Urban Initiatives 2018 Annual Report


In 2018, Urban Initiatives celebrated its 15th Anniversary. Read more about our 15th year, our growing programs, and our successes as shown by our data and evaluation efforts.

2018 Annual Report

our team

Allow me to introduce myself: My name is Christian Gordon, and I’ve been an Urban

Initiatives participant since I joined 11 years ago at Sherman Elementary in the Back

of the Yards neighborhood. I was one of the first kids to grow up in Urban Initiatives

Continuum of Programming first as a player, then as a captain, and finally as a coach.

Now I’m in my freshman year at DePaul University, studying Finance. I stay

connected with Urban Initiatives, the staff, and other students because I’ve found

this organization to be a source of love and support, and amazing connections in the

professional world.

I’ve never really been a very athletic person, and I was definitely not a very good

soccer player when I started. But one of my favorite things about Urban Initiatives

was the opportunity to practice new things and see myself getting better, with

support from awesome coaches. I really like how everyone on the Urban Initiatives

team truly values and celebrates commitment and hard work.

Now, Urban Initiatives has a range of programs that provide participants with

opportunities to explore college pathways, careers, and other amazing experiences

that they probably wouldn’t have access to if they were not in Urban Initiatives.

Fifteen years ago, Urban Initiatives created a program that would grow to become a

dynamic organization that provides resources and support for so many of their

students. What used to just be a small soccer program at a handful of schools, has

grown to serve approximately 17,000 students annually from neighborhoods across

the city. During my junior year of high school, I was nominated by my coaches at

Urban Initiatives to be a Cubs Scholar, which includes a $20,000 scholarship. A few

weeks later, I was given an interview and later was chosen as one of five Cubs

Scholars in 2017. In addition to this experience, Urban Initiatives connected me to

National Student Leadership Conference which gave me the opportunity to go to

Fordham University in New York for nine days last summer.

Years ago, I joined Urban Initiatives as an escape from the violence in my

neighborhood. The sight of students playing soccer on a soccer field in these

amazing jerseys really attracted me to the program. At first, Urban Initiatives was

simply a fun after school activity. However, as time went on, I’ve realized I not only

signed up to be a soccer player, but also I signed up to be a member of this team

whose goal was to help students gain valuable experiences and help them make

progress on their goals. This year Urban Initiatives celebrates their fifteenth year and

they continue to be committed to learning, growing, and getting better so that they

can support students across the city who are looking for a team to join.

Christian Gordon (left) with his

longtime coach, Andy Neilsen (right)

Christian Gordon, UI Alum

our 15th year


students served




Since 2003, Urban Initiatives has grown up from a small health

and education soccer program, into a progressive organization

with diverse programmatic offerings that allow us to engage with

students and families from a young age and build relationships

that last through high school and beyond. Our 15th Anniversary

in 2018 allowed us an opportunity to reflect on the dedication of

our incredible stakeholder network, while remaining focused on

the future.



2003 2006 2009 2012 2015 2018

2003 2006 2009 2012 2015 2018

We used our 15th Anniversary as an opportunity to get

energized around the use sport and play as a strong civic

strategy for unifying our communities and empowering our

young leaders. Urban Initiatives remains so grateful to those that

have supported our growth in the past 15 years, and is excited to

continue to grow and improve our programs in the years to


programs update

In 2018, we served approximately 17,000 students in over 50

schools across Chicago through our programs. As always we

stayed true to our values and facilitated programming that

provided participants with the opportunity to learn, practice, and

achieve success in order to gain the skills they will need to be

empowered leaders in their classrooms, on the field, in their

communities, and one day in their careers.

