You’ve seen it in your son or daughter for so long. At ILS, we not only help students realize their own leadership potential, we watch them unleash it in their homes, schools, communities, and in our world. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to work with your teenager! 

  • The 2017 Illinois Leadership Seminar will take place June 9, 10, and 11 (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) at North Park University in Chicago. This is an overnight event.
  • Registration emails with the information you need to register will be sent out to all nominated students at the beginning of each week starting in January. Students will then have two weeks to complete their registration. Failure to complete registration by the deadline will result in the forfeiture of your spot at ILS 2017.
  • Check-In times will be EARLY morning on Friday, June 9.
  • All leaders must have their signed, completed Consent Form with them when at Check-In.
  • Parents and families are invited to attend Closing Ceremonies on Sunday, June 11. Closing Ceremony times will be sent in future communications once registered. Please arrive at least a half hour before the start time for these ceremonies. Check-Out will immediately follow Closing Ceremonies.

If you have any questions about Illinois Leadership Seminar, please make sure the read the FAQs that are displayed below. If the FAQ doesn't answer your question, please send us an email to

Registration will open soon!

While I have always thought my son was great kid with a great future ahead of him, I was still optimistic that the weekend would benefit him.  I was not prepared though for the changes I have seen in him.  He came home calmer and more self-assured.  He had patience with his younger siblings that I have never witnessed before.  I could tell that Jack was consciously trying to be a good example for them.  He taught them your chants and songs.  He wanted to spend time and have fun with them but also corrected their bad behavior.  Jack is planning many things for school next year as class president based on what he learned at ILS.  He is so motivated and wants to contribute so much to his school and classmates. Thank you. Those three days will impact my son for a lifetime.
Julie2013 Alumni Parent


Parent FAQs

What is Illinois Leadership Seminars (ILS)?

Illinois Leadership Seminars is a non-profit, 100% volunteer organization with one mission: to unleash the leadership potential of Illinois youth. We accomplish this mission in two major ways. First, we provide students all over the state with an opportunity to attend a free leadership seminar. Second, after a student has gone through one of our programs, they have the option to stay involved with our Alumni Association. The Alumni Association provides our students with an active nationwide network of successful leaders to rely on for support with everything from advice on how to run a high school pep rally to college applications and job interviews.

Your son or daughter has been selected to go through phase one of our program by attending our free, three-day leadership seminar.

How did my son or daughter get selected to attend the Illinois Leadership Seminar?

We reach out to high school counselors and administrators all over the state and ask them to select one outstanding sophomore from their high school to attend our seminar. We leave who to select and how to select them totally up to the schools. Some schools have a private staff vote, some hold an essay contest, and some counselors just hand pick a student on their own. No matter how our students are selected, they all have one awesome thing in common: leadership potential.

Why should I let my son or daughter attend?

ILS is an opportunity for your son or daughter to be around other outstanding leaders their own age. Sometimes, students are nervous about attending a seminar where they don’t know anyone, but to us, that’s the best part! ILS is a fresh start. Our message is simple. No matter your gender, your ethnicity, your religion, your socioeconomic background, no matter where you come from… you (yes YOU!) can be a leader.

Open spots at our seminar are in high demand and we typically have a 40-50 student waiting list for our program. If you decide ILS is not right for your son or daughter, please let us (and your son or daughter’s counselor) know as soon as possible so we can offer the opportunity to another student.

How do I register my son or daughter for ILS?

You must sit down with your son or daughter and register online for our seminar. Even if your child’s counselor has already nominated them to attend ILS, their spot is not reserved until they complete the online registration process. The sooner you register your son or daughter, the sooner we can reserve their seat at seminar.

All students will receive a personalized email with registration instructions and the codes they will need to register. Registration emails will be sent out at the beginning of each week starting in January. If they have not completed registration by the deadline, we will cancel their nomination and give their spot to schools and students on our waiting list.

Registration is a very simple process that should not take longer than 10 minutes. The step by step instructions are very easy to follow, so please read the entire email. We understand that some leaders will be nominated for a while before they can register, but we are waiting to focus on registration until we have all of the nominations in. Your son or daughter’s counselor will also receive a notification when we have sent out registration instructions.

Please read through all of the Frequently Asked Questions before you complete the online registration. You need to understand what you are committing your son or daughter to before you register them.

When is ILS?

The 2017 Illinois Leadership Seminar will take place June 9, 10, and 11 (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday). This is a three-day, overnight event. Students must attend the entire seminar.

Where will the seminar be held?

The seminar will take place at our host site, North Park University in Chicago, IL.

North Park University
3225 West Foster Avenue
Chicago, IL 60625

The campus is accessible from I-90, I-94, and several forms of public transportation. Click here for map of the campus.

Where will my son or daughter be sleeping?

Before we answer that, let’s get some ILS lingo out of the way. All of our participants are referred to as “leaders” throughout the weekend. So from here on out, “leader” refers to a student who is attending our program, in this case, your son or daughter.

