Heart of the City Uses Soccer to Change Young Lives

Heart of the City
Updated 5/19/2017 10:16 AM
  • Heart of the City is now located at 218 Genesee St. in Waukegan in the building formerly known as Pierce Florists.Adrienne Wright

    Heart of the City is now located at 218 Genesee St. in Waukegan in the building formerly known as Pierce Florists.Adrienne Wright

Heart of the City (HOTC) will celebrate the opening of its new administrative office in downtown Waukegan in June. Brandon Massey, Chief Operating Officer, is excited for the opportunity to introduce the community to the nonprofit.

"We believe all young people should have access to high-quality sports programs that inspire them to be competitive on the field, successful in school, and productive in their community," Massey shared. "Many our young players and their families are from the city of Waukegan, so it made sense for us to be based here operationally."

Soccer is one of the most popular extracurricular activities in Waukegan with thousands of families spending every weekend throughout the year following their children's progress through the sport. Unfortunately, not every child can afford to join a sports team though. Many children in Waukegan face economic barriers to doing so.

This is the population that Heart of the City hopes to serve. Over 65% of Heart of the City families are lower income.

Basing its model of change on research revealing that teens who play organized sports are more likely than their counterparts to attend college and obtain degrees, Heart of the City is leveraging the popular game of soccer to change the trajectory of young people's lives and help parents build a strong foundation or their children's futures.

"Heart of the City coaches stress academics, so that when teams play before college coaches the door to educational opportunity can be opened," commented Sal Gloria, Director of Soccer Operations for the organization. "This summer we will hold our first ACT Prep course, which will also help our players realize their dream of attending college."

Youth from HOTC programs have already been admitted to Grinnel College, Alabama A & M, and Lake Forest College.

Antonio Rosas has played for Heart of the city for the last three years. His mother Susana Martin says it has made a great difference in her son's life. "Heart of the City means hope to our family--that there will be a positive change in the next generation--hope that the children will grow up in a better environment," shared Martin. My child plays in a healthy environment that motivates him to be better at school and change his perspective on what's possible."

Heart of the City's programming runs five days a week after school and all day on Saturdays. Training and game days are very family-centered with parents and siblings cheering along the sidelines.

Because research shows that access to soccer is also shaped by gender, Heart of the City is also making a special effort to increase the local soccer participation rate for girls. This summer the organization hopes to host girls-only training sessions and is actively working to recruit women coaches to serve as role models.

Heart of the City has served the youth of Lake County since 2014. Currently, the nonprofit organization serves nearly 800 youth per year through its recreational and competitive soccer programs. "Through our programming, players, families, and volunteers are given opportunities to make choices that will benefit their future and transform our community," stated Massey.

The new office will serve to better support its current programs and staff and to be a place where community members can learn about and register for Heart of the City programs. Administrative office hours are Monday-Friday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Call (224) 214-3098 for more information or go online at www.heartofthecitysports.org

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