Founded by community members in 2014, Heart of the City was formed to address the lack of access to quality youth soccer programs for families in Waukegan, IL and surrounding communities. The charitable organization coupled its existing recreation program with a competitive travel and college-preparatory program. The two programs now exist side-by-side, providing a youth development pathway for children to build social-emotional learning skills, access academic support, and earn stackable credentials for post-secondary education and employment success.
Heart of the City provides an opportunity for over 600 youth in underserved communities in Lake County, IL to learn, lead and grow through our soccer and educational programs, with the goal of preparing them for success after high school. We use soccer as a vehicle to teach essential life skills and healthy habits, while also providing educational support through on-site tutoring, SAT prep courses, coordinated college visits, and leadership/mentorship opportunities.
Families in Lake County face several socioeconomic barriers to enrolling youth in quality sports programs. This is significant because research shows that youth who are physically active are 1/10 as likely to be obese, achieve up to 40% higher test scores, are 15% more likely to go to college, and are significantly less likely to turn to drug and alcohol use (Aspen Institute).
Cost is the biggest deterrent for youth sports participation in Lake County, due to the high percentage of families living in poverty. Ensuring youth are graduating high school and pursuing a viable post-secondary option (college, technical school/trades, Armed Forces), can greatly alter the economic development and cycle of poverty in our community, but nearly a third of students drop out before high school graduation.
Youth in our community are in need of a positive, healthy outlet that will provide the structure, support system and educational opportunities that will enable them to create a brighter future for themselves. To meet this need, Heart of the City leverages soccer to help youth become competitive on the field, successful in the classroom, and productive in their communities, while also engaging families and helping them build a strong foundation for their children’s future.