What We Do
We Empower Youth, Parents & Communities
Play is a Game Changer
We believe that play has the power to make Chicago safer, more equitable, and more connected. Through a dual approach, we create safe spaces for youth, teens, and adults to develop social-emotional skills in fun team environments. By engaging youth in our programs and equipping adults with SEL-based coaching skills, we amplify the inherent power of play to develop youth as leaders and strengthen the social fabric of Chicago.
Urban Initiatives Play is Serious
For Chicago families who want more free play and sports opportunities for their children, Urban Initiatives is a community builder that brings joy and confidence to the lives of the 15,000 children we serve. We provide caring coaches trained to instill teamwork, empathy, and stress management.
What Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Means to Us
At Urban Initiatives, we asked some of our closest friends, some of the most successful people we know, how they’ve seen the impact of Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) in their own lives and why strong SEL is so important for individuals, communities, and society as a whole.
Urban Initiatives’ Approach
In 2003, Urban Initiatives came up with the goal to create a safe space with trusted adults where kids can play together. In this video, learn how we did it and how we continue to evolve and grow the program.
It’s Time to Make an Impact
Urban Initiatives is using the power of sport and play to strengthen Chicago’s future by building an enduring team of youth, families, schools, and communities.
Continuum of Programming
We Teach Students to Hone Their Leadership Skills and Build Social Capital
Our Continuum of Programming starts with a foundation of social-emotional learning (SEL) for elementary schoolers on our soccer teams. As our students move into middle school, they join our leadership development and high school readiness program, where they serve as Team Captains on their school’s team and leaders for younger students. Captains participate in group mentoring sessions that build on social-emotional skills they learned in our elementary programs.
When they reach high school, we pair participants with mentors from Chicago’s professional community and host workshops that teach students the skills needed to succeed after high school. The program provides work-based learning opportunities that expose participants to diverse examples of success.
SEL Suite of Services
We Design Programs that Meet Our School Partners’ Needs
Designed for youth pre-K–8, the SEL suite of services builds a strong foundation of social-emotional learning through play.
- Out-of-school-time soccer
- Summer sports camp
- Recess during the school day
21st Century Programming
We Invest in Chicago’s Educational Ecosystems
Over 20 years, we’ve seen the impact that play-based social-emotional learning can have on educational ecosystems, particularly Chicago Public Schools. We are a leader in youth programming in Chicago, and we partner with schools through the Community Schools Initiative to maximize the impact of their out-of-school time enrichment offerings.
We Train Caring Adults to Be Impactful Youth Coaches
We invest heavily in training—not just for our own coaches, but for coaches across Chicago. Through a partnership with The Forum for Youth Investment & David P. Weikart Center—a nationally recognized leader in high quality youth development to foster social and emotional skills— we offer facilitated professional development (PD) workshops to grow parents, guardians, teachers, school staff, and community participants as coaches prepared to organize and implement sports and play sessions for healing, connections, and resiliency.
87% of Every Dollar Donated Goes Directly to Our Programs at Urban Initiatives
Urban Initiatives is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization operating in the state of Illinois. We put donations to work in programs for kids, parents, and coaches.
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