"When I dare to be
powerful -to use my
strength in the
service of my vision,
then it becomes less
and less important
whether I am afraid."
–Audre Lorde
joey and wayne
"There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children. There is no duty more important than ensuring
that their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want and that they grow up in peace."
-Kofi A. Annan,
UN Secretary-General
“Never deprive
someone of hope; it
might be all they
-H. Jackson Brown Jr.
Boys looking at water
"If you have come to help
me, you are wasting your
time. But if you have
come because your
liberation is bound up
with mine, then let us
struggle together."
-Gills Long Poverty Law Center


"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we Are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you Not to be?
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people Permission to do the same. As we are liberated from Our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
-Marianne Williamson





















What We are About

What We Believe

We believe that every Child is a precious gift who deserves to be loved, embraced, appreciated, and nurtured. We believe that every Child is entitled to a loving home and a loving community. We believe that every Child is powerful beyond measure, having the potential for greatness. And when there is no one to stand in the gap for that Child, then we must stand in place, model the way, and represent what was taken from our children.

Our mission is to create hope, opportunity, and a sense of belonging for at-risk youth by providing a safe environment and empowering these youth to build meaningful, fulfilling, self sufficient, and satisfying lives.

Our Philosophy
YBL’s philosophy is based on being the change that we wish to see in the world. To make the world a better place through identifying, nurturing, and maturing an individual’s calling and passion.  YBL strongly believes, follows, and affirms Robert Greenleaf’s Servant-Leadership philosophy:  “The best test, and difficult to administer, is: do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will they benefit, or, at least, will they not be further deprived?” 
- Taken from the Servant As Leader

Our Vision
To identify and empower at-risk youth with leadership characteristics and develop these youth personally and professionally for leadership positions within their community.  YBL focuses on at-risk youth between the ages of 12 through 26, focusing on populations that are at the highest risk.

“No one is born with an understanding of what society expects of us. This know-how, what we call “life management skills,” must be taught, understood and embraced. At-risk youth must consciously be provided with the skills necessary to become productive members of our society. These pro-social skills cannot be learned on the street, bought at the local convenience store or checked out of a library -- they must be observed and taught.” - Susan & Edmund F. Benson, ARISE Founders

Although YBL empowers all at-risk youth, according to our vision statement and purpose, we will focus disproportionately on the highest risk populations, which at this time, are African American and Latino youth.

Focusing on the highest risk among the at-risk:
Festering in the wounds of American society are the ideals and dreams of a lost and often times misunderstood group of African American and Latino Youth. This group of individuals is more often than not misrepresented not because of a lack of intellect among them but due to the scarcity of educational opportunities, support and encouragement provided them in our society. In spite of all the things that can be done for this group of young adults, it is never enough to feed the young minds failing to reach their zenith.

Youth Becoming Leaders, Inc. is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to reclaiming our lost youth, initially in Stephenson and Winnebago Counties.

Our goal is to continue to improve our unique local model, and by continuing to build upon our success and learn from our failures, we can move toward perfecting our model; and to this end, create a national model so that unclaimed youth across the country can be offered the hope, love, and direction they so rightly deserve, but not given.

Contact Matt Gargano at for more information.



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