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Urban Initiatives

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Chicago natives Jim Dower and Dan Isherwood were working as public school teachers in the city’s Cabrini-Green neighbourhood when they witnessed first-hand the hurdles at-risk students must overcome to succeed.


Vulnerable to the effects of poverty and exposure to community violence, as football coaches they founded Urban Initiatives as a response to the lack of extracurricular activities for students. Initially, the programme consisted of a before- and after-school football programme called Work to Play, including two coaches and 12 students. By providing these students with an opportunity to learn, play and ultimately succeed, the programme’s positive impact translated into improved classroom performance. The school principal quickly recognised the results and the success soon spread across the city, creating further demand for Urban Initiatives programmes.


Today, Urban Initiatives’ four programmes serve students in public schools across Chicago, from 38 diverse communities, providing a safe environment both on and off the pitch through a coach, to educators, and to parents' support system.


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Urban Initiatives
April Lillstrom

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“When I first started, I couldn’t control the ball at all. But, my favourite part about practice was learning new things and becoming better. My coaches were super supportive of me.”

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