Free neighborhood program credited with steering teen away from gangs, drugs

Sometimes, Chandler resident Jonathan Davis thinks about where he would be if he were never introduced to ICAN.

“I probably would have never graduated high school. I probably would have been in a gang and doing drugs,” he said.

Improving Chandler Area Neighborhoods is an organization geared toward providing free, comprehensive out-of-school programs that help empower the youth in the Chandler area.

Davis, 20, has been with the program for 14 years. He said ICAN has had a huge impact on his life. He comes from a family of seven, one that shared a three-bedroom apartment. His father passed away when he was younger, leaving his mother to raise him and his siblings on her own. Gangs and drugs had a strong presence in his neighborhood. It would have been easy to succumb to the temptation.  It would have been easy to follow the crowd. It would have been easy to give up.

But he didn’t.

Davis said a walk past the ICAN building changed the direction of his life.

“Me and my brother used to walk past ICAN. One day we walked in just to see what it was all about,” he said. “ICAN was free. We had a place to go. It was a place where we could hang out. It was a place with structure.

“I come from a big family. There’s a lot of gangs in our area. ICAN kept me out of gangs and the drugs.”

The longer he stayed with ICAN, the more he continued to grow as a person. He said he has learned new things, developed a new perspective on life, met new people and developed confidence, an ability to believe he could achieve.

“ICAN helped me out a lot,” he said. “I’m more of a role model and I also help out in the community. It feels good to make an impact on the neighborhoods. I make an impact on the younger kids.”

Today, Davis is a peer leader with ICAN. He has also become the first member of his family to attend college. He is currently in his first year, studying music production. Music has been a life-long interest and he says he is excited about this future.

“It feels good. I never thought of going to college,” he said.

ICAN has been a bright spot in Davis’ life. He hopes he can help area youth the same way ICAN has helped him.

“I’d like to see more kids and more teens share their stories like I share mine,” he said.


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