Jim is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Urban Initiatives. After graduating from the University of Iowa with a B.A. in Political Science, Jim got his start in Chicago as a substitute teacher at Cabrini-Green’s Byrd Academy, where the inspiration for Urban Initiatives began. Since then, Jim has dedicated an enormous amount of his time to developing Urban Initiatives’ high quality programming and managing organizational growth. Jim’s tireless work, innovative ideas, and ability to bring diverse stakeholders together have led to his recognition as a tremendous non-profit leader, from the 35 Under 35 Leadership Award from the Community Renewal Society to the Chicago Sun-Times list of 50 People Who Make Chicago a Better Place. As Urban Initiatives grows beyond our grassroots beginnings, Jim is committed to maintaining a “boots on the ground” approach to his work. He also is in his eighth year as a professional soccer coach for the Wilmette Wings Soccer Club. Jim oversees the day-to-day operations of Urban Initiatives and takes the lead on program development and external relations.
Julie graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in Political Science. Julie played many sports growing up and has always had an interest in youth development and health education. Previously Julie worked at Black River Farm and Ranch where she served as the Program Director. She also coordinated a community service project, geared toward teaching lessons about living an active and healthy lifestyle to elementary school students in Rhode Island. After volunteering as an Assistant Coach for the Work to Play Program at Schiller Elementary she knew she had found a great organization for which to put her professional skills to work. Julie oversees day-to-day operations with an emphasis on administration and development.
Erica earned a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Michigan in 2008, and recently completed a M.A. in Forensic Psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Erica played all sorts of sports growing up, but found her niche in swimming in high school, where she earned all-state honors in the 100m backstroke three years in a row. Erica has always loved kids, and finds that her administrative skills are the best way to support them. Erica took a primary role this year in the organizing and execution of the 6th annual Soccer Ball, Urban Initiatives’ main fundraising event. When she’s not running big events, Erica balances the books and coordinates Urban Initiatives many volunteers. Erica is the main point of contact for volunteers and office finance.
Originally from Destrehan, Louisiana, Lauren holds a B.S. in Business Administration from Seton Hall University and a M.A. from the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago where she studied the effects of poverty and inequality on youth’s educational outcomes. She has worked directly with youth for many years through an afterschool program in New Jersey and a summer leadership program in Louisiana. She is naturally drawn to Urban Initiatives' whole-child approach to youth development. Prior to graduate school, she interned with Urban Initiatives and most recently worked as an out-of-school time program evaluator for Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. Lauren manages program evaluation in order to support quality implementation and development efforts.
April received a B.A. in English from the University of Illinois and a M.Ed. from UIC, where she specialized in elementary education. April comes to Urban Initiatives after years of experience in teaching and youth engagement; she worked with AmeriCorps at educational non-profit groups including First Place School in Seattle and Jumpstart for Young Children in Chicago. Her love of AYSO soccer and hunger for apples drew her to Urban Initiatives, and her extensive knowledge of school communities and food issues has been an asset to her work in Back of the Yards. This year, April has coordinated dozens of healthy events for Urban Initiatives kids and assisted six schools in completing the Healthier US Schools challenge. April is the Healthy Places Program Manager at 5 schools, and the Play with Potential Manager and Program Associate at Libby and Daley.
Tom holds a B.A. in Religion & Philosophy with a minor in International Studies from Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin. Tom played organized soccer through high school and was first team all Central New York in baseball for Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse. Now, he loves playing all kinds of sports, from ping-pong to basketball to golf. Tom is excited about the power of sport to transform lives, and when he heard about Urban Initiatives, it was love at first sight. Tom's proudest accomplishment at Urban Initiatives has been successfully building meaningful and impactful relationships with hundreds of Chicago youth through his work on the Interfaith Cup, a soccer festival that brings together Chicago kids of diverse religious backgrounds.Tom is the Program Manager of the Work to Play Program, Urban initiatives flagship health and education soccer program.
Simba comes to Urban Initiatives from Harare, Zimbabwe via Greenwood, South Carolina, where he earned a General Business degree from Piedmont Technical College. There, he captained the Greenwood Wanderers—a club soccer team—to a Central Division championship in 2009. Simba’s reason for working at Urban Initiatives is clear: he loves nothing more than soccer, the Beautiful Game. Simba recently attained his E license soccer coaching certification, which certifies him to coach any youth team nationwide. Simba's proudest moment was being selected to represent Urban Initiatives at this spring’s Urban Soccer Symposium in Washington, D.C. Simba is the Program Coordinator who oversees the day-to-day implementation of the Work to Play. He is also the Program Associatie at Walsh and is the On-Site Program Director at Jenner.
