CASA was formed in 1984 as Community Against Substance Abuse by a small group of parents in response to a growing concern over the use of drugs by teenagers and the associated harm. CASA has grown into a respected and effective volunteer organization that draws extensive resources from the community including parents, students, merchants, town government officials, school administrators, police, and health care professionals. The Board usually has 20 members representing a diverse cross section of our community. In 1991, CASA was named the “Best Community Organization” in Los Gatos by the local Weekly Times paper. In 2014, CASA was honored at a town council meeting with a proclamation for 30 years of serving the community and youth of Los Gatos.
It is CASA’s mission to encourage and support young people in substance-free decisions. Education is an important part of this process. CASA encouraged the implementation of Quest’s Skills for Adolescence at Fisher for 8th graders. CASA was responsible for researching and raising funds for the curriculum, materials, and teacher training for “Here’s Looking at You, 2000” a self esteem/substance abuse course in five elementary schools. Each year, CASA brings speakers to our schools and community including David Toma, Jack Canfield, Michael Pritchard, and Tom Flick, all providing positive drug-free messages, self esteem, and goal setting skills. CASA sent students and adults to important conferences such as PRIDE (Parents Resource Institute for Drug Education,) the largest conference of its kind in the world, CADFY (California for Drug-free Youth,) and Teenwork.
Programs for parents are designed to give support and promote networking. Each year, CASA offers STEP classes (Systematic Training for Effective Parenting) to assist in the development of parenting skills. Over 500 parents have “graduated,” and as one parent said, “I’m not in the dark anymore about how to respond to my teen. STEP was invaluable in providing tools for understanding and responding to my teen’s behavior.”
Positive alternative activities, programs designed to promote leadership, self esteem and fun that can be had without the use of substances, run throughout the year. CASA worked diligently with a Santa Clara County steering committee to bring Friday Night Live, a youth driven program to prevent alcohol and other drug use among teenagers, to our area. We began a chapter at Los Gatos High School in 1992 where membership grew from 8 to 100. Club Live, the middle school equivalent of Friday Night Live, also began in 1992 and is supported by CASA.
CASA has taken the responsibility for the promotion of Red Ribbon Week and Drug Awareness Week in our schools and community. Gym Jam, a free community-wide party which drew 3,000 people, occurred each spring as families celebrated the commitment to substance-free fun.
CASA maintains a close relationship with other organizations in Los Gatos concerned with young people. CASSY (Counseling and Support Services for Youth) and Triad Community Services provided counseling services for students and their families and support groups within the schools. CASA was influential in establishing these school-based programs. CASA is represented on the Drug Free Community Coordinating Committee (DFCCC), which was established in our community in 1991 by our police chief under direction from then Attorney General Dan Lundgren. In 2009, CASA was given a commendation by the Mayor for 25 years of service to the Los Gatos community.
The effectiveness of CASA in the Los Gatos community has been noted and our organization has served as a model for development of other CASA organizations in Saratoga, Danville, and Carmel. As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”