Longtime nonprofit

ICAN has been providing needy families in Chandler with free after-school programs for 30 years. (Special to the Tribune)

A Chandler nonprofit that has served  kids with free after-school programs has set up shop in Mesa to  help local children and teens.

With an eye toward helping 150 kids, ICAN opened at Longfellow Elementary School, 345 S. Hall St. and Adams Elementary School, 738 S. Longmore. 

"The pandemic brought to light the critical importance of accessible childcare - a service that is essential for the economic mobility of families in our community,” said ICAN CEO Shelby Pedersen. 

“Our board of directors identified Mesa as our next location because 17 percent of youth in Mesa schools live in poverty and 22 schools within the district have 75 percent of students qualifying for free and reduced lunch, she explained. 

“Due to the success of the Chandler sites, and the dire need for free programs like ICAN in other communities, we know we’ll make a positive impact on the youth and families in Mesa.”

The new sites offer an holistic approach to helping youth from vulnerable backgrounds to prevent and overcome life challenges and prepare for healthy transitions to adulthood. 

The program utilizes the “5 C’s of Positive Youth Development,” a nationally-recognized youth engagement model that focuses on “building and nurturing all a child’s beliefs, behaviors, knowledge, attributes and skills.  

The 5 C’s include: connection, confidence, character, competence and contribution. 

Youth attend programs Monday – Friday afterschool until 6 p.m.  Program activities include STEAM, academic support, literacy skill building, sport and recreation, and all youth receive a healthy snack and dinner daily. 

“We expect all sites to continue growing in enrollment to serve 80-100 youth per site within the next two years,” added Pedersen. 

ICAN’s expansion into Mesa is made possible in part by a catalytic $100,000 grant from Bank of America, as part of the company’s ongoing efforts to advance racial equality and economic opportunity by building pathways to education. 

The funding builds on Bank of America’s recent $1.65 million in grants to Arizona State University and Maricopa Community Colleges Foundation and to increase student success in degree and certification completion among students of color.

“Access to high-quality, affordable childcare is a game changer in terms of creating more positive educational and economic outcomes for under-resourced families,” said Benito Almaza, Arizona president for Bank of America. 

“ICAN programming and services impact multiple generations within a household, which ultimately constructs more widespread economic mobility and strengthens our Valley economy as a whole.”

The nonprofit provided some stark statistics:

  • 86% of students at Mesa Longfellow tested “not proficient” in English Language Arts and 94% in math in 2021;
  • 83% of students at Mesa Adams tested “not proficient” in ELA and 91% in math in 2021.
  • 20% of students in Mesa District attend a Title I school; 
  • The average cost for an afterschool program in the U.S. is $6,500 per year, per child, which can be a tremendous burden on a family living in poverty.

To learn more about becoming a corporate sponsor or donor for the new Mesa locations, contact Katie Stringham at katie@icanaz.org



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