Ever wonder what it's like to volunteer with Urban Initiatives? Well, UI Junior Board members and volunteers Catie and Ashley share their experience with you during their time with the Jahn team. Catie and Ashley joined the UI and Jahn team this past Fall and continue to attend practices as regularly as the Jahn players do. With the Fall and Winter Work to Play seasons in the books they are committed to finishing the year strong as they bring a little bit of extra sunshine to the Spring season!
The following was written by Coach Catie and Coach Ashley.
By Charlie Otto
Charlie Otto is an Urban Initiatives rock star in more ways than one. The front man for This Must be the Band, a Talking Heads tribute band, not only burned down the house this past summer when he played a live show to raise funds for Urban Initiatives, he also took time out of his busy touring schedule to volunteer with our kids at a recent game day. What was Coach Charlie's impression after seeing the Work to Play Program in action? Read on to hear from the rock star himself:
I had the pleasure of working with Urban Initiatives last spring as an assistant coach at one of their schools. I read all I could about the program, but nothing compares to actually going to one of the schools and coaching the kids.
As of today, Urban Initiatives serves 4,785 kids across 23 schools in communities like Englewood, Roseland, Cabrini-Green, Humboldt Park, Pilsen and North Lawndale. The reality our kids face everyday isn’t the same as what other youth around Chicago or it’s outlying suburbs encounter in their own communities.
The constant sound of sirens and loud cracks of gunshots are considered the social norm in these communities. The kids we serve through Urban Initiatives programming speak about gang and drug violence as if it were a common occurrence to them, and it really is. Keep in mind these are mostly second, third and fourth graders who encounter these living conditions near their own homes.
The following blog was written by Urban Initiatives volunteer Kevin Nied.
I have known Jim Dower and Dan Isherwood for about 6 or 7 years as they coached my daughters on the Wilmette Wings soccer club beginning back in their U9 or U10 days. I have volunteered at a few of the Crosstown Classics throughout the years, where Urban iniatives brings some schools up the Wilmette Wings practice fascilities and games are played with all the kids mixing up teams as they get a chance to make new friends. I am honestly not sure who gets more out of this event; The Urban iniatives kids? The Wilmette kids? Or the parents volunteering? It is amazing to see all the kids interacting with other. Even though they may come from sometimes vastly different worlds, on the soccer field they are just kids playing and laughing.
It's National Volutneer Appreciation Week, and Urban Initiatives wants to give thanks to all of our amazing volunteers that help make our programs such a smashing success in all corners of Chicago! In honor of this special week, we give you this special blog post that was kindly written by Bob Luchsinger, an active Junior Board Member and committed volunteer coach at Jenner Academy in Cabrini Green. The soccer kids at Jenner love Coach Bob, and so do we!
Since joining Urban Initiatives as a volunteer in January 2012, my experience with the program has been overwhelmingly positive. As a recent transplant to Chicago in late 2011, my work with Urban Initiatives has provided a tremendous opportunity for me to get involved in the local community, meet new people and begin to understand many of the issues that confront the youth of Chicago.
Erica Heidrich is an extremely valuable member of the Urban Initiatives team. As Office Manager, she plays a key role in making sure our organization is operating effectively and efficiently. Day-to-day, Erica completes tasks that support Program, Finance, Volunteerism, Development, and Human Resources. Her contributions are invaluable and we're lucky to have her on our team.
Erica initially got involved with Urban Initiatives as a Junior Board Member in 2010 - the same year she started graduate school at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology to pursue a Master's in Forensic Psychology. She was drawn to Urban Initiatives because of the role sports played in her life as a child. Erica began swimming at the age of seven and continued competing through high school where she was recognized as an All-State Swimmer.
Brian Billings, the program director for Urban Initiatives Coaches Corps, offered this inspiring story of our program changing a young athlete's life. For the sake of privacy, identifying information has been changed. Coaches Corps is a program that enhances the PE classes and interscholastic sports programs of partner schools by training teachers and coaches on the Championship Attitude and 5-4-3-2-1GO!
Deron is an outstanding eighth grade student/athlete. He was our team’s lone captain by the end of the season, and was selected to play in the All Star Game and played extremely well. More importantly, Deron is a respectable young man who works hard in school and displays respect and kindness to those around him.
Urban Initiatives board member and former Chicago Fire Defender Dasan Robinson recently took some time out of his busy schedule to chat with Urban Initiatives about his recent success with the L.A. Galaxy as well as sharing some great advice for our Work to Play players. Robinson, a four-year collegiate athlete at University of Dayton, has shared the soccer field with Landon Donovan, David Beckham, & Robbie Keane as a part of the 2010-2011 MLS Cup Champion L.A. Galaxy. Originally drafted by the Chicago Fire in 2006, Robinson is no stranger to success.
I once had a professor who noted the underestimated connection between motion and emotion. During my seasons with Urban Initiatives, that connection has asserted itself time and time again.
