WAUKEGAN – When Heart of the City mapped out plans for 2020, it never could have expected the challenging reality that student-athletes would face.
But from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Heart of the City’s staff and coaches adapted in order to respond to their student-athletes’ most urgent needs.
During the state’s stay-at-home order, the organization implemented virtual soccer training and educational support.
Heart of the City also distributed more than 500 meals and boxes of groceries to families in need, provided care packages with personal protection equipment and provided backpacks filled with school supplies.
In the fall, Heart of the City transformed its program center into a learning lab to support student-athletes’ learning needs.
The organization credits a strong community of supporters for its successes in 2020.
“In a year where, on a national scale, 1 in 3 low-income seniors didn’t enroll in colleges due to COVID-19, we are grateful for our donors, sponsors and community advocates who were able to provide support to our high schoolers who navigated challenges [in 2020] that they didn’t expect,” Heart of the City Executive Director Scott McLellan said in a news release. “We know a lot of the challenges our student-athletes have faced aren’t going away anytime soon, but we feel better prepared for what 2021 brings knowing we have community support.”
Although indoor youth sports in Illinois currently are suspended, Heart of the City is hopeful about resuming soccer programming as soon as it is safe to do so. Until then, the organization plans to continue to provide support to student-athletes and virtual programming to keep youth engaged and on track in school.