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We unleash the leadership potential of Illinois youth.

We don't teach students what to think. We don't even teach students how to think. ILS is dedicated to stressing the importance of careful thought for both today's and tomorrow's leaders.


Special Announcement

ILS President 2020

Hello My Friends,

I wanted to take a moment in the middle of a very hectic week to share some exciting news. After a long period of reflection and discussion, I have decided to step down as the Corporate Board President. I am not leaving ILS, nor am I resigning from The Board. I will continue to volunteer with and support ILS with every bit as much energy and enthusiasm as I ever have, because the ILS experience never really ends…

This is not a goodbye letter. Quite the opposite. This is the start of a new chapter for ILS – and a thrilling chapter at that. For the first time in over a decade, it is my honor to announce a new Illinois Leadership Seminars Corporate Board President. Actually, not just one president – but two: Angela Jos and Keith Donovan made a proposal at the September Board meeting for a Co-president model. Following many questions by my fellow Board members, the proposal was accepted and Angela and Keith have been unanimously voted in as the ILS Board Co-presidents.

I am intensely proud of all that we have accomplished, both as individual volunteers and as the team that is The Illinois Leadership Seminars. We are on solid financial footing, our recruitment numbers are on the rise, and we have a volunteer and donor base that is broader and stronger than it has ever been. The challenges we all face will be met -and overcome- with the same ideas and ideals we strive to impart to our participants: critical thought, passion for achieving goals, and listening to one another. 

Please take a moment to offer your congratulations – and more importantly, your support – to Angela and Keith. Please continue to read on below.

With the greatest of respect,

ILS Past President


Dear ILS Family, 

Hello!  I am Angela Jos, and I went through Seminar in 2007 as the student leader from East Leyden High School. In fact, Hopper was my Senior Coach, and I would remiss if I did not take this opportunity to thank him for his many years of dedicated service and the lasting influence he has made on this organization and on me personally. 

I recognized right away that ILS was going to make a huge impact on my life. I have continued to volunteer with the organization in many capacities including Junior Coach and Ops Team, and five years as Seminar Chair. My experience helping to plan Seminar led me to my professional career in corporate events and communications.

Now, my deep passion for youth leadership and leadership development has caused me to seek a Co-president position on the ILS Corporate Board. I am looking forward to partnering with other leaders within ILS to further develop our brand, public relations efforts, and communication processes. I am excited to collaborate closely with Keith and to serve an organization that has given me so much in this new way. I would not be the person and the leader I am today had I not attended Seminar, and it is my honor to be a part of bringing this valuable experience to others, continuing a ripple that can change the world.

Greetings! For those who may not know me, my name is Keith Donovan and I am excited to serve as one of the two new Co-presidents for Illinois Leadership Seminars. Having attended seminar as a high school sophomore back in 2000, I have worn many hats at ILS in the two decades which followed. Most recently, I’ve been behind the scenes helping with tech and audio / visual needs during seminar and in the front of house assisting with the Leadership in a Diverse World rotations and speaking on the panel. I’ve also been the person running the Build-a-boat activity for the last few years.  

Outside of ILS, I serve as the Executive Director for a social justice retreat and education center and have my own experience sitting on the board of directors there. I am excited to bring to the position of Co-president my passion for leadership development, my organizational and management skills in the nonprofit world, and my core belief that ILS is a powerful organization poised to make waves in the future of society. 

If you have been super-involved in ILS in the last few years, Angela and I are excited to work with you in this new capacity. If you have been away for a while, maybe this is the moment to reach out and get more involved once again. As Angela said, many thanks to Hopper for all he has done to “captain” this “leader ship” over the last decade-plus. We are truly afloat because of his passion, drive, and commitment. As we set sail on a new chapter as an organization, let’s navigate these waters together.


Angela Jos

Keith Donovan

ILS Co-presidents


Illinois Leadership Seminars’ mission is to unleash the leadership potential of Illinois Youth. It is not our goal to teach participants what to think, nor how to think, but rather to stress the importance of careful thought. To that end, we value a strong diversity of thoughts, opinions, and perspectives and believe we are made stronger as a society when we support equity and inclusion for all. Leaders stand in their courage and ask tough questions, even when they are uncomfortable. Leaders believe every human being is valuable. Leaders believe marginalization and systems of oppression must end. Leaders say, “I stand next to you in support of your experience, even though it may not be my own.” 


Systemic racial injustice requires us as leaders now more than ever to assert: Black lives matter. We encourage discussion of this truth and what it means.


In these challenging and stressful times, members of our ILS family are hurting. We ask all alumni, volunteers, and donors to begin the process of using the leadership skills from their own ILS experiences towards goals that benefit all: equity, unity, and justice. Give a voice to those being marginalized, take a stand for what you believe in, listen to each other, and be the leaders your communities so desperately need right now. While it will not be easy, we support you; this process is necessary to bring meaningful change. 