All of our staff and leaders will be staying in dorms on campus. There will be all male floors and all female floors reserved exclusively for ILS (i.e. participants from other events going on at North Park University will not be on the same floors as ILS participants). Access to each floor is restricted to leaders rooming on that floor by each participant’s key card. Therefore, no male can access a female floor and no female can access a male floor. Your son or daughter will have one or two other leaders of the same gender as roommates for the weekend. Each floor will have an emergency adult contact on call whenever leaders are in the dorms. Staff members are strictly prohibited from EVER entering the dorm room of a leader. Leaders will not be allowed to go back to the dorms during the day. Therefore, leaders only have two reasons to be in their dorms throughout the weekend, to drop off their luggage and to sleep.

How many adults will be supervising my son or daughter during the weekend?

Our Staff is divided into two groups, Jr. Staff and Sr. Staff. Your child will be assigned to a group which will be staffed by one Senior coach and two Junior coaches. Our Jr. Staff are all alumni of the seminar. They are ages 16-20 and have several different roles operating under the direction of our Sr. Staff throughout the weekend. Our leader to Jr. Staff ratio is about 3:1. Our Sr. Staff are adult volunteers, 21 and older, most of whom are alumni of the seminar. Our leader to Sr. Staff ratio is about 5:1. Adults from many different backgrounds volunteer at our seminar. All of our staff members go through a rigorous application process and every staff member ages 18 and older undergoes a background check conducted by our Corporate Board. This ensures that we always have the best staff on hand to assist your son or daughter all weekend.

Is the seminar REALLY free?

Absolutely. We work very hard all year long to make sure that no student has to pay to attend the Illinois Leadership Seminar. All meals (beginning with lunch on Friday), housing, and overhead have been paid for. Sponsors include GFWCs (Women’s Clubs), Gallup Inc., and alumni of the seminar itself. Schools, parents, and students incur no costs with the exception of transportation to and from our seminar site.

Why would anyone put on this event for my son or daughter for free?

All of our staff members are volunteers. Not a single Corporate Board member, Seminar Planning Committee member, Alumni Board member, coach, speaker, panelist, or any other staff member gets paid. We do this because, quite simply, we believe in your son or daughter. Most of our staff have actually been through the seminar themselves and were so moved by the weekend that they choose to give back year after year. We actually have to turn away volunteers for the weekend because so many people want to help with ILS.

When and where do I drop my son/daughter off? How do they Check-In?

Check-In times will be EARLY morning on Friday, June 9th. Please plan ahead and consider that there may be traffic on Friday morning. When you arrive at North Park University, please park in the free visitor parking lot on the southeast corner of Kedzie and Foster Avenues, across from McDonalds. Cross Kedzie Avenue and Illinois Leadership Seminars volunteers will meet you at the front steps of Hamming Hall (number 12 on the campus map) and direct you to Check-In. Please bring everything you will need for the weekend (including your signed consent form) with you.

At Check-In on Friday morning, please be sure you clearly indicate who will be picking your son or daughter up on Sunday. For your child’s own safety, we will not release them on Sunday to someone not listed on their Check-In form. If there may be several different people picking your child up on Sunday, please list them all.

Once checked-in, you can accompany your son or daughter to their dorm room to drop off their luggage. Finally, you will leave them with their small group where you can meet their Senior Coach for the weekend. It is not mandatory that you accompany your son or daughter to Check-In or to their dorms, however, you are more than welcome to if you would like.

When and where do I pick my son/daughter up? How do they Check-Out?

Seminar will conclude with a special Closing Ceremony which you and your family are welcomed and encouraged to attend. Closing Ceremony times will be sent in future communications but the Closing Ceremony will take place in the late morning on Sunday. Please arrive about a half hour before the start for these ceremonies. Check-Out will immediately follow Closing Ceremonies.

You may park in the same free visitor parking lot on the southeast corner of Kedzie and Foster Avenues that you parked in for Check-In. After Closing Ceremony is over and you have completed Check-Out with son or daughter’s Sr. Coach, you may collect their luggage and leave. Please be advised that your son or daughter may want to say goodbyes and/or purchase items from our ILS store at this time.

My son or daughter has a conflict. Can they arrive late/leave early?

All of our leaders are required to stay for the entire weekend, no exceptions. Sponsors have paid for your son or daughter to attend the whole weekend and we require all of our participants to experience seminar it its entirety. Please put ILS on your calendar NOW and have your son or daughter check their finals schedule, sports schedule, camp schedule, work schedule, vacation schedule etc. If your son or daughter has a conflict that prevents them from attending the entire seminar, please let us know ASAP so we can find a replacement.

What about transportation?

Each leader is responsible for getting themselves to North Park University at Check-In and home after Check-Out. Please plan ahead. Some of our leaders literally live five minutes away from campus. Others live five hours away from Chicago. Whatever your individual transportation situation is, we ask that you do your best to plan ahead. We understand that getting to North Park University is more difficult for some parents and leaders than others. If you would like to carpool or are willing give someone in your area a ride, please check the carpool option on the transportation page when you register. Our Recruitment Director will send out an email with the contact information of everyone who indicated they would like to carpool during registration about a month before seminar. Beyond that, we cannot set up any carpool/ride share program. Please be respectful of everyone on the list and honor their wishes if they choose to no longer participate.

