SPWC Panelist: Jim Dower, Urban Initiatives

Jim Dower, Urban Initiatives with Roy Kessel, Sports Philanthropy Network

Jim is a panelist on Panel 3: Measuring the Impact of Your Programs.

Jim is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of Urban Initiatives.

Jim grew up on Chicago’s near north side. As a product of Chicago Public Schools, working to build capacity in CPS has always been a personal passion. After attending the University of Iowa and graduating with a B.A. in Political Science, he started his professional career as a substitute teacher at Cabrini-Green’s Byrd Academy. 

This experience heightened his awareness in regards to the gaps that existed in urban education. In order to address the needs of the youth at Byrd Academy, Jim and Co-Founder Dan Isherwood (who was also teaching at Byrd) began providing a before and after school soccer program. As professional soccer coaches, they recognized the power of sports programming to address youth issues. They began the program in 2003 with donated equipment and nutritious snacks purchased out-of-pocket. This grassroots program, called Work to Play, was comprised of only two coaches, one school and twelve students and thus, founded the beginning of Urban Initiatives. Today, Urban Initiatives is serving over 17,000 children in 55 schools from 40 different Chicago communities. 

Jim currently oversees the day-to-day external operations for Urban Initiatives. He is a member of Leadership Greater Chicago’s 2014 and a part of the Chicago Ideas Co-Op.

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