Illinois Leadership Seminars stands in solidarity with leaders striving for a more just, equitable society. We will do whatever we can to see you, hear you, affirm you, and support you. You are not alone.


Our Response to COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Like many of you, we at the Illinois Leadership Seminars have been monitoring the constant flow of information concerning the COVID-19 virus.  The landscape seems to change by the minute as new inputs are being received from the World Health Organization, the CDC, Federal, State and local municipalities, school administrations and concerned parents.

The Illinois Leadership Seminar Corporate Board and Seminar Planning Committee want to keep you informed on our decisions during the ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic.

As we previously mentioned, the health and safety of our leaders, volunteers, staff, and alumni remains our paramount concern. With this in mind, we have made the decision to postpone our ILS Flagship Seminar planned for June 2020 until June 2021. This is not a decision that was taken lightly and we are assessing how to make the greatest impact for our 2020 and 2021 leaders. 

We plan to stay strong in our mission through these uncharted times while also looking out for the safety of our alumni and future leaders of this country. We know that many of you are as disappointed as we are, but we are confident that this is the best and safest decision for everyone. The postponement of Seminar will give us even more time to make 2021 the best year for ILS yet! Now more than ever is the time to lean on your ILS family, stay engaged, and keep an eye out for more announcements. We will come out of this stronger together!

Thank you for your patience and support.

For more information on COVID-19 updates and guidelines, please visit the following sites:

If you have further questions about how our organization is handling our events, please read our FAQ document linked below or reach out to our president, Hopper Oehler, using the contact button below.


About Us

Our annual leadership seminar is held at no cost to the students who participate and the schools that send their students, so we need your help to continue investing in these young leaders.

ILS has been providing quality, free leadership seminars in Illinois since 1977. We are a 100% volunteer organization with 501(c)3 nonprofit status. Through our programs, students interact with leaders in industry, government, the arts, education, and the media, coming in contact with a diverse world of leaders and leadership styles. Students are then challenged to discover and unleash their own leadership potential in their schools and communities, using the tools and resources made available to them at ILS. We at Illinois Leadership Seminars don't tell our participants what to think, or even how to think, but stress the importance of careful thought for our world's future leaders.


We have postponed accepting nominations for our 2020 Seminar.

Looking to nominate a student once nominations open again or need more information about the nomination process?


Thank you to our schools who already submitted their nomination for our 2020 Seminar before our announcement. We are excited to host your leader in 2021!

Nominated Schools

Argo Community High School
Ashton-Franklin Center High School
Batavia High School
Belleville West High School
Belvidere North High School
Benet Academy
Bremen High School
Brother Rice High School
Butler College Prep
Central High School
CICS Northtown Academy
Coal City High School
Collinsville High School
Deer Creek Mackinaw
Donovan Jr./Sr. High School
Downers Grove North High School
Durand High School
East Leyden High School
Eastland Jr./Sr. High School
Elgin High School
Foreman High School
Freeport High School
Galena High School
Galva Jr. Sr. High School
Gardner-South Wilmington High School
Genoa-Kingston High School
Granite City High School
Grant Community High School
Harlem High School
Hinckley-Big Rock High School
IC Catholic Prep
Intrinsic Schools
Jefferson High School
John Marshall Metropolitan High School
Johnsburg HIgh School
Knoxville High School
La Moille High School
Lakes Community High School
Lane Tech College Prep
Lebanon High School
Lemont High School
Lena-Winslow High School
Litchfield High School
Lycee Francais de Chicago
Mansueto High School
Marengo Community High School
Marian Central Catholic
McHenry East High School
McHenry West High School
Mendota Township High School
Milledgeville High School
Momence High School
Monmouth-Roseville High School
Morris Community High School
Mount Olive High School
Mt Zion High School
Niles North High School
Normal Community High School
Ogden International
Ombudsman Chicago West
Oregon High School
Paxton Buckley Loda High School
Pecatonica High School
Polo Community High School
Prairie Ridge High School
Regina Dominican High School
Rich East High School
Roosevelt High School
Round Lake Senior High School
Sacred Heart-Griffin High School
Shelbyville High School
St. Francis High School
St. Laurence High School
Stillman Valley High School
The High School of St Thomas More
Vernon Hills High School
Warren Township High School
Warsaw High School
Washington Community High School
Wauconda High School
West Leyden High School
William Howard Taft High School
Willowbrook High School
Wilmington High School
Winchester High School
Winnebago High School
Wolcott School
Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart
Zion Benton Township High School


Contact Illinois Leadership Seminars

805 Lake St. #184 Oak Park IL United States 60301

(773) 550-5751

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Great Hearts Initiative,,,
National Society for Youth Leadership (NSYL)


805 Lake St. #184 Oak Park IL United States 60301

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