October 30, 2014 – Many Chandler teens are working to achieve their high school diplomas while faced with the barrier of being homeless. ICAN has been working to address this issue through new partnerships and programs. New data released last month from the National Center for Homeless Education reinforces the gravity of the situation and the importance of finding solutions. As great as this nation is we now have more homeless students living completely on their own, without parents or guardians, than ever before. It is shocking to learn that 1,285,182 students enrolled in public schools across our country were homeless during the 2012-13 school year. That is a staggering eight percent increase from the year before. Of those, 75,940 were classified as unaccompanied youth, meaning they were living completely on their own. Is there any wonder why young people experiencing homelessness are 87% more likely to stop going to school? That figure comes straight from the 2014 Don’t Call Them Dropouts report from the America’s Promise Alliance. Public schools are the only universal safety net for these children. They are the only place they can turn to for basic services and the education, essential elements to escape poverty as adults. The national numbers are reinforced locally by a report from the Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable. They assert that over one-fifth (22%) of Arizona’s young people are considered disconnected youth, defined as those not in work or school/college. The high school dropout rate in Metropolitan Phoenix has been a chronic issue for years. Measure of America is a New York based non-partisan, non-profit initiative of the Social Science Research Council that studies well-being in America. In 2012 they named the Valley as having the highest rate of youth disconnection among the country’s 25 largest metro areas. According to the Arizona Department of Education, 22% of our state’s ninth graders will not finish high school. This will have a substantial and negative impact on Arizona’s workforce and economy. Times are changing and by 2018 more than 60% of all jobs in Arizona will require some post-secondary education. These numbers will only get worse if we don’t do something about it. ICAN has entered into a new partnership with Chandler Youth in Transition, which is comprised of several different non-profit organizations and community leaders, to work with homeless teens with the goal being a high school diploma. Many of these youth “couch surf” between homes and find it very difficult to commit to a full-time, traditional high school. ICAN and the Chandler Unified School District (CUSD), along with a number of community partners, are working with this group of teens to help them succeed. ICAN is the lead administrative partner on the program. We are working with CUSD to identify and encourage them to enroll and complete their graduation program. Some have chosen to attend Hill Academy @ ICAN, a non-traditional high school with flexible schedules and other options offered at our facility. Students who qualify are offered stipends for their studies […]
Happy people create and maintain effective workplaces. It is a simple but powerful fact. In my 40-year career in the financial services industry and non-profit management, I have yet to see it fail. Beyond budgets, schedules, timelines and sales efforts, a happy and content staff can make any workplace dynamic. Success oriented workplaces recognize that employees are an organization’s greatest resource. Employees can make a critical difference in an organization’s ability to not only survive, but thrive. Our mission at ICAN is to empower youth to be responsible members of the community. Our focus is giving them the tools and programs they need to be successful. We have also found that creating a positive work environment for our staff directly affects the youth we serve. When the staff is empowered and able to manage their work-life balance, it directly and positively impacts the lives of the 250 youth that come through our doors every day. Because we stress the importance of our employees, we applied for and won the “When Work Works Workplace Flexibility Award.” There were 12 other stellar Arizona Companies and over 500 nation-wide. Workplace flexibility is essential to success. It is not just for large corporations. ICAN has a staff of 27 and we have found several creative ways to offer flexible practices in our business. The “When Work Works” initiative is grounded in the results of nationally representative studies of employees and employers. These studies have found that flexibility is a key ingredient in creating effective workplaces that can yield important work-related outcomes for employers. In fact, employees in effective and flexible workplaces report greater engagement on the job, greater job satisfaction and desire to stay with the organization, better over-all health and lower stress levels. Businesses need to work differently than they have in the past and put the needs of their employees in the forefront. A recent study by the “When Work Works” initiative found that employees seek three forms of flexibility as most common. They are, control over taking breaks, time off for important family and personal needs and flex time. Their research offers many other forms of flexibility and how to put them to work. At ICAN we offer flexible work schedules and the ability to telecommute part of the week. We have a number of part-time positions on staff. We conduct semi-annual employee satisfaction surveys that are continually evaluated by managers to ensure our employee needs are being met wherever possible. We strive to keep our workplace fun and hopefully a place where they look forward to coming to work each day. The “When Work Works” initiative can be a valuable resource for almost any business of any size. Their research is current and reliable. Their tools for success can be easily integrated into any workplace. I encourage you to visit www.whenworkworks.org and take advantage of what they offer. I hope to see even more nominees and winners of the “When Work Works” award in 2015! Becky Jackson President & […]