Our fifteenth year has provided us opportunities to reflect on the

past, but more importantly it has given us an opportunity to

think about the future of Urban Initiatives, our programs, and

our participants. Through our data and evaluation efforts we are

seeing positive changes in the classroom, participants gaining

confidence in their leadership abilities, and parents seeing

healthier habits at home. These results only push us to grow and

improve as an organization so that we can continue the

incredible progress that we've seen in the last fifteen years.

work to play


Fifteen years ago, Work to Play was our first program. Started in Cabrini-Green

as an opportunity to bring students, parents, and teachers together through

soccer, it has now grown into the first program in our Continuum of

Programming. It brings students onto the Urban Initiatives team through sport,

and encourages healthy living habits, teaches social-emotional learning like

cooperation and respect, and incentivizes participants to perform in the

classroom. Work to Play sets the foundation for continued learning in our

Continuum of Programming.

what's the continuum of programming?

Our Continuum of Programming is a series of three programs, Work to Play, Take the Lead, and

Coach for Success that supports youth as they navigate elementary, middle, high school, and

beyond. As participants get older, the curriculum adapts and intensifies to create new challenges

and learning opportunities for participants. Most importantly, the Continuum of Programming

model allows Urban Initiatives to stick with students as they get older and provide consistent

support throughout their educational career.

meet chris

Chris is a student at Morton Elementary. He

joined the Urban Initiatives Work to Play

program and soccer team when he was a new

student at Morton looking for ways to get

involved and make new friends. His favorite

part of the program is "learning new skills and

learning how to do teamwork better so we can

win games." Chris hopes to be a Team Captain

one day so that he can help all the other

students on the soccer team.

take the lead


Alumni from Work to Play are selected to become Team Captains in the

Take the Lead program. Team Captains assist at Work to Play soccer

practice, participate in small group discussions with UI staff and other

Team Captains about leadership and high school readiness, and attend

leadership retreats across the city of Chicago. Take the Lead works to

ensure that participants are ready for high school by building skills like

stress management and conflict transformation, while creating

opportunities for Captains to practice their leadership skills.

meet jade

Jade (left) receiving the Team Captain of the Year

award with her longtime coach, Cynthia Gonzalez


Jade is the Team Captain of the Year from Marquette Elementary School. Jade defines

leadership as, "helping others, never giving up on what you believe in, and to always stand

out from the crowd." Jade has been in Urban Initiatives' programming for many years and

says "I stayed in UI because it gave me an opportunity to help others and it helped me to step

out of my comfort zone." Luckily for Urban Initiatives, Jade plans to continue with Urban

Initiatives' Continuum of Programming in high school. "After eighth grade, I want to join

Coach for Success, so I can still be in UI and I can keep being a role model."

meet ericka & auriyon

Ericka and Auriyon met through Coach for Success. Auriyon has been in Urban Initiatives'

programming since the 8th grade, and today says that the most valuable part of Coach for

Success is all the opportunities to practice networking- a skill she says will be important in

college. Ericka defines Coach for Success as "a program that focuses on helping students acquire

skills that they need in the future like communication, networking, and teamwork." But these

young leaders recognize that the benefits of Coach for Success go beyond the professional skills

they've gained, Ericka says that the program "creates a good family and a united group from all

over Chicago." Their friendship is a testament to the relationships that these young leaders are

creating through the program while preparing for their futures.

coach for success


Coach for Success is the final program in the Continuum of Programming. The Coach for Success program was founded as our

Team Captains moved into high school and asked for a Urban Initiatives program that would continue to support them in their

high school years. Today, the program serves 27 participants that attend high schools all over the city.

Coach for Success pairs participants with a mentor from the Chicago community and facilitates monthly workshops where

participants learn skills like financial literacy, effective communication, networking, and resume building that will help them

succeed in their college and careers. Through these structured meetings and ongoing support from their mentors, participants

receive guidance that allows them to plan for their future.

