Mentor Coaches Love Soccer And School


Urban Initiatives’ Mentor Coaches once again demonstrated their inspiring commitment and passion as they showed up in full force ready to laugh, learn, and lead. On Saturday, January 12th, the second-ever Urban Initiatives Mentor Coach Retreat kicked off at DePaul University. The DePaul Center for Access and Attainment generously donated their beautiful space to host the Mentor Coach Retreat, which emphasized commitment to learning and the connection between the soccer field and the classroom. It could not have been a more perfect setting as the Mentor Coaches played games and completed challenges that facilitated conversation and learning around how present decisions impact future opportunities. By the time the young soccer players left the campus at the end of the retreat, many of them were excitedly proclaiming, “I can’t wait to go to college!”

Consistent with Urban Initiatives’ commitment to parent inclusion and engagement, the day began with an opportunity for parents and Mentor Coaches to interview one another about their school experiences over a healthy breakfast. The Mentor Coaches were then excused for some fun, social, and active warm-up games, while the parents stayed behind with Coaches Tom and Cris to participate in a parent-led discussion about the best way to support their child’s school involvement. The parents’ feedback and insights were amazingly helpful both to each other and to the Urban Initiatives staff! We felt honored to be able to listen in.

Meanwhile, after the Mentor Coaches were sufficiently warmed-up and jumping with excitement, they hustled over to Wish Field. Our eager student athletes could not believe their eyes when they saw the immaculate turf field, the home of the DePaul Blue Demons, and realized that this was their field to play on! The Mentor Coaches were further surprised to find the field occupied by 20 DePaul varsity soccer who were waiting specifically for them! The 5th-8th graders felt like stars as the college players took them under their wings and taught them all their coolest moves. The sight was truly inspirational as our young Mentor Coaches teamed up with DePaul players and proved that they deserved to take their place on the college field.

The rest of the day featured a creative combination of activities that empowered the Mentor Coaches with the reality that they are constantly learners, and therefore also constantly teachers. There were lots of “light bulb” moments as the young leaders began to realize the importance of their role in teaching their younger teammates what they have learned. One of our Mentor Coaches from Providence School in Englewood captured the spirit of the event as she told us that one of her goals for this school year is to “help someone who needs a little bit more help than I do.” We know that all of our Mentor Coaches will leave their mark on their communities by stepping up to lead and to teach.

This amazing event would not have been possible without all of those who enthusiastically volunteered time, energy, and resources. We want to especially thank Amanda Parada-Villatoro and Glenna Ousley from DePaul for generously donating breakfast and space in the DePaul Student Center. We also want to thank Principal Katherine Konieczny from Oscar Mayer School for donating space for lunch. Many thanks are due to DePaul Coach Craig Blazer and all of the DePaul Varsity Soccer players who came out to teach us all new moves on the beautiful Wish Field! Last but certainly not least, THANK YOU to Birger Buesching, Jen McGowan, Beth Joosten, and Clark Fideler, who dedicated their time and effort throughout the day to make this event a success for all of our Mentor Coaches. Stay tuned for more news about our phenomenal Mentor Coaches as they make Urban Initiatives proud! 

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