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Football Changing Lives for At-Risk Youth on West Side

As a three-sport athlete for all four years at Rezin Orr Academy High School on Chicago’s West Side, Glen Lewis knew he wanted to provide some of the same opportunities he had growing up for at-risk youth in the Austin community.Screen Shot 2018-03-26 at 12.40.13 AM.png

“He chose football because violence has plagued our community for far too long and it was time for people who have the ability to make a difference to stand up and help save our children by putting them first,” said Terrence Sirleaf, Athletic Director and President of Chicago Vikings. “We create many opportunities to help save lives so that kids can relish the moment with family and friends without worry.”

With this goal in mind, Lewis established the Chicago Vikings organization in 2002 as part of the Chicago Public League Football Conference. It was a rough start for the Vikings who finished their first three seasons under .500. By the 4th season, the team was up to speed and won the Chicago Public League Championship. They held the title in 2007, 2009, 2012, 2013, and 2014.

“When it seemed as though the Vikings were unstoppable, the football program suffered a devastating blow in 2014 as Chicago Public School funding was cut and the Vikings Organization was forced to end,” said Sirleaf.

Even without the team out on the field, Coach Lewis and Sirleaf never lost hope and knew that one day they would bring the organization back to the community.

“In 2017, Coach Williams, founder of the Nash Trojans, extended his hand to the Vikings organization, providing them with a facility to hold indoor practices and a state of the art football field for home games and practices.”

With this blessing, the Vikings were able to continue fundraising and recruiting.

Screen Shot 2018-03-26 at 12.38.31 AM“We now have a total of seven coaches, managing 120 at-risk youth. More than 80 percent of our youth are from the Austin Community,” said Sirleaf.

Since their comeback, their 12u team has competed in the Regional Playoffs and their 14u team became a National qualifier. These accomplishments added to their collection of over 35 championships since 2002, between conference titles, city-and-state championships.

Aside from being a top ranked football team, the staff of the Chicago Vikings are also stressing to their players the importance of giving back by having their first neighborhood clean-up to kick off 2018.

Players like Jalen Lewis, Former All-American and 4-year varsity starter at Al Raby High School, is excited to give back as he has been afforded many opportunities because of the Chicago Vikings.

“It feels outstanding, it’s a one team, one family oriented organization,” said Center, Jalen Lewis. “I had the opportunity to be on one of the first Chicago Vikings football teams to play in Florida and compete in the AYF National Championships and I was selected to play at the AYF 8th grade Under Armour All American All-Star Game in California.”Screen Shot 2018-03-26 at 12.40.05 AM

Aside from his talent on the field, Jalen holds a 4.2 GPA in the classroom and is a prime example of the type of student athlete the Chicago Vikings staff hope to continue producing. And with Coach Lewis’ sharp eyes for finding coaches, there’s no doubt they will be doing just that.

“I think in 17 years, Coach Lewis has found the best coaching staff in the state of Illinois, and what I mean by the best coaching staff is that each and every Coach loves the game of football and spends more than 60 hours weekly to educate and teach the game,” said Sirleaf. “Every coach gives back 100% to the Austin Community and the Chicago Vikings unconditionally, with that being the recipe of building our young men into student athletes.”

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Sirleaf would also like to recognize his amazing coaching staff who moves this organization forward each and every day: Coach Tim, Coach Tomorrio, Coach Rell, Coach Theo, Coach Tehavus, Coach Arthur, Coach KP, Coach Lewis and Coach Elbert. Also, a special thanks to ORR High School’s Thomas Johnson and Coach Earnest Williams.

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Jodelle is originally from Hawaii and moved to Chicago in 2012. She received her Master’s from DePaul University in 2014 and has worked for various organizations including the NBA Los Angeles Clippers, MLS Chicago Fire, Hallmark Movie Channels, Disney ABC Television Group, Comcast SportsNet Chicago, and ABC7 Los Angeles. She created Chicago Flex in 2018 after experiencing life as a television news reporter and seeing the impact and positive influences stories had on people’s lives. Her mission is to get us all back to our roots of knowing our neighbors, our community, and our people. Follow Jodelle on Facebook and Instagram @jodelle.maglaya

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