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Heart of The City empowers its players, coaches, and their families through the sport of soccer, promoting opportunities for personal development, academic achievement, and college success. 

Our History

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.

Our Purpose

Athletic participation for children ages 6-12 is down almost 8% over the last decade, as youth sports programs are disappearing, becoming more expensive and more specialized. Children whose family income is under $25,000 are nearly three times more likely to be inactive, according to Aspen Institute data. 


This disparity -- often falling along geographic, gender and racial lines -- has serious, long-term effects on the health, academic and post-secondary success of children in low-income communities. According to Aspen Institute data, children who are physically active are 1/10 as likely to be obese; achieve up to 40% higher test scores, are significantly less likely to turn to drug/alcohol use and other risky behaviors; and are 15% more likely to go to college.


Heart of the City believes every child deserves access to quality sports programs that will help them develop the tools they need to be healthy and successful. We use the universal sport of soccer to address this need by providing high-quality programs that families in our community can afford.

Our Mission

Heart of the City provides an opportunity for youth in the Lake County area to participate in recreational and competitive soccer activities.

We believe that all youth should have access to high-quality sports programs and to academic learning opportunities.

As a result, we endeavor to teach our players to be competitive on the field, successful in their school, and productive in their community.

Our Focus

Heart of the City’s overarching goal is to provide underserved youth who are at high-risk in Lake County, IL with a positive, healthy, and affordable program that can give them the structure and support they need to learn essential life skills and prepare them for college and post-secondary success. We do this by taking a holistic approach to youth development, focusing on each child’s academic, athletic and life goals and aspirations.

At Heart of the City, we aim to:

  1. Provide a development pathway that teaches youth essential social-emotional life skills, establishes healthy habits, and builds confidence and self-esteem.
  2. Provide post-secondary readiness opportunities to prepare youth for higher education and employment.
  3. Provide a positive, developmental soccer experience.
  4. Facilitate a collaborative and youth-centered culture among staff, board members, coaches, players, parents, community members and volunteers.

Our Approach

We are unlike other sports programs in that we are highly focused on holistic youth development.

On the field we emphasize values such as teamwork, communication, resiliency, and discipline.

Off the field we expect our athletes to perform well in school, volunteer their time, and take an active role in planning their future.

Heart of the City Mission
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Heart of the City