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Urban Underground was founded on a bold premise: with the right support and opportunity young people have what it takes to address the most pressing issues of our time.  Very often communities will convene stakeholders to explore and address issues impacting youth without ever consultng or engaging them. Although young people are often told that they are "the future" they are treated as if their ideas, creativity, and influence have no relevancy to the present. Urban Underground believes that every issue is a youth issue and their voice and leadership is critical to solving them. 


We believe that leadership is more than something you talk about, it is something you do. It starts with self and impacts everyone around you. It is not a position or title but a way of life. This belief is reflected in our program model and has been manifested in the success of our alum. Urban Underground is a place where young people find their voice and pursue their dreams. It is a place where they find a second family of peers and adults who support them in doing their best. Since its founding in 2000, over 6,000 youth have applied to join Urban Underground and over 600 have successfully completed our comprehensive life skills and leadership program. Although many of our alum credit the program for their success we recognize that their greatness is a reflection of their courage to step up, show up, and succeed in the program and in life. We remain committed to providing nationally recognized programming that builds civic capacity, resiliency, and leadership amoung youth and young adults in Milwaukee. 


98% of teens that complete Urban Underground earn a high school diploma or GED

85% of teens that complete Urban Underground enroll in a 2 or 4 year college

95% of graduates report that the program had a significant influence on their education or career goals.

92% of alum surveyed indicated that they signed a petition, volunteered or voted in the last 12  months



  • Planning sessions held with community stakeholders to address critical issues facing adolescents in Milwaukee at

       Center Street library and Wisconsin Black Historical Society Museum. Sessions result in conception of Urban        




  • Urban Underground founded and incorporated

  • 1st office opened at 152 W. Wisconsin Ave. Suite 500

  • Urban Underground hosts youth-led forum to address racial profiling of youth in Sherman Park community

  • Youth Empowerment Program piloted with 25 teens with 100% completion rate

  • Students win youth-led campaign to keep armed police officers from being placed in all MPS high schools

  • Urban Underground partners with National Black Youth Vote alliance to increase voter registration and turnout among young adults in Milwaukee



  • Members develop and lead healthy choices program in local middle and elementary schools

  • Launches Student Action program to increase city-wide student engagement on educational issues

  • ACLU partners with Urban Underground to develop and launch school-based, statewide anti-oppression program known as the Other America Tour   



  • Urban Underground relocates to new office at 231 W. Wisconsin Ave. Suite 501

  • Members launch Community Justice campaign that includes public education and a Cop-Watch program



  • Members launch school-based campaign to address Teen Domestic Violence

  • Members engage in effort to address Gun Violence in partnership with WAVE and the national Alliance for Justice

  • Urban Underground begins planning process for Youth Empowerment Center including site visits to youth centers in New York, Madison, and Denver.



  • Urban Underground relocates to temporary office in the Esperanza Unida building at 611 W. National Suite 301

  • Urban Underground doubles enrollment for Youth Empowerment Program in response to an unprecedented increase in program applicants (1,025)

  • Urban Underground wins national PSA competition addressing teen domestic violence. PSA aired nationally



  • Urban Underground hosts city-wide student walk-out & rally to call attention to racial achievement gap on the 50th Anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education. The outdoor rally and youth-led teach-in was attended by over 700 students throughout Milwaukee County.

  • Urban Underground opens Youth Empowerment Center

  • Urban Underground advocates for ordinance to form Milwaukee’s first City Youth Council

  • Urban Underground program receives national recognition from the Ford Foundation as a Leadership for a Changing World awardee.



  • True Skool relocates to Youth Empowerment Center

  • Urban Underground wins statewide Street Law competition

  • Urban Underground youth lead coaition to prevent passage of city ordinance that would have increased racial profiling of teens.



  • Urban Underground implements its first Summer Youth Employment in partnership with Earn and Learn Milwaukee

  • Final class of Youth Empowerment Program graduates



  • Urban Underground engages in a year long planning process to restructure operations and programming



  • Urban Underground expands board and launches new structure and programs within Youth Empowerment Center

  • Launches new Youth Organizing Milwaukee program



  • Urban Underground celebrates 10 year anniversary @ Manpower World Headquarters.

  • Urban Underground partners with Open Society Foundations to advance civic engagement among Black males in Milwaukee

  • Urban Underground engages in an unprecedented coalition with Milwaukee Public Schools, City of Milwaukee, and other youth serving agencies to launch Be the Change, a program for 8th grade Black boys focused on literacy, leadership, and life-skills.

  • Urban Underground hosts city-wide youth exchange summit



  • Urban Underground members launch Fresh P.L.A.I.T.S campaign (People Learning Agriculture In Today's Society) to promote healthy food access, community gardnening, and environmental justice and sustainability

  • Partnered with Milwaukee Water Commons on envrionmental campaign focused on water conservation and education

  • Provided life skills and violence prevention training to over 200 students at North Division, Transition, and Madison High School



  • Signs on to coalition demanding justice in the murder of Dontre Hamilton

  • Recruits over 400 applicants for 2014-2015 program year 

  • Hosts Information-Session on October 4th for new applicants at Wisconsin Black Historical Society Museum at 10am and 12pm 






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