School is OUT and Summer Camp is IN

You might think that summer is a laid-back time at the Urban Initiatives office — think again! There’s been so much going on! We’ve just wrapped up an amazing of summer programming that provided free opportunities for 300 kids at 10 schools all over the city to have safe, fun, and active space to learn and play.

Our 4-week daily “camp” is staffed by Urban Initiatives coaches and enhanced by partnerships with Chicago Cubs, After School Matters, Common Threads, and others. Schools look forward to weekly visits from our Cubs Jr. All-STARS team, which leads a character-building curriculum that teaches basic baseball skills. Kids complete an activity log during the week and turn it in to receive sweet Cubs prizes, like eye black stickers and whiffle bats! Each school also takes a trolley ride to a game day at Gallagher Way at Wrigley Field, where they play with other schools and meet special VIPs like Tommy La Stella and Kerry Wood!

Our partnership with Common Threads adds some flavor to summer program by providing ingredients and lesson plans for kids to make their own healthy snacks, like Watermelon Sundaes and Lemon Parmesan Popcorn! Coach Ella at Lloyd Elementary was surprised and impressed when campers asked follow-up questions about protein, amino acids, and sugar. “By week four of camp, kids were reading the labels on the back of their drinks and snacks. It was awesome to see how much they had been paying attention!”

Our partnership with After School Matters is REALLY exciting, because we have the opportunity to hire high school coaches to work at our summer camps around the city. Many of these young coaches have participated in Urban Initiatives programming, and we love the opportunity to give them a leadership role with kids who can really connect with them and look up to them. Ashontis Davis has been in Urban Initiatives programming since she was in 2nd grade, and now she is a coach. “I enjoy being able to relate to the kids and inspire them,” she says. In addition to working, ASM participants also attend weekly professional development opportunities, including sessions in financial planning and trauma-sensitive coaching.

Unfortunately, violence in Chicago tends to spike during the summer months, and some parents can be hesitant to let their students go outside with friends and run around the neighborhood. There are many summer programs, but they can be costly. Having the option to send students to the neighborhood school they attend during the school year helps provide a comfortable environment for students and parents alike. Families can trust that these familiar coaches are positive role models who have their child’s best interest at heart. Coaches use positive reinforcement and collaboration to make sure that the kids play games that they love!

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