Andy graduated from Kenyon College in 2006 with B.A. in History with a thesis on conflict resolution in Rwanda. After teaching at an elementary school-age nature camp, Andy spent more than two years with a housing advocacy organization, doing policy research and creating trainings for nonprofit housing developers. He brings his excitement for neighborhoods and strong belief in the power of positive team dynamics to Urban Initiatives. Andy loves writing for Urban Initiatives’ blog to share the inspiring stories of his coworkers and the kids they work with. In his spare time, Andy captains Chicago’s nationally competitive men’s ultimate frisbee team, Machine. Andy enhances Urban Initiatives' sports-based youth development programming. His job is to maximize Urban Initiatives' impact at his partner schools and ensure our programming quality is consistently high across all program sites. Andy is the Program Associate and Recess Coordinator at Greene, and is the program coordinator for Coaches Corps.
Cris earned a B.A. in Journalism from Roosevelt University in 2009, and brings that academic experience to his writing for Urban Initiatives’ blog. After growing up in Little Village playing baseball, football, and basketball, Cris was attracted to Urban Initiatives because it gave him the opportunity to engage with and provide for youth from all over the City of Chicago. Cris sees the Work to Play Program as a way for kids from difficult neighborhoods to experience the normalcy of an active and healthy childhood. As a coach, Cris believes he is most successful when his players take ownership of the team and become leaders. Cris enhances Urban Initiatives' sports-based youth development programming. His job is to maximize Urban Initiatives' impact at his partner schools and ensure our programming quality is consistently high across all program sites. Cris is the Program Associate at Goethe, Jahn, Marquette, Otis, and Prieto.
A lifelong soccer player and lover of the arts, Becca likes to merge her creative spirit with her passion for the game. She is excited about the community engagement Urban Initiatives implements and believes that the skills obtained in soccer can be used to create positive changes in other facets of a player’s life. Becca earned a BA from DePaul University, where she was a Community Service Scholar and Art History major. She spent extensive time working in an after-school program with kids in Humboldt Park. Becca is the Program Associate at Nobel, Bethune, Morton, and Howe.
Brendan grew up in inner-city Washington D.C. playing soccer and every other sport he could get in to. He has firsthand experienced the power of living and working in strong communities that holistically care about each member, and he is passionate about how Urban Initiatives cares about kids and communities with the big picture in mind, pursuing high goals for every individual. He and his wife are happy and proud to call Chicago home. Brendan is the Program Associate at Reavis, Attucks, Sherman, and Claremont.
Almost from the time that Noah could walk he loved kicking a soccer ball with buddies in the neighborhood. Growing up in both Colombia and Ecuador, it didn’t take much to fall in love with the sport. A recent graduate of Wheaton College, Noah took the opportunity to work with B.R.I.D.G.E. (Building Roads to Intellectual Diversity and Good Education) as an RA for first-generation college bound high school students from the Chicago-land area. On the weekends, you will either find Noah Latin dancing with friends, playing guitar or exploring the city. Noah is the Program Associate at Tarkington, Providence Englewood Charter School, Pasteur, and Lloyd.
Alysse graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with B.A. in Sociology and Feminist Studies with an ethnographic thesis analyzing gender performance in women's rugby. She has competed in competitive sports since childhood including softball, basketball, lacrosse, and rugby. She played on the UCSB Women's Rugby Club and San Diego Surfers Women's Rugby Club. Alysse joins Urban Initiatives to complete her second year of AmeriCorps*VISTA. She just completed her first year of AmeriCorps*VISTA serving at Girls in the Game, another local sports-based youth development nonprofit organization. Alysse is excited to join the Urban Initiative's team and to continue to follow her passion of empowering urban youth through sports. Alysse is the Program VISTA.
Ed joined the Urban Initiatives team in the Fall of 2005, serving as Art Director as well as a volunteer coach at Schiller School. Ed handles UI's strategic design direction with a primary focus on branding, marketing materials, and web presence. Ed's work as a volunteer with UI helped him to build a clear design direction for the program. He recently received an MFA in Design from the California College of the Arts in San Francisco and holds a BA in Studio Arts from the University of Minnesota. Ed is the main contact for all visual design and branding.