Article by Seth Conaway It’s 3:30 on a Wednesday afternoon, and volunteer Helen Jacobs is stepping onto the playground at ICAN. All around her swarms of children run about playing and laughing and soaking up the sun. A wayward basketball sails by overhead. A girl darts through the crowd to give Jacobs a hug before disappearing once again into the sea of children. Another comes by to explain to Jacobs that she’s inventing a money sorter out of an empty tissue box. “That is so clever!” Jacobs exclaims, and the child is delighted. For many of these children, the positive feedback and friendly hugs volunteers like Jacobs provide are more than just bright spots in their day. That’s but one of the reasons ICAN founder Henry Salinas chose to create the free after-school program: to make positive, lasting impacts in their lives by providing safety, learning, self-empowerment and, of course, fun. Jacobs is one of the many volunteers from the Chandler community who have dedicated themselves to carrying out Salinas’ mission, and her background has more than prepared her for it. Having taught high school Spanish for 34 years in Maryland, Jacobs and her family relocated to Chandler where she continued to teach part time in Tempe before retiring in 2012. After hearing of a back-to-school drive ICAN was sponsoring, she gathered up the extra school supplies she had collected over the years and made a donation. Her choice to volunteer at ICAN soon followed, and before long she had a seat on the Programs Committee as well. “It’s a wonderful organization,” Jacobs explains with a smile, “and it’s right up my alley.” An educator at heart, it’s clear that Jacobs feels most effective when she’s providing instructional assistance to a discouraged student, either with homework or in ICAN’s computer lab. “When I help a student work through something and they understand how they got it, it makes me feel good. And hopefully they’ll keep that understanding going,” she says. It’s important for Jacobs to remind the children and families ICAN serves that the sky is their limit, and that positive influences and a good education are vital for a productive life. ICAN President and CEO Becky Jackson agrees. “ICAN provides leadership training so that they can grow up to be independent, productive and self-sufficient members of the community and break the cycle of unemployment and poverty,” Jackson explains. “Henry (Salinas) never dreamed that ICAN would become what it is today, impacting the lives of thousands of children, young adults and families each year – which in turn benefits the entire East Valley community.” Jackson adds that it’s volunteers like Jacobs who make it happen. “ICAN could not serve the number of children it does if it were not for amazing volunteers like Helen,” Jackson says. “With 250 youth coming to ICAN every day, we need 15-20 volunteers each day to assist the staff. They help check the kids in, help in the classrooms with art projects and activities and […]
Four out of ten Chandler teens that use prescription drugs to get high report they are getting them from the medicine cabinet of family and friends. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has classified prescription drug abuse as an epidemic. While there has been a marked decrease in the use of some illegal drugs like cocaine, data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) show that nearly one-third of people aged 12 and over who used drugs for the first time in 2009 began by using a prescription drug non-medically. Some individuals who misuse prescription drugs, particularly teens, believe these substances are safer than illicit drugs because they are prescribed by a healthcare professional and dispensed by a pharmacist. Addressing the prescription drug abuse epidemic is not only a top priority for public health, it will also help build stronger communities and allow those with substance abuse disorders to lead healthier, more productive lives. ICAN’s Chandler Coalition on Youth Substance Abuse (CCYSA) is having a Lockbox Campaign throughout the summer. Thanks to the Chandler Police Department, CCYSA has been able to purchase prescription drug lockboxes from RxArmory for Chandler residents for FREE. Please help spread the word to those in Chandler that have youth at home and would like to keep their prescription drugs locked and safe right. These lockboxes will fit directly in your medicine cabinet! Remember – legal does not mean safe! If you are a Chandler resident and are interested in getting a free prescription drug lockbox, please visit lockupyourdrugs.org to fill out simple request form.
