Soccer is not just a popular sport, it is also a powerful pathway to youth development. Unfortunately, not every family can afford to have their child join a soccer team, but Heart of the City is laying the groundwork to make the sport accessible to more families living in Lake County, a news release stated.
The Waukegan-based nonprofit organization, is focused on increasing access to high-quality soccer experiences for underserved communities and leveraging those activities to change the trajectory of young lives throughout the region.
“Nonprofits like Heart of the City help solve complicated problems more than anybody else," Director of Development Adrienne Wright said in a news release. "We hope to leverage soccer activities to change the trajectory of young lives in our community.”
Studies show that young people who play organized soccer are more likely than their counterparts to graduate, attend college and obtain degrees. In addition, young people who participate in soccer often possess a greater capacity for empathy because they learn and grow through moments of success and failure, a news release stated.
Players also share a more defined connection to the local community because of the way soccer brings friends, families and neighborhoods together.
The ribbon cutting, which was led by Mayor Sam Cunningham was well attended. Both aldermen David Villalobos and Edith Newsome, representing the 4th and 5th wards of Waukegan respectively, were present, too.
“We’re so excited to be here,” Chief Operating Officer Brandon Massey said in a news release. “Today was about access, ensuring families can take advantage of life-changing opportunities on and off the pitch.”
Founded in 2014, Heart of the City inspires children to be competitive on the field, successful in school and productive in their community. Services are aimed at kids who normally would not have the opportunity to play soccer.
The charitable organization coupled its existing recreation league with the nationally-recognized North Central United travel club two years ago. The two programs now exist side-by-side, further increasing access to year-round soccer opportunities.
The organization is volunteer-driven, giving parents a chance to become actively involved in their children's participation in the sport.
Several alumni from the Heart of the City’s North Central United girls select team helped cut the ceremonial ribbon at the organization's new office on Genesee in downtown Waukegan. Each one of the former players will be attending college in the fall.
"Our hope is that family members will become engaged with opportunities that will help them build a strong foundation for their children's future,” Wright said. “We want the kids to have choices. Too many kids aren't graduating high school and that means their choices are limited. We want them to know they can do whatever they set their mind toward.”
Heart of the City is at 218 N. Genesee St., Waukegan. For information, call 224-214-3098 or email Adrienne@heartothecitysports.org.