It is estimated that there are over 1.2 million young people in Los Angeles “at risk” of not reaching a productive adulthood. Over 93,000 of them are currently out of school and out of work. They face a relentless assault of negative influences that often result in drug abuse, violence, teen pregnancy, poor academic performance, even death. Our mission is to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. We address the barriers through a wrap-around service delivery strategy that integrates dropout and violence prevention, gang intervention, community empowerment, job development, parenting and mental health programs. Simply put, our work is aimed at helping youth and young adults develop the skills, abilities, relationships and associations necessary to foster self-esteem, persistence, perseverance and positive attitudes.
As a world champion in martial arts and kickboxing, CIS Executive Director, Blinky Rodriguez has a long history of working with youth. The work became personal in 1990 when Blinky himself fell victim to gang violence. Sonny, his 16-year-old son was killed in a drive-by shooting. In court, Blinky met the three killers face-to-face, not for retribution, but to forgive them. Through a series of meetings, he subsequently negotiated a truce, called The Valley Unity Peace Treaty, which was signed by over 75 gangs with over 1,000 members. The treaty successfully reduced gang-related deaths from 56 to 2. The peace treaty project became CIS San Fernando Valley, a non-profit organization in 1994. Blinky approached long-time friend Bobby Arias, then Southwest Regional Director for Communities In Schools, Inc. and solicited his assistance in developing an “integrated service delivery approach” for gang youth. Since the tragedy of Sonny’s death, Blinky and Bobby have dedicated their lives to ending youth and gang violence and helping young people transform their lives.
Numerous national and international leaders including Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter and Dr. Jane Goodall have recognized the work of Blinky and CIS. CIS violence prevention and intervention practices have been replicated in the USA, Germany, Tanzania, England and South Africa. In 1998, Blinky received the Medaille d’Excellence, presented in Switzerland to only 14 people worldwide in conjunction with the 50th Anniversary of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Blinky has earned over eighty-three awards for his work including the Angel of Peace Award from the Violence Prevention Coalition of Greater LA, The SFV Interfaith Council Human Relations Award and the Simon Bolivar Liberty Award. He was selected by A&E Television and their Biography series as a 2002 Biography Community Hero for his service to LA. Blinky and the staff of CIS were featured in the November 2002 Reader’s Digest article on “Everyday Heroes”. In 2008 he received unprecedented back-to-back Sabbatical Grants from the CA Wellness and Durfee Foundations. He has served as an LA City Commissioner at the request of each of the past three Mayors of Los Angeles. The following is a sample of our accomplishments:
→ Connected over 1400 youths with mentors
→ Helped place 654 people in jobs
→ Helped place 270 people in college
→ Conducted over 250 Sports Events with over 11,000 participants
→ Conducted over 116 Peace Rallies/Community Events with over 275,000 attendees
The peacekeeping efforts of CIS were the subject of a study, funded by the California State Legislature under AB 2650. Conducted by Cal State University at Northridge, it found the peace treaty to be effective in demonstrating peacekeeping strategies and recommended that it be replicated statewide. CIS has been named the “model” program for gang intervention by the State of California, LA County and the City of LA. Since 1997, individuals, corporations, foundations and public entities have invested over $30 million in the work done by CIS. CIS partners include the US Dept. of Education, US Dept. of Justice, US Dept. of Labor, the City of LA, LA County Probation, The California Wellness Foundation, Weingart Foundation, Annenberg Foundation, Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, Dwight Stuart Youth Foundation, Jane Fonda Foundation, Jewish Community Foundation, IBM, Costco, GAP Inc., Universal Studios, SONY, Verizon, Toyota, MetLife, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Wachovia, Waste Management and many others.
CIS GLA/SFV is the local affiliate of Communities In Schools, Inc., the nations leading dropout prevention organization helping kids succeed in school and prepare for life. CIS Inc. was named one of America’s top 100 charities by Worth magazine in both 2001 and 2002. CIS Inc. is at work in 2,200 schools sites and 26 states serving 1.3 million young people and their families annually.