As we celebrate our 20th anniversary this year, Urban Initiatives (UI) is “building community in a way that I think our kids would not get” elsewhere, Coach Chasitie Neal says in a video that marks the milestone.
Through its team sports and play, UI gives youth “a reason to matter,” UI alum Lizbeth Barajas says in the video, “and I feel like that’s really important for kids.”
Two decades ago, Jim Dower — our executive director — and Dan Isherwood founded Urban Initiatives in the Cabrini-Green neighborhood on Chicago’s North Side. Then Chicago Public Schools teachers and suburban soccer coaches, they saw that the children they were teaching lacked opportunities for extracurricular activities and did something about it.
From coaching 12 kids on a park soccer field in 2003, UI today serves more than 15,000 students in 80-plus schools across the city.
“Our goal is to reach 100,000 young people [annually] by the end of 2025, and we are well on our way,” Chief Program Officer Kimberly Townsend says in the video.
Students, parents, and teachers are working to build a “community across the city to have positive changes and empower people,” Kimberly adds. “And it’s having a huge ripple effect.”