88% of Play with

Potential principals who

responded to our survey

reported that Urban

Initiatives staff "often or

always" intentionally

engaged in

opportunities for socialemotional

learning with


play with potential


In addition to our Continuum of Programming, Urban Initiatives also provides Culture and Climate programming which focuses on

creating positive school cultures through play. Play with Potential is our recess program that aims to maximize the benefits of play

time for all students at a school, grades K-8, while increasing opportunities for physical activity and social-emotional learning

during the school day. Our recess staff members are highly trained, are school-based, get to form relationships with all the

students in a school community, and can tailor programming to meet a school's specific needs.

our impact

In 2018, Urban Initiatives continued our commitment to

continual learning in order to make our programs

stronger. Each year, we collect and analyze data from

various sources including surveys, school attendance

and grades, and teacher-reported classroom

performance information in order to evaluate our


Various external research partnerships complemented

our internal evaluation efforts in 2018. Specifically, we:

Completed implementation of our randomized

controlled trial research study of Work to Play with

UChicago Urban Labs in June 2018

Worked with researchers from University of Illinois at

Chicago to improve the capacity of our Play with

Potential recess staff

Formalized our partnership with Thrive

Chicago, which will enable Urban Initiatives to access

Chicago Public Schools' academic data for our

participants in real-time and more effectively share

information with our school partners.

We are proud that our programs continue to show

significant success in the areas of health and physical

fitness, social-emotional learning, leadership, and

academic performance.

work to play

take the lead

coach for


play with



The number of Work to Play


parents who reported their child


was physically active for one hour

each day, as recommended by


national guidelines, increased from

just 45% at the beginning of the


year to 78% by the end of the year. Pre-Test Post-Test

90% of Team Captains reported

improving their leadership skills by

modeling good behavior for their

younger teammates and engaging

in goal-setting.

Coach for Success participants

reported improvements in

academics and life skills (for

example, networking and

communication), and view UI staff

and their mentors as trusted

resources as they prepare for life

in and beyond high school.

45% of teachers surveyed in

January at Play with Potential

partner schools reported that

instances of bullying and

exclusionary behavior at recess

had decreased since the

beginning of the school year



our values




In our fifteenth year, our values still guide every

aspect of our work. Urban Initiatives was

founded on five values that directed our

programs, strategy, and implementation:

teamwork, initiative, commitment, impact and

fun. In 2018, we added a sixth value of inclusion.

We believe individual

empowerment is a team

sport, and collaborative

efforts define our work,

produce our success, and

sustain our vision.

We believe in putting our

passion into action, getting

off the sidelines, and

creating positive change.

We believe in working as

hard, as smart, and as long

as it takes to achieve our


The addition of inclusion as a guiding value is

critical to Urban Initiatives' success and supports

our goal to build a more unified Chicago, both in

our internal and external practices. We

believe that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are

necessary to build a positive culture and best

support each other in our efforts to intentionally

work toward anti-racist and anti-oppressive



We provide high-quality

programs that continually

improve through datadriven

decision making in

order to achieve positive,

sustainable outcomes.


We believe a diverse team

makes us stronger, and that

prioritizing inclusion is

essential to breaking down

barriers, creating more

equitable distribution of

opportunities, and

combating racism and



We believe in finding as

much enjoyment in work as

in play. This goes for both

the kids in our programs

and everyone in our


our diversity, equity, and inclusion committee

To support the addition of our value of inclusion, Urban Initiatives formed a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee that ensures that as an organization, Urban

Initiatives is upholding this value. Action around these beliefs includes valuing diversity in all ways as an institutionalized asset, developing and reviewing

organizational activities based on anti-oppression commitments, and partnering with stakeholders to interrupt all forms of oppression. This approach enables

Urban Initiatives to build positive relationships across the organization and within our programs, to validate and engage every individual, and to build an inclusive

environment with diverse stakeholders.

meet our awardees

Urban Initiatives prioritizes celebrating those that support our work and embody our values throughout the year. Meet some of

our 2018 awardees!

