ILS is a supportive, talented and outstanding group of individuals who strive to impact and unleash the leadership potential of Illinois youth. Their program, well executed planning and overall ability to spark interest has kept me involved with ILS since 2007. It is the reason I am who I am today. Thank you.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

ILS was a life-changing seminar to whoever attended it. When I attended seminar I learned so much that I can bring back into my school, community, and anywhere else I go! I learned more things than just the lessons from key note speakers or panels, I also learned lessons from all the people around me! One of my favorite parts of seminar were when we heard the scenarios and had to pick where we stood. I loved hearing everybody's different opinions and thoughts on the scenarios! I most of the time was very sure of the side I had chosen and I at first would never switch sides. But after hearing what everybody had to say I could be in the middle or change sides because of what my fellow leaders were saying. These helped make me a better leader because before I had trouble listening to what others said and just wanted to go my way. But know I can listen to others and make a compromise. I also saw people breaking out of their box at seminar. I was never scared to share my opinion but when I saw people in my group who were shy or didn't speak in front of others much share their opinions it made me and everybody else in my group so happy! We knew then that ILS had changed them and that they were going to be the leader that their sponsor knew they could be! I would never change what happened at ILS for anything in the world! It made me and every other Leader, Junior Counselor, and Senior Staff member a better leader.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Illinois Leadership Seminars gave me a life-changing experience. The people that are a part of the organization truly care about you. They see things in you that you don't see in yourself. For me, I was never outgoing through high school, but ILS showed me that the best way to be a leader is to be yourself. From this experience, I learned more about myself as a student and a leader and I can not even begin to explain how grateful I am to have been given the opportunity to be a part of the ILS family.

meghan615sl

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I think it's funny that most ILSers (myself included) say they "went through" in a certain year. While my seminar year was 2010, I'm STILL going through ILS. I'm still experiencing the support of my small group and my ILS family as a whole, I'm still getting to know myself better as a leader and I'm still expanding my network of amazing people with equally amazing strengths. Illinois Leadership Seminar is an organization that really sticks with you long past the "see ya later"'s at the end of your weekend. We truly do form a family -- a family full of individuals who are constantly supporting and pushing one another to better themselves, their leadership abilities, schools, communities and anything else they set their mind to. Not to mention, they have spectacular "behind the scenes" teams both leading up to and during seminar that care so much for what they're doing and make everything run so smoothly for the leaders. Overall, this nonprofit is well run and life-changing. What more could you want? (:

Client Served

Rating: 5

ILS is such an amazing organization! I truly cannot express how much I learned about myself, leadership and others through this once in a lifetime event. The alumni network are truly inspirations, using the skills taught to us at seminar in order to then plan events, fundraisers and the seminar itself. Truly amazing and life-changing in every way.

Maura2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

ILS creates a family. The inspiring and life-changing moments bring people together, and have them realize that no dream is too small. Its so difficult to explain, because only those who have experienced it can truly understand the magic of ILS.

AJ J.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was not fortunate enough to go through this program as a teen, however, I have been honored to go through the program as a Volunteer. What I have come to love about the Illinois Leadership Seminar is their constant focus on making a difference in the lives of future leaders. From the activities to the speakers to the tools that each participant is exposed to, I see a difference being made literally EVERY SINGLE YEAR! I am a 5 time published author and an International Speaker and I have seen many conferences and seminars similar to this. What sets ILS apart from everyone in my eyes is that there is a meticulous focus on not telling their participants WHAT to think as leaders, but how to utilize different methods of thinking that can impact not only their leadership but the people whom they will impact in the future. From day one as a volunteer, I was clear that this was a unique program that changes lives each and every year, and I have come back for the past 10 years as a volunteer to witness this miraculous event each time! Illinois Leadership Seminars is OUTSTANDING!

Sonya L.

Client Served

Rating: 5

ILS helped me realize anything was possible. The wonderful people of ILS changed the way I view the world and made it known that I could change the world. Alone or with the help of my amazing friends I made over the weekend, I know now that we can make a difference. Age does not limit the power we carry inside of ourselves. ILS changed my life and I am so thankful that I got a chance to be apart of such a beautiful experience.

Stephanie Z.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

ILS is an amazing organization full of dedicated volunteers who truly go out of their way to help each and every student they work with. The volunteers at IlS are an amazing resource for similar organizations and have always been extremely helpful with providing additional staff for other seminars. They are also amazing at exchanging ideas on everything from recruiting students to program selections. Attending an ILS seminar is definitely a life changing opportunity that these students are lucky to experience!

Brandon9

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I participated in ILS in 2010 and could not have had a better experience. When I say it truly did change my life, I mean. However, I don't mean it in a sense that it made me a leader; I always knew I was a leader. It made me realize that being a leader means more than just having a title or taking charge. It's about helping the people you work with grow, looking at them as your equals, accomplishing the task at hand and having a good time doing it. Since ILS, I've had multiple leadership positions and each time I go to lead, I remember what ILS taught me: just because you have a title doesn't make you any better than the person next to you.

Kayla H.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This is not just a weekend long program, but this is a life-long family. ILS brings people together and empowers their passions to ignite positive change in the world. When I went through seminar as a sophomore, my eyes were opened wide. I had never been a part of such a supportive, loving community as ILS. I gained the confidence to "destroy my box" and let the true me shine. By valuing individuality within a team, I became a better person.
I have made an effort to stay involved with this amazing organization by returning as a junior coach. When I watch a new group of sophomores experience this program for the first time it is almost more rewarding than going through it myself.
ILS is now and will forever be a huge aspect of my life.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I attended ILS just last month, and being around everybody at the Illinois leadership seminar was like finding my long lost family. I have never felt more accepted than I did when I attended ILS. I was not sure what to expect before attending the seminar. I honestly expected boring speeches from CEO's and people teaching me how to tell others what to do. Needless to say, I was very mistaken. ILS taught me how to be who I am and accept myself, in addition to accepting others. ILS has taught me that nobody is better than anybody else, we are all different and to compare yourself to anybody else is like comparing an apple to an orange. Most importantly, I learned that to be a great leader, I must accept all of the other oranges and grapes and pears around me and cooperate to make a successful fruit salad :) Lastly, I would like to say thank you to all of the amazing people that make ILS happen, I would not be who I am if I had not had the honor of attending.

Jenny44

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I attended ILS in 2012 as a student, and my life was changed. I am a completely different person now than I was before seminar, and that is a great thing. I am more independent, confident, and sure of myself as a leader. This past year, I returned to ILS as a Junior Coach, and it was a completely amazing experience. To be able to see the kids growing and learning in such an open and supporting environment is an experience that I would not exchange for anything.

Chuck T.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I went through the Illinois Leadership Seminar in the summer of 2006, and I can say without a doubt that I wouldn't be the leader I am today without ILS. I learned that leadership isn't about changing the world, it's about changing your world. I didn't become a leader at seminar... I was simply inspired to be the leader I always was. Sending a young leader to ILS is the best investment you can make in your community!