Our programs empower students and unite communities.

We provide two approaches to youth and community development:

Continuum of Programming

Culture and Climate

Both approaches expand on the inherent power of sports to meet student and community needs.

Our Continuum of Programming prepares and supports youth as they navigate elementary, middle, high school, and beyond.

Through Work to Play, Take the Lead, and Coach for Success, we engage youth in a long-term team environment and support their progress from Player to Captain to Coach, roles that increase in responsibility, leadership opportunities, and ownership over time. Teamwork, peer mentorship, and the imperative to “pay it forward” to other students and community members are key to our approach. As participants reach middle and high school, they pass on the lessons they have learned to the next generation while also continuing to build skills critical to long-term success.

Work to Play is the foundation of our Continuum.

45 Schools | 1,350 Kids

Work to Play provides students in grades K-4 with the chance to belong to a soccer team, regardless of skill level. Trained coaches provide a safe environment for play and learning and teach important lessons about health and social-emotional learning. Coaches, parents, and educators collaborate to ensure kids have a support system on the field, in the classroom, and at home. Participants earn game time based on teacher-submitted academic and behavior reports. Throughout the year, kids have the opportunity to travel to other Chicago communities for games and take field trips to Chicago cultural institutions.

  • 20%

    Participants were 20% more likely to be on-track for high school graduation than their peers.

  • 70%

    70% of participants who were obese or overweight at the beginning of the program year decreased their BMI relative to other youth their age by the end of one program year.

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Take the Lead empowers middle schoolers to become leaders.

40 Schools | 200 Kids

Take the Lead engages the most promising and motivated Work to Play alumni in grades 5-8. Coaches nominate players, who fill the role of Team Captain on their Work to Play teams. Through this opportunity, students learn the merits of leadership, academic persistence, and community service, all while preparing for high school. Coaches share enrichment opportunities and high school enrollment support with parents and students. Captains engage with adult mentors in small group skill-building sessions and bi-monthly cross-Chicago leadership Retreats.

  • +4

    Team Captains attended 4 days (nearly a full week) more school than their peers.

  • 87%

    87% of Team Captains reported improving their leadership skills by modeling good behavior for their younger teammates and engaging in goal-setting.

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Coach for Success readies high school students for college and career.

15 Schools | 21 Kids

Coach for Success extends Take the Lead’s leadership development to students in grades 9-12. Students participate in monthly mentoring sessions, professional development workshops, and rigorous summer job training. Through ongoing engagement, students earn employment opportunities at Urban Initiatives summer camps, where they coach elementary school-aged students from their own communities and share lessons from their personal experiences.

  • 21

    During the 2017-2018 school year, 21 high school students participate in Coach for Success.

  • During the 2016-2017 pilot year, participants gained experience working professionally in a team environment, and reported improving goal-setting, problem-solving, and organizational skills.

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Our Culture and Climate programming uses the power of positive play and increased access to enrichment and extracurricular programs to develop active, vibrant learning communities.

Through Play with Potential and the Community Schools Initiative, we support well-rounded, engaging school environments for students, teachers, and community members. From teaching students structured games on the playground to helping schools establish new partnerships with enrichment and extracurricular programs, we empower school communities to thrive.

Play with Potential supports healthy and active school environments.

23 Schools | 15,500 Kids

Play with Potential is a recess program that uses the power of positive play to maximize the social-emotional, health, and academic benefits of recess periods. The program is offered to all students in a school, grades K-8, and aims
 to maximize students’ opportunities for social-emotional learning and physical activity while promoting cooperation and teamwork. We have dedicated on-site staff and a broad curriculum that elevates opportunities for students to engage positively in play at recess.

  • ↑24%

    Play with Potential students are 24% more likely to engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity than students at other schools.

  • ↑27%

    Play with Potential students are 27% more likely to engage in prosocial behaviors during recess than students at other schools.

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Community Schools Initiative connects schools and neighborhoods.

3 Schools | 600 Kids

The Community Schools Initiative is a federally funded out-of-school time program that seeks to bring neighborhood resources more completely into the school and integrate the school community more fully into the neighborhood. Our Community Schools Initiative programming brings an experiential focus to enrichment activities from sports to art to STEM learning and beyond.

  • Make an Impact

    Your donations allow us to create positive change in the lives of Chicago’s youth. All donations are tax-deductible.

    Make a Donation