Carlos is a 16 year old high school student in Chandler, Arizona. His six-member family lives in a two bedroom apartment and Carlos is the only income source they have. Outside of school, Carlos has constant pressures to join local gangs. The temptation to join is high because many of his friends are involved. Adopting this lifestyle would mean getting involved in juvenile delinquency and activities that could land Carlos in jail, eliminating his family’s only income source. This is a very real situation that youth face each day in the Chandler community.
It’s not widely known that gang activity is prevalent in the Downtown Chandler community, as evidenced by the following information provided through ICAN’s Annual Community Needs Assessment:
- 9 rival gangs exist within the area (Chandler Police Department 2011)
- 4th riskiest Maricopa County community for youth (Arizona Department of Behavioral Health Services 2009 Needs Assessment)
Youth in the Downtown Chandler area face many challenges that make involvement with gangs an attractive alternative for many teens. Of 10 youth who live in the area, you can expect to find:
- 8 living in extreme poverty, in household earning less than $25k per year for a family of four
- 8 using drugs or alcohol to cope with the harsh realities of the streets
- 4 who have not graduate high school by the age of 25
- 4 living in single parent households, with less than ideal parental supervision during high-risk hours (after-school predominantly)
As a result of these and other challenges, 2 in 10 teens in this community make the decision to join gangs in order to build what they believe will be supportive relationships and income opportunities. In most cases, teens find out too later that gang activity does just the opposite – stifles supportive relationships, diminishes life-long earning potential and increases the chances that a teen will continue the cycle of poverty that already exists.
ICAN’s youth programs are proven effective at preventing substance abuse, gang activity and other forms of delinquency among youth through the development of life skills like “resiliency.” Resiliency refers to an individual’s ability to adapt to change and stressful events in a healthy and flexible way. Resiliency is critical in the prevention of gang activity because it boosts a child’s ability to “bounce back” from negative circumstances, choosing a positive path rather than the path of gang involvement.
ICAN’s primary strategy is to prevent gang involvement through the building of social skills that allow for productive decision making by youth. Secondary to that, ICAN has also partnered with the Chandler Police Department’s Gang Unit to strongly impact gang involvement among older youth through bi-monthly “outreach & ride-alongs” to recruit these youth into our programs and share an alternative to life on the streets.
You can help make a difference in the lives of these youth by getting involved with ICAN through volunteering, in-kind giving, and donations. Your support can help create positive changes in youth and change the community statistics.
ICAN is a free, family-centered youth service in the East Valley. We provide a full complement of programs proven effective in equipping youth to achieve personal and academic success by tackling substance abuse, gang involvement and juvenile delinquency. For more information about ICAN, call 480.821.4207 or email firstname.lastname@example.org