On June 18th, 50 kids from Chandler’s ICAN, Positive Programs for Youth along with 50 kids from Future for Kids (FFK) were treated to a field trip at DPR Construction in Phoenix. Themed “DPR School of Construction,” the kids participated in a four-hour interactive learning experience that was developed locally by DPR employee and community service leader Timothy Hyde, and executed by over 25 DPR employees who volunteered their time. DPR staff welcomed the kids and kicked off the afternoon with a brief talk from DPR Design Professional Jose Garcia. Jose had humble beginnings and told the kids how he started working at DPR as a field worker on construction jobs. He shared with the kids that he was dedicated and worked very hard and was able to work his way up to design professional. Jose’s story was a great inspiration to the ICAN and FFK kids, who face obstacles in their life as well. The kids were then divided into four groups to start their projects. One station focused on safety and the kids learned about hard hats, equipment and even about staying hydrated. The highlight was getting to see someone operate a scissor lift. The second station was design of their project, which was a dog house. The kids gave input on design elements and learned how to draw the rendering. The third station was the mock-up of the house, where the kids used pre-cut wood to assemble their mock-up. The final station was building the final product with real power tools and hardware. Each group’s work resulted in a final, completed dog house that was hand-crafted by the kids. The dog houses will be donated to Friends for Life Animal Rescue where they will be put to good use for rescue dogs. At the beginning of the day, DPR staff asked the kids what they thought a construction company does. The kids replied with a huge variety of answers, most of which had little to do with construction. DPR staff asked the kids the same question at the end of the day and the transformation was remarkable. Hector was the first to reply with, “It’s really important to be safe!” DPR staff was thrilled with his response and others quickly joined in with words like “hard hat,” “mock-up,” “drawing,” “power tool,” and “teamwork.” Another highlight of the day was the fact several DPR female employees, including National Safety Manager Janet Howe, were present, hard hat and all. The girls were enamored by the presence of the women working the industry, and all asked to be a part of the group led by female intern Ayern Cobb. The program was such a success that DPR‘s Phoenix office will be replicating the program for use in all DPR regions across the nation. About DPR Foundation: ICAN and Future for Kids are two of 15 youth organizations nationally awarded a total of $900,000 in grants by the DPR Foundation in December 2013. Over the past six years, the Foundation […]
ICAN is teaming up with “For our City” and “Stuff the Bus” at Chandler Fashion Center sponsored by Fulton Homes to collect back-to-school donations for disadvantaged youth. Join ICAN from June 6th through July 13th at Chandler Fashion Center to donate school supplies and basic school necessities that will go to elementary, middle school and high school-aged students in the Chandler area. This drive not only helps ensure that Chandler area students are ready to learn but that they also have the tools needed to succeed this upcoming school year. As in previous years, there is an actual full-sized school bus parked in Chandler Fashion Center. The school bus also features original artwork from ICAN youth on a huge 18-foot banner. ICAN volunteers as well as other local supporters will be manning the bus during mall hours through Sunday, July 13th. Additionally, monetary donations can be made through PayPal by visiting www.chandlerfoodbank.org and clinking on the donation link. Be sure to specify that the donation will be going to the “Back to School Drive.” A $25 donation, online or in person, will provide one Chandler student with a fully stuffed backpack. Last year, more than 3,000 backpacks full of supplies were donated to Chandler area youth from the Stuff the Bus drive sponsored by Fulton Homes. This year, with the help of the community, we are increasing that goal and hoping to acquire more than 5,000 backpacks, filled with supplies, donated. Items needed include: backpacks, spiral notebooks, pencils, pens, highlighters, markers, index cards, crayons, glue sticks, filler paper, folders, composition books, colored pencils, erasers, dry erase markers, pencil case, construction paper, rulers, school uniforms, socks and shoes. Supplies can also be donated through July 1st at these additional Chandler locations: • Chandler Environmental Education Center, 4050 E. Chandler Heights Road • Chandler Snedigar Recreation Center, 4500 S. Basha Road • Boys & Girls Club of the East Valley-Compadre Branch, 300 E. Chandler Boulevard • Matthew’s Crossing, 1368 N. Arizona Ave #112 • Chandler Y, 1655 W. Frye Road For more information please see, http://www.forourcity.org/Back_to_School_Drive.html. Melissa Jimro Senior Vice President of Programs and Community Impact, ICAN President, Chandler Non-Profit Coalition
