OWLS is a sports-based youth development organization that creates opportunities for underserved youth in Chicago. With lacrosse as its foundation, OWLS provides impactful mentorship and access to scholarships, improving the academic and social outcomes of the youth it serves.
In urban areas like Chicago’s South and West side neighborhoods, children are regularly exposed to violence. Many children in Chicago grow up in racially segregated, restricted neighborhood environments with little or no safe places to play. Billions of dollars have been cut from public school sports programs, greatly limiting opportunities for developmentally positive play. In Chicago’s suburbs, there are over 100 varsity lacrosse programs in the high schools. In the city limits, there are less than 20, the majority of which are at private schools. Limitations on safe play spaces, lack of quality coaching, cost to play, and transportation issues ensure that lacrosse is out of reach for almost all at-risk youth from Chicago’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods.
OWLS provides transformational experiences for more than 500 at-risk boys and girls each year at no cost to the participants through sports-based youth development programming, service-learning projects, and academic enrichment. Each year, OWLS utilizes more than 150 trained volunteers at four locations in Chicago’s South and West Side neighborhoods (Garfield Park, Pilsen/Little Village, Austin and Near West Side) to operate our Outreach (grades 3-5), League (Grades 3-8), and Academy (grades 6-12) programs. OWLS coaches are trained using trauma-informed SBYD best practices and a curriculum that is conducive to the social-emotional growth of our participants.