If you are your son or daughter’s transportation to seminar, please make sure you are free Friday morning! Friday is a business day and we understand that many parents have to work. Before committing to drive your son or daughter to seminar, please be aware that Check-In is EARLY on Friday morning, June 9th and remember that we require of our leaders to be at North Park University on time.

Some leaders choose to drive themselves to seminar. If that option works best, they can park in the visitor parking lot on the southeast corner of Kedzie and Foster Avenues. Parking is free for the entire seminar.

If circumstances arise that prevent you from getting your son or daughter to and from our seminar site, please let us know ASAP so we can offer the spot to another student.

We live really far away, can you recommend any hotels in the area to stay Thursday night?

Unfortunately, no, we can’t. It’s not that we don’t want to help, but making recommendations about where parents and families should stay for the weekend, if you plan on doing so, is a liability issue. Chicago has an abundance of practical transportation tools as well as hotel options. If you do plan on making this a weekend getaway trip for you and your spouse and/or family, we wish you the best of luck, but unfortunately cannot make any recommendations.

Does my son or daughter need to bring anything special for the weekend?

We have a detailed check list of everything you son or daughter should pack for the weekend. Click here to view it.           

Please make sure your son or daughter does not bring valuables of any kind.  ILS is not responsible for any lost or stolen items.

What actually happens during the weekend?

The program includes motivational speakers, leadership activities, group discussions…and that’s just the beginning. During the ILS experience, a broad spectrum of leaders will address various aspects of leadership in our changing world and the challenges future leaders will confront. You will have the opportunity to ask questions of the speakers and participate in small group discussions throughout the seminar. This is a dynamic weekend!  We will conclude Friday evening with a dance and Saturday evening with a leader showcase.

The program is not designed to teach students what to think, or even how to think, but rather to emphasize the importance of critical thinking skills in leadership roles.

How is the seminar structured?

Once a leader has registered for our seminar, they are assigned to a small group of 8-10 leaders. These groups are totally random to ensure each leader is exposed to other leaders with different backgrounds. Each group has one Senior Coach and two Junior Coaches. Different seminar activities require different levels of participation. Some highly interactive activities and discussions will be done within the small group, while other activities will be done as a large seminar group. Your son or daughter will have an opportunity to interact with leaders from every group at some point during the weekend.

What, if any, additional interaction should we be expecting before the seminar?

Our Recruitment Director will be sending out additional reminder emails in the months and weeks leading up to seminar. It is imperative that we have an accurate email address for either you or your son or daughter on file. If your son or daughter checks their email regularly, we can use theirs. The reminders are primarily meant for them. However, if you would prefer that we send you the reminder emails, please list your email address when you register your child. You can then pass on any pertinent information to your son or daughter when you receive the reminders.

Other than the reminder emails, your son or daughter will be receiving a phone call from our Director of Recruitment, Amber, in early May and also from their Sr. Coach in late May. When you register, please be sure to list an accurate phone number where we can get a hold of your son or daughter. If an incorrect phone number is listed, we have no way to call them. Amber will be calling to verify transportation plans. Each Sr. Coach will be calling to ease any pre-seminar concerns and answer any questions your son or daughter may have, but if you have questions they would like to ask, your son or daughter’s Sr. Coach is available as a resource.

What if an emergency comes up and I need to get in contact with my son/daughter during ILS?

Illinois Leadership Seminars requests that all cell phones and other electronic devices should be kept in the dorm rooms throughout the weekend. An emergency contact number for parents to contact us 24/7 will be provided at Check-In and in a reminder email from our Recruitment Director.

What about religious services?

Illinois Leadership Seminars is not affiliated with any one faith or religious identity.  We understand that regular religious services are a part of many leaders’ lives; however, we do not allow leaders to leave campus during the weekend for any reason.  To meet the spiritual needs of our leaders and staff, we have time set aside on Sunday morning for optional quiet reflection, prayer, or meditation. Those who do not wish to participate are not required to do so.

Are there any other rules my son or daughter should be aware of before attending?

Glad you asked! Click here to view our rules and regulations for the weekend.

Something has come up and my son or daughter will be unable to attend. What do I do?

We understand that things come up, but if they do, please let us know! There is a long waiting list of Illinois students who want to participate in this weekend and if your son or daughter is unable to attend, we would like to offer this opportunity to someone on our alternate list. You can email our Recruitment Director, Amber Dalgaard, at or give her a call at the phone number listed at the bottom of your registration email.

Whom may I contact if I have additional questions?

Make sure you have looked through all the Frequently Asked Questions first. Almost every question a parent has ever asked us is answered right here. If you do have additional questions, please contact our Recruitment Director as she is your liaison until you arrive at North Park University. Amber will always get back to you within 24 hours. Please do not hesitate to ask questions! We are here to help! We understand that most of our leaders have never done anything like this and we are always willing to assist you in any way we can.