When walking, sitting, or standing still (the “slow” motions), it is easy to stay inside an insulated psychological shell. Any mental confrontation with the outside world can be dealt with the same way the slow-motioner deals with a physical confrontation with the outside world: look away, close your eyes, hold your breath. There is no strong need to interact with the outside world or with others, mentally or physically, when you slow-motion through the day.
When sprinting, breathing hard, trying to win as a team, and confronting boundaries to physical movements (in soccer, “fouls”), the fast-motioner has no option but to interact with the real world, with team members, and with people in positions of authority.
Stephanie Khio is the Assistant Leader of the Eleanor Roosevelt Society at Roosevelt University. She brought her group to the Chicago Indoor Sports Center on October 21st to volunteer with our teams from Attucks and Lloyd. The following is a blog post by Stephanie:
Being the Assistant Leader of the Eleanor Roosevelt Society (ERS) at Roosevelt University, contacting many different charities and organizations happens to be my biggest job. Our group focuses on achieving the goals of Roosevelt University - and Eleanor Roosevelt herself - in that we pertain to the goals of social justice and community outreach. After contacting many organizations, Urban Initiatives seemed the most promising, giving me detailed information of what our group would be doing. The mission of this organization grasped me, as well.
Urban Initiatives wishes to thank Stacy Stutz for contributing this insightful blog post and the amazing photos of the Work to Play Program in action. Urban Initiatives considers Stacy one of the most valuable players on our team!
Originally introduced to Urban Initiatives in the Fall of 2007 when my daughter first participated in the Urban Initiatives Cross-town Classic held in Wilmette, I continue to be amazed at the impact UI has on the inner-city children, families and communities it serves.
Last Friday I had the privilege of spending the afternoon at beautiful Sherman Park which is across the street from Libby Elementary school. Libby’s UI team was hosting Pasteur Elementary School, one of UI’s most recently added schools, for their first official UI game. The coaches and kids came out excited to play soccer! My primary reason for joining the team on this day was to take some photographs to use on UI’s website and for UI’s annual fundraiser, the Soccer Ball.
On a recent field trip with the Attucks soccer team, Urban Initiatives' staff had an opportunity to chat with parents and hear their feedback on the Work to Play Program. Urban Initiatives thanks the parents for their input as well as for participating in the field trip. Committed parents are critical in raising committed youth!
"Soccer, like all team sports, is important for students like Jerry and Davion to understand the importance of teamwork, practice, and staying active. My boys look forward to going to soccer whenever the team meets. They are eager to show me some of the techniques they have learned and they make sure that I get them to practice on time. They also tell me about the healthy snacks that Urban Initiatives offers, which reinforces my efforts to provide them healthier meal choices. I think the program is great."
- Jerry, father of Davion and Jerry
"My grandsons enjoy the soccer program very much. It gives them the motivation to be positive about sports and playing with other kids their age. The program has helped a lot with their performance in the classroom, because they know if they don’t get good grades they can’t play."
-Grandmother of Bryant and Rufus
"I think soccer is a good sport especially for a lot of Chicago Public Schools because basketball, football or cheerleading are usually the only sports offered. It has improved my child’s social skills and he has leaned how to interact as a team member. Also, since he has asthma, it helps him to build up his stamina. Personally, I love being a soccer mom and an assistant coach!"
-Jamila Judkins, mother of Jakari
"My daughter, Ladreina, and I love Urban Initiatives! I love the things they do for the kids and the kids learn so much. I can’t say enough about the program – I love it with all my heart."
-Andrea Patterson, mother of Ladreina
"The Urban Initiatives’ staff is great – they are really attentive to every child. Programs like this are great for our school and neighborhood."
-Sherrica, proud parent of Dyshawn
"My daughter really enjoys playing soccer. It helps her interact with other children and learn about the rules and regulations of the game. The program teaches her about healthy eating habits and the value of exercise. I have grown to love soccer because of my daughter‘s experience and the excellent coaches."
-Dionette, mother of Wynesha
"I like the Urban Initiatives soccer program because it teaches my son to be a team player. The program helps my son Darnell in a lot of ways – it teaches him to be respectful, to work hard, to eat healthy, to do right, to listen well and focus, and to be positive."
-LaAfrica, mother of Darnell
When I was growing up I never had the opportunity to play sports. As I've grown older, I see a serious need for youth sports programs, especially in Chicago. Recently I was coaching my own kids in baseball and soccer in a small, rural Indiana town. Things are much different there - kids don't experience the temptations of street life and the dangers of gang activity.
For a lot of the inner city youth in Chicago, programs can make a huge difference in their lives. I want to contribute something to the lives of children even if it doesn't involve soccer. If there is anything I can do to educate, coach, or even just listen to a child in order to make a positive impression on his or her life, my time is well spent.