ICAN’s Wellness Fair was held on Wednesday, May 7th, 2014 with great success. This is the second annual fair organized at ICAN to promote health and wellness among the ICAN families and the community. Around 40 families (more than 130 people) participated in this interactive event this year. Each family received a “Healthy Roads Map” with the instruction to visit all 12 of the organizations that provided information and resources available to Chandler families that promote healthy lives. Families received a stamp after talking and learning from each of the vendors. All completed maps participated in the raffles of special prizes including family board games, gift cards and an IPad. The event also included free dinner for all families prepared by the Chandler Unified School District. One of the programs offered at ICAN is the Healthy Lifestyles program, were we promote health and wellness by focusing on physical activity and healthy food choices for the prevention of diseases. With the recent partnership with CUSD, ICAN is able to serve free dinners to all youth that participate in ICAN afterschool programs. Families were able to enjoy and learn more about these healthy meals their kids receive at ICAN every day. One of the highlights of the event was the dance performance by ICAN youth, coordinated by ICAN volunteer and Yoga teacher Shobhana Bhatt. The yoga class has been offered weekly at ICAN for more than a year now. ICAN youth performed some “Sun Salutations” which are a great exercise for the whole body – especially in children. It includes stretching, flexing and toning the muscles and is excellent for increased flexibility and blood flow. Under the slogan “our youth, our health, our community” this event also had the goal of bringing the community together to learn and reflect about underage drinking, one of the most important issues concerning the health of the youth in Chandler. The average age youth in Chandler have their first drink is 12.7 years old. Additionally, 4 out of 10 parents in the 85225 zip code say it is okay for kids to drink alcohol. As part of the event, all adults and youth older than 11 years old participated in a Town Hall Meeting organized by the Chandler Coalition on Youth Substance Abuse. This Town Hall Meeting had the purpose of bringing awareness and information to families that underage drinking is a community problem, and invited parents to talk to their kids and set clear expectations about alcohol use. This part of the event included an inspirational presentation of a guest speaker who shared his personal experience with alcohol abuse and the struggles he faced to overcome that problem. There was also a panel table with the participation of guest speakers from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Chandler Police Department and ICAN. Panel members provided more information about the problem of underage drinking in Chandler and answered questions from the audience. Thank you to all the volunteers that made the Wellness Fair a […]
April is Alcohol Awareness Month and ICAN is partnering with two East Valley organizations to help spread the word about alcohol and its dangers. Alcohol use by youth is directly associated with traffic fatalities, violence, suicide, educational failure, alcohol overdose, unsafe sex and other problem behaviors. Annually, over 6,500 people under the age of 21 die from alcohol-related accidents and thousands more are injured. ICAN founded the Chandler Coalition on Youth Substance Abuse (CCYSA) in 2006 and continues to grow this critical program. CCYSA addresses the issue of youth alcohol abuse through programs that include peer leadership, social marketing, community outreach and political advocacy. Teens also participate in programs such as “party patrol” where CCYSA youth provide Chandler Police with information about upcoming parties where they suspect alcohol and drug use will be present. During the timeframe of April – June, there is a rise in alcohol-related traffic fatalities and incidents due to prom and graduation season. ICAN and CCYSA are partnering with Tempe Coalition and Mesa Prevention Alliance to combine resources to be more effective and far-reaching with their messages and prevention efforts. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence released some frightening statistics for Alcohol Awareness Month: Each day, 7,000 kids in the United States under the age of 16 take their first drink. Those who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcoholism than those who begin at age 21. More than 1,700 college students in the U.S. are killed each year—about 4.65 a day—as a result of alcohol-related injuries. 25% of U.S. children are exposed to alcohol-use disorders in their family. Underage alcohol use costs the nation an estimated $62 billion annually. The promise of a healthy future for the youth in the East Valley and across the world requires reducing underage drinking through cooperative efforts from parents, schools, community organizations, business leaders and government agencies. Chandler’s CCYSA, Tempe Coalition and Mesa Prevention Alliance are taking the first step to work in tandem to address this social issue. Please help us spread the word about the staggering statistics of alcohol abuse among our youth and talk to your kids about the serious implications of alcohol use. Learn more at www.ccysachandler.org and www.ncadd.org. Becky Jackson is the President & CEO of ICAN Chandler – Positive Programs for Youth, which operates the Chandler Coalition on Youth Substance Abuse.