Outstanding Achievement Award (cities under 100,000)

Gilbert: Major Cynthia L. Dunham
"Citizen Action Network" (CAN)
1. Briefly describe your program
Gilbert Citizen Action Network, or Gilbert CAN, is a grass roots, volunteer program comprised of citizens charged with implementing diverse community action plans that foster support, strength and enhancement of the youth and family of the community.

Through creative and innovative programs, such youth issues as gangs, delinquency and idle time are combated through such positive programs as after-school sports and drama groups, a Fire Explorer program, and teen counseling sessions.

Gilbert CAN consists of two integral parts: a Steering Committee and an Advisory Board. The Steering Committee is responsible for carrying out the vision and mission of the program and the Advisory Board acts as a networking mechanism, bringing together the business community, police and court personnel, religious groups, public schools, social service groups and the Major and Council. This spirit of cooperation leads to an inclusive atmosphere with a single mission: to provide youth and families with activities and information that improves their lives, and the community as a whole.

2. When and why was it created?
It was 1995 when Gilbert CAN was recognized and funded by the Town of Gilbert. It was the culmination of a long process that began years earlier when concerned citizens recognized that youth in the quiet Phoenix suburb of Gilbert were not immune from big-city ills.

Although it began as a program to target "at risk" youths, it soon became all inclusive, providing a variety of programs to all youths and families. The target group remains the pre-teen to young adult population of the community.

3. How has the program improved the quality of life in your community?
If you've ever witnessed the smile of a 14-year-old boy as he makes a basket, or watched a 12-year-old girl confidently deliver her lines in a drama production, it's easy to realize that little things can make a big difference in their young lives. Happy, active and productive youth are an asset to any community, and Gilbert CAN provides the means to reach this goal.

Many of the grass-root programs begun through Gilbert CAN have become entrenched in the community. The Teen Court program brings in high school students to sit as judge, court administrators and jury of actual teen cases. The penalties meted out are community service hours, along with a lesson in justice from their peers.

From recreation centers to counseling sessions, from the Municipal Courts, to the Fire Department, young people in Gilbert, along with family members and community leaders, are getting involved and getting things done.

4. Why is your program outstanding or innovative?
Gilbert CAN is a true partnership bringing together the community, business and government. This grass-roots effort is fostering new leaders. The all-volunteer program is funded through the Town and donations and all monies are applied directly to programs and participants. The broad-based Advisory Board and the resulting networking is the only one of its kind in Arizona. Involvement is the key to any successful program, and hundreds of youths have been reached through Gilbert CAN, and our community is the better for it.