I've only been involved with the Urban Initiatives program for a few weeks and it has been great seeing the kids jumping off the bus excited to learn and play soccer. Other than the opportunity to play soccer, the structure of the program allows kids to meet kids from other schools and backgrounds, which for me is more important than the games themselves. Kids need to be exposed to different things and if a child can make a lifelong friend through this program, imagine the great impact that it could have on his or her future.
There is nothing like watching the kids compete and give their all as they learn the importance of sportsmanship, making new friends, and learning new skills. I've seen plenty of boys and girls with accelerated skills which is a complement to the coaches who take the time out to teach the kids the basics of the game. Imagine where some of these kids would be, and what they might be doing if it wasn't for this program. I feel privileged to be apart of this outstanding program and hope to grow with it in the future.
- Volunteer Coach Marlo A.
I come from the same impoverished communities that most of the kids in our program come from. I know very well that unhealthy eating habits are often a pattern and that poor nutrition is also magnified by limited accessibility to healthy options. As a kid, I not only chose to eat unhealthy foods but I also had to put some kind of unhealthy topping or sauce on everything. For example, if I went to Harold's and got chicken I had to have " mild sauce " on it. That also went for any kind of fries I ordered. Or if I got some Doritos from the store, I would make sure I spent the extra 75 cents for meat and cheese to be piled on top. I wish I had been taught at an early age how to be healthier in my surroundings.
Last week on my way into the office after practice at Attucks, I saw one of my program participants standing with his little brother on the playground. I had found it weird that this child had not picked up his snack after practice and assumed that he must have packed something else in his bag. Then as I kept walking, I saw him pull out some grapes from his backpack. He began to eat his grapes and share them with his brother as his friends stood around him eating mostly chips and candy. I felt this moment to be a serious breakthrough. Poor diet and misinformation about health is a problem plaguing many urban communities in this country so to see that kid eating his grapes is a real testament to what we are trying to accomplish through our health and education soccer program.
Urban Initiatives Program Associate Cynthia Flores shares two success stories from the fall season:
A third grade boy from Otis Elementary, received low scores on his Work to Play report and had to sit out of the first game of the season. Though he had perfect attendance at practice, he was having some trouble in the classroom. When asked about his schoolwork during the practice following that game, he boasted that he had "read three books over the weekend!" Brandon's teacher has noticed considerable improvement and, as a result, Brandon has been able to participate in all of the games following the first week.
A second grade boy from Jahn Elementary, has started off the fall season with a bang. Not only is he always at practice on time and ready to play, he also receives consistent "5's" across the board on his Work to Play. He is always the first to raise his hand whenever the coach asks a question and ready to help his teammates when they are in need. Though he is young, he sets a great example for the rest of the team. We are so proud to have him in the program!
On September 11, 2010. I took the Daley Academy kids in my Urban Initiatives soccer program to watch the football game: Northwestern Vs. Illinois State. My students had a great time. They were excited and happy to be there. When they returned to school on Monday Sept. 13, 2010, they were very excited and other teachers informed me about it. It was a great trip and we hope to go to other events in the near future.
Once again, thank you for your assistance and support in making this day an unforgettable experience for all of us.
Coach Arturo Jauregui
Click here to see the kids' cheering in action.
The kids from Prieto and Goethe had a blast at the Northbrook Crosstown Classic!
We hopped off the bus and were warmly greeted by "Coach Stephanie." Stephanie and the rest of the Northbrook parents/coaches were wonderful hosts. They quickly helped our players get involved in small-sided games on the fields with the Spartan FC players.
As we always do when playing other teams or schools, the Prieto team held a meeting to discuss sportsmanship and respect no matter who our opponents might be. Aylin, one of our more outspoken players, ran up to me during her game and said, "It's easy being a good sport with these kids. They are all so nice!"
Throughout the afternoon, I could hear words of encouragement from Northbrook players to ours, and vice versa. The entire group had a great opportunity to bond and play some soccer together with each other.
At the end of the games, we were graciously provided with pizza, Rice Krispie treats, water, and apples. The kids were thrilled, and the Northbrook parents and coaches made sure all our players had plenty to eat before our bus ride back home. The event was a great experience for all our players, and it provided them with a chance to make some great friends while playing some great soccer.
At Otis, we love having the Urban Initiatives program. We know that the students, as well as parents, are very happy with it. The kids are learning to play soccer and they see their parents see them exercising and having fun at the same time. Also, thanks for all the equipment and the snacks, we truly appreciate your support.
- Fernando Sifuentes and Genoveva Najara - On-Site Program Directors, Otis Academy
The fall soccer season has been off to a great start here at Libby School. Most of the kids I have been working with have been with the program now for close the 3 years. I've seen huge improvements overall on all fundamental skill development as well as better eating and health habits and more positive attitudes. I've used many of the activities up to this point that are listed in the daily agenda and found many of them to be helpful. The kids seem to like dog-catcher, the numbers game and full-sided scrimmages the most. The handouts and healthy nutrition info have been great resources for conversations at the beginning or end of practices. My kids like the healthy eating recipes the best and most of them do have their parents prepare the meals for them at home.