In 1990, a group of community-based organizations – Northeast Valley Health Corporation, El Proyecto del Barrio, Tarzana Treatment Centers, Pacoima Community Youth Cultural Center, El Centro de Amistad, the Latin American Civic Organization, Hermandad Mexicana Nacional and California State University, Northridge – untied to establish the San Fernando Valley Partnership. Driven by the devastating and corrosive consequences of substance abuse in Valley communities, the “Partnership” was created to serve as the catalyst for change. The Partnership incorporated in 1995 to become a non-profit 501 ©(3) and has a long standing successful history of implementing evidence-based programs reaching thousands of San Fernando Valley residents.

Much of this success is attributed to the well-developed research and evaluation capacity within the organization and the commitment of our coalition partners. In the recent past, the Partnership developed and implemented the Youth Adelante Program, a targeted capacity expansion initiative for substance abuse and HIV prevention. The project model was derived from lessons learned in the Partnership’s 1991 Blythe Street Prevention Project, established in Van Nuys, California as one of 16 sites funded by the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) to participate in the national cross site study testing scientifically defensible interventions for Hispanic/Latino high risk youth.

The Youth Adelante Program gave birth to The Chicas In Control and Succeeding (Ch.I.C.A.S) mentoring program. Ch.I.C.A.S grew naturally from the needs of young Latinas participating in the Youth Adelante Program. While the Youth Adelante program was a success and proved to prevent negative behavior among its co-ed participants, it also allowed for youth to come together and become a part of something bigger than themselves. The female participants in particular, when meeting for the program, began addressing gender specific needs. As the program progressed in addressing risk behaviors it also generated issues specific to girls. The topics required that the girls meet in a non-coed group and receive information from community leaders on issues specific to their own experiences and needs.

In addition, as the parents were involved in Youth Adelante, many began meeting as a parent group for CHICAS also addressing female focused parenting issues. As more girls began formally “join”, graduates of the Youth Adelante program began informally leading (and mentoring) the newer recruited youth and hence the mentoring program began. ChICAS reached hundreds of girls and many of them became mentors or started their own Ch.I.C.A.S chapers. Currently, the Partnership’s Communities in Action Coalition – funded by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Substance Abuse Prevention and Control – is working to decrease underage drinking and drug use in Los Angeles County by addressing the availability and accessibility of alcohol and other drugs. We believe that change is possible and one day, all of our young people with live in communities that are safe and drug-free.