At our annual Family & Coach

Appreciation party in March, we

honored our Parent of the Year, Cerela

Tumbaco (left), and our Coach of the

Year, Coach Aaron O'Neil (center) of

National Teachers Academy. Both

dedicate enormous amounts of time

to supporting the participants in our


In January 2018, we were thrilled to

honor (from left to right) Jonathan

Taylor, Larry from Claremont

Academy, and Northern Trustrepresented

by Pete Cherecwich- with

awards at the Soccer Ball. All three

have shown incredible commitment to

Urban Initaitives' programs.

Each year at the Work to Play Cup we

honor a corporation and family or

individual that has committed to

serving our communities. In 2018, we

honored Union Pacific (not pictured)

and the McGranahan Family (shown

above). Both of these groups have

supported Urban Initiatives so

generously over the years and we are

so grateful to have them on our team.

our biggest fans

meet ralf

Ralf Hilpuesch, Storck USA, was the

Chair of the Board of Directors from

2013-2018. In his time as Board

Chair Urban Initiatives doubled the

number of schools we served. Ralf's

contributions to Urban Initiatives

are immeasurable, but include

bringing so many new supporters to

our team and consistently

volunteering throughout his 10

years on the Board of Directors.

board of directors

Our Board of Directors is a group of 28 highly dedicated

professionals, philanthropists, and civic leaders from across

Chicago that provide leadership, strategy, and support to

Urban Initiatives.

meet dejuan

Dejuan Lever, Metalex, is a member

of the Partners Board who has

shown his dedication to our work

time and time again. In the spring of

2018, he attended a Take the Lead

leadership retreat where he hosted

a luncheon for a group of Team

Captains. They discussed his path to

success and what it means to be a

leader in your school. Dejuan's

commitment to serving Chicago's

communities knows no bounds.

partners board

The Partners Board aims to formalize a network and

structure for the next generation of Urban Initiatives

supporters. This group is committed to raising awareness

about and funds for Urban Initiatives’ work.

our biggest fans

meet erica

Erica Iantoro, Glassdoor, is a new

Associate Board member that has

gone above and beyond this year

to provide meeting spaces for our

Coach for Success program. She

generously coordinated the

logistics for all the first quarter

meetings. We are so grateful for

her efforts behind the scenes!

associate board

Our Associate Board is over 150 members strong and has

representatives from industries across Chicago. We are lucky to

have members that commit to Urban Initiatives through

fundraising, volunteering, and increasing awareness about our


meet reighne

Reighne is a sophomore at

Whitney Young High School and is

an incredibly engaged Student

Board member. She's participated

in our Future Leaders Fellowship

and did tremendous work during

the 2018 coat drive. Urban

Initiatives is so thankful to have

such a dynamic young leader on

the Student Board.

student board

The Student Board is a group of dedicated high school

students that fundraise and volunteer for Urban Initiatives.

This group executes campaigns like the annual coat drive and

equipment drive. Their efforts make our programs stronger

and we are so lucky to have such incredible young people on

the Urban Initaitives team.

financial overview


Cash: $1,111,550

Grants Receivable: $41,000

Program Services Receivable: $176,001

Prepaid Expenses: $2,350

Security Deposits: $1,167

Total Assets: $1,332,068


Accounts Payable: $16,116

Accrued Expenses: $40,757

Total Liabilities: $56,873


Donations and Grants: $2,483,313

Program Service Fees: $1,347,318

Events: $644,047

Other: $5,015

Total Revenue: $4,504,868


Program Services: $3,831,434

Management and General: $462,541

Fundraising: $156,854

Total Expenses: $4,450,829

you're invited

work to play cup | june 1st | 10am-2pm | midway plaisance

The Work to Play Cup is the capstone event of our program year that celebrates the dedication and hard work of our participants.

With over 1,300 youth participants, the Work to Play Cup is our largest programming event of the year and features small sided

soccer, recess games and activities, an awards ceremony, and a dance party. It’s a celebration that unifies stakeholders from

across Chicago- including teachers, parents, students, community leaders, and volunteers- in the spirit of supporting Chicago’s


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