Go for the Gold Resource Spotlight: Urban Initiatives

February 08, 2011

 Go for the Gold is a partnership of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and HSC with the USDA Midwest and the Illinois State Board of Education to help Chicago schools meet the high standards for food, fitness and nutrition education set by the USDA’s HealthierUS School Challenge. The HealthierUS School Challenge is the program that First Lady Michelle Obama is urging schools to take on as part of her Let's Move initiative. Today we're pleased to highlight Urban Initiatives, one great resource to help schools meet this challenge.

“Our hope is that every school in Chicago reaches the Gold standard because we all know that a healthy body equals a healthy mind.”

Students participate in Urban Initiatives' Work to Play program.

The non-profit Urban Initiatives, a key partner in Go for the Gold, can help schools meet the physical activity criteria of the HealthierUS School Challenge.

Dan Isherwood, co-founding executive director, explains: “Urban Initiatives is thrilled to be a partner in the Go for the Gold campaign. It is a natural complement to the healthy lifestyles our students are striving for by providing healthy food options, nutrition education, and opportunities for physical activity. Our hope is that every school in Chicago reaches the Gold standard because we all know that a healthy body equals a healthy mind.”

Through their Work to Play Program, students strive for excellence in the classroom as well as on the soccer field. The goal is to develop students by using the soccer program as an incentive and convincing students of the connection between their education and personal growth. The program also provides nutrition training.

While teaching at Byrd Academy in the Cabrini-Green neighborhood, Isherwood and co-founding executive director James Dower witnessed firsthand the hurdles that at-risk children must overcome in order to reach their full potential, especially hurdles related to education underachievement and poor health conditions. Together they organized a before- and after-school soccer program with donated equipment and nutritious snacks that were purchased out-of-pocket. Today, Urban Initiatives serves 420 Chicago Public School students at 14 schools throughout the city.

Because of her participation in Urban Initiatives, third grade participant Mariah said, “The team has taught me new skills and how to have fun while exercising. It also taught me to eat healthy stuff and not a lot of junk food.”

To learn more about Urban Initiatives, visit www.urbaninitiatives.org. Questions? Contact James Dower at info@urbaninitiatives.org or 773-456-1763.