2003 Urban Initiatives is founded by Jim Dower and Dan Isherwood. At the time of UI's founding, Jim was a substitute teacher at Byrd Academy in Cabrini Green (the neighborhood you're standing in right now!). Together they saw a need for extracurricular activities that would not only allow students to be active outside of school hours, but that also could act as a community unifier and a way to motivate students to perform in the classroom. Fun Fact: Before deciding to have a soccer program, they initially thought to create a kayaking club!
2003 UI hosts their first Crosstown Classic with the Wilmette Wings. Both Jim and Dan coached for the Wilmette Wings, a soccer club on the Northshore, when they started UI. In order to bring these two communities together, they arranged a day of soccer, fun, and friendship that started the tradition of the Wings Crosstown. Every year, UI buses several Work to Play teams to Wilmette for the annual Crosstown classic. At the time, UI had just one program: Work to Play. Work to Play is a health and education soccer program that is the foundation for our continuum of programming today! Work to Play aims to promote healthy living habits, incentivize academic achievement, and teach social emotional learning through play.