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Celebrating Freedom: Juneteenth and Empowerment at YBLC

YouthBuild Lake County (YBLC) is proud to commemorate Juneteenth and highlight the educational and vocational freedoms that our programs provide to the underserved People of Color within Lake County. Although today celebrates the freeing of the final slaves, there are still many barriers African Americans face. YBLC continues to address those barriers Lake County and neighboring communities to create a more equitable future for all.


Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19th, commemorates a pivotal moment in American history and the African American experience. According to Mary Elliott, Curator of American Slavery at The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, “On that day, the Union Army made its way into Galveston, Texas under the leadership of General Gordon Granger, and he announced to the people of Texas that all enslaved African Americans were free.

Kelly E. Navies, Museum Specialist of Oral History at the same museum, has a less literal interpretation of the day: 

“I like to think of Juneteenth as a celebration of freedom, of family, and of joy that emerged from this cauldron of the war. After hundreds of years of enslavement, and the intense post-Civil War era, all of these emotions and feelings had built up to a particular point… It was such a difficult time, but there was a refusal to be held down by the past and a determination to move forward… At its very core, Juneteenth is this affirmation that we are here, and we will continue to be here. We will continue to struggle in the face of many challenges.”


At YouthBuild Lake County, we hold the spirit of Juneteenth in the same way that Navies sums up so beautifully. Her description of Juneteenth mirrors the same beliefs that drive the form of freedom that YBLC has continued to bring to underserved young adults within Lake County for over two decades —the freedom to shape one’s own future. Our participants, primarily young People of Color, have overcome tremendous barriers across numerous fronts just to get to the point of even applying to YBLC. We are dedicated to empowering these young adults through education, vocational training, and comprehensive support services so that they are able to build a better future for themselves, their families and children, and their communities at large.


We believe in empowering young adults with the freedom to choose their own futures through comprehensive educational and vocational programs. Educational and vocational freedom is something many take for granted—choosing your college, picking a major, and applying to careers you are passionate about are freedoms that are not always accessible to everyone. By providing diverse opportunities for learning and skill development, we ensure that our participants, who may not have had these choices before, can pursue careers that truly align with their interests and aspirations.  At YBLC we provide:

High School Diploma Program:
Ensuring that every participant has the opportunity to complete their education and open doors to higher learning and better job prospects.

Vocational Training:
Offering hands-on training in fields such as construction, healthcare, and transportation, allowing participants to develop  skills and pursue careers in industries of their choice.

Career Development:
Providing job readiness training, resume workshops, and interview preparation to equip participants with the tools they need to succeed in the workforce.

The skills learned and credentials earned during these programs give our participants the autonomy to make informed decisions about their futures, breaking free from the constraints of limited opportunities and societal expectations. After graduating from YBLC, many of our participants have gone on to pursue careers in fields they are genuinely passionate about, including HVAC, Real Estate, Carpentry, and other diverse industries.


True freedom extends beyond physical and educational empowerment—it also encompasses mental and emotional well-being. At YBLC, we recognize that mental health is a crucial aspect of personal growth and success. Many of our participants face significant stress and trauma, which can impede their progress and potential. By addressing these mental health needs, we help them achieve a level of freedom from the mental burdens that often block growth and success.

  1. Counseling Services: Professional counseling to help participants navigate personal challenges, cope with trauma, and build resilience.
  2. Mental Health and Wellness Programs: Workshops and activities focused on mental wellness, stress management, and self-care.
  3. Substance Abuse Counseling: Support for those struggling with addiction, providing a path to recovery and a healthier lifestyle.

By offering these services, YBLC helps participants free themselves from the mental burdens that often block growth and hinder progress. We believe that addressing these issues is crucial for personal development and achieving long-term success.


During an interview conducted by Ta-Nehisi Coates, esteemed author and reporter, Barack Obama asked:

“How do we in the African American community build a culture in which we are saying to our kids, ‘Here's what it takes to succeed. Here's the sacrifices you need to make to be able to get ahead. Here's how we support each other. Here's how we look out for each other.’"

Our mission at YBLC is driven by a desire to break the cycle of poverty and replace it with the community the former President describes above. The overwhelming majority of our participants come from low-income backgrounds and face significant barriers to success. By offering education, career training, and staff and networks to support them, we aim to open doors to new opportunities to help our participants build better futures for themselves and their families.

We are committed to fostering equity and inclusion, addressing the unique challenges faced by People of Color, and working towards a more just and inclusive society. Our work benefits not only individual participants but also the broader community that we all call home. In the words of another former politician, Tom Vilsack,

“People working together in a strong community with a shared goal and a common purpose can make the impossible possible.”

Help YBLC Build A Stronger Community

Like Vilsack said, when people work together with a common purpose, anything is possible. By donating to YBLC, you are championing change for the underserved young adults within Lake County, pushing the entire community forward.


Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom and a reminder of the enduring fight for equality. At YouthBuild Lake County, we honor this legacy by providing young adults with the education, training, and support they need to achieve their own forms of freedom. Through our comprehensive programs and services, we help our participants break free from the constraints of limited opportunities and mental burdens, empowering them to shape their own futures and build better lives.

As we commemorate Juneteenth, we celebrate the strides we have made and renew our commitment to creating a world where every individual has the freedom to reach their full potential. At YBLC, we continue the struggle for freedom and justice by empowering marginalized communities and advocating for systemic change. Together, with a strong community of participants, alumni, and supporters like you, we can make the impossible possible- creating a Lake County free from economic, educational, and vocational burdens!

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