OUR STORY

Outreach with Lacrosse and Schools (OWLS) was founded in 2011 with one goal – Improve the lives of Chicago’s most at-risk youth by offering a lacrosse-based program that combines teaching and playing the sport with academic tutoring, mentoring and social enrichment. Led by Sam Angelotta, Founder and Executive Director, OWLS has grown into one of the premier urban lacrosse program in the country. Angelotta founded the program during his time as a teacher, coach, and Athletic Director at St Malachy School on Chicago’s Near West Side. Sam is trained in education and Sports Based Youth Development (M.Ed. Master in Education). In 2016, he began working full time for OWLS in order to bridge the educational gaps for the students we serve, and expand organizational capacity.

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 and opportunities for developmentally positive play are increasingly limited. 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 toughest neighborhoods.
OWLS provides transformational experiences for more than 500 underserved students each year at no cost to the participants through sports based youth development programming, service-learning projects, and scholarship access. Since its inception OWLS has continually improved and expanded its outreach and mentoring opportunities by way of three related OWLS programs: Outreach, League, and Academy.
OWLS utilizes more than 150 volunteers at 4 programming site locations (Garfield Park, Pilsen, Austin and Near West Side) supporting students from all over Chicago’s South and West Side neighborhoods. Through centralized locations and a network of partner schools, we operate our Outreach (grades 3-5), League (Grades 3-8), and Academy (grades 6-12) sports-based youth development (SBYD) 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.

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