A study in 1976 by the Lake County Youth Services Bureau recommended the formation of a youth council that would focus entirely on youth and report directly to the city. Input was solicited by the League of Women Voters and the APT. As a result, an Ad Hoc committee of community leaders was formed by the Mayor of Lake Forest to “consider the proper role of the city in responding to the needs of its young people.” The Ad Hoc committee eventually recommended that the community establish CROYA, a committee of citizens appointed by the Mayor of Lake Forest and the Village President of Lake Bluff.
In 1981, Lake Forest College performed a Youth Needs Assessment to further define the issues that students face. The study uncovered stresses such as homework, parent and teacher expectations; pressure to get good grades and be successful; peer pressure to drink, use drugs, or become sexually active; plus the unique stresses associated with life as a teenager in affluent communities. Since its inception, the programs that CROYA develops aim to help kids through these issues.
Over the years CROYA has evolved, gradually focusing on providing additional alternative youth activities as a way to reach out to young people and earn their trust. According to Eugene Hotchkiss, President Emeritus, Lake Forest College, “CROYA became an organization that listened to youth while hearing adults as well.”
In 1987 with the help of a generous private donation, CROYA purchased a section of the Lake Forest Recreation Center and finally had a place to call home. More private donations funded a renovation and expansion of the space in 2007, which now offers a large, multipurpose space with a stage, kitchen, lounges, Mac-equipped classrooms, rehearsal rooms, recording studio, and a dance studio.
CROYA is currently staffed by adult youth workers, and supported by contracted social workers. In addition, Lake Forest College students work as part-time building mentors, to help supervise after school hours, and assist with programs.
Today, CROYA is a thriving, vibrant youth agency. Led by youth committees, CROYA offers weekly meetings, community service initiatives, educational programs, social activities, and retreats. CROYA partner Activator Music Academy teaches hundreds of music lessons each year, and runs music programs, including Open Mic nights, Superjams, and more. Every facet begins with CROYA teens and is facilitated by adult staff members who have earned their respect and trust. CROYA has been nationally recognized as a model for community-based youth organizations, looking to build successful youth/adult partnerships of any kind.