ICAN’s Founder Henry Salinas has an amazing story about how he started ICAN. It formed out of the tragedies occurring in the downtown Chandler area and from someone who cared so much to give youth a safe place to go. This week, Henry Salinas visited the Easy Valley Institute for Technology (EVIT) in Mesa, AZ to record his story for a project the students in the video production class have taken on. With all the exciting things happening in the near future, it’s always an amazing story to hear.
It began in 1991 when Henry saw continuous news coverage about youth being killed due to local Chandler gang violence. He didn’t understand what would lead youth to do this and why they weren’t spending their out of school time at local community centers. Henry visited Chandler schools and parks to speak with gang members, although initially he was met with resistance. There were many times his life was in danger from trying to pursue the answers he was seeking. Finally he got a chance to speak to a leader of a local gang and ask why they weren’t attending the local youth centers. The answer he got was that they cost money that their families didn’t have and it was there Henry made a promise to create a place they could go without worrying about the peer pressures from being on the “streets.”
Henry started gathering youth at local parks and school gymnasiums, creating what is today, ICAN. The community rallied with Henry over time and a facility was secured a few years later that is the one we currently reside in at 201 S. Washington St. in Chandler.
Now, over 20 years later, Henry’s vision continues and ICAN remains a free youth program while serving over 150 youth daily. The new ICAN Lon E. Hoeye Youth Center is about to open its doors with the ability to provide youth prevention programs to 55% more youth and it’s all thanks to Henry Salinas, who cared enough about youth and the community to take action; no challenge was too big or small to make it happen. Stay tuned for the final video in the coming months on the ICAN YouTube channel and meet Henry for yourself at the ICAN Lon E. Hoeye Youth Center Official Ribbon Cutting Ceremony on May 10, 2012!