Second and Third Chances at Life

By Giving List Staff   |   October 28, 2021
High school students gather for a group picture after spending the morning in a Restorative Circle resolving conflicts

On a wall next to the entrance of Edwin Weaver’s office at Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley (FBSMV) hangs a massive reproduction of Rembrandt’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son.” The famous oil painting depicts the moment from the Biblical parable when a son seeks forgiveness from his father for wasting his inheritance and falling into destitution. The painting reminds Weaver, Fighting Back’s executive director, every day about the power of redemption.

“At Fighting Back we believe in second and third chances,” Weaver says. “It’s the ethos of who we are – we never quit on anybody.”

Executive Director Edwin Weaver, Program Specialist CJ Johnson with a student who has benefited from FBSMV services

Since 2003, when Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley was founded as a response to the methamphetamine epidemic in Santa Maria, it has helped thousands of young people get second and third chances at life. Many of its programs focus on protecting kids from drugs, alcohol, gangs, and other negative influences. It has a coalition of community leaders that meets monthly to address substance abuse and the nonprofit works with law enforcement and local schools in Santa Maria on drug prevention education.

The Check, Connect, Respect program tackles truancy and encourages students at 23 elementary schools to complete their education. The FBSMV team helps reduce violence by offering conflict mediation in four high schools using Restorative Approach. Through the Youth Action Group, young people benefit from peer-to-peer support for issues like violence, drugs, and alcohol. Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley even provides support systems for children who are homeless or in foster care.

Weaver says the philosophy of Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley is “looking upstream” to understand the entirety of why kids fall into trouble, not just looking at individual current behaviors.

“In today’s society, it’s very easy to blame others or to seek fault in the world,” he says. “Instead, I think we are called to see resilience and what is going right in the world.”

It’s an approach that takes inspiration from Weaver’s favorite leader, Theodore Roosevelt, who once said there are two types of people – the Critic and the Man in the Arena.

“What we choose to do at Fighting Back is to see the potential in the young person when they come to our attention, instead of throwing our hands up and saying, lock them up or kick them out of the program,” Weaver says. “We choose to get in there in the messiness of the arena.”  


Fighting Back Santa Maria

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(805) 346-1774
Executive Director: Edwin Weaver


It’s our mission to partner with all members of the community to achieve resilience against substance use, reductions in violence and promote a healthy and safe environment for our youth and families. 

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I was living at my friend’s house and I did not have any place to go, I was needing a place to stay. [FBSMV] helped me get into my own place and rent a room. They helped me with my deposit and my rent. They helped me get my documents and apply for college. I was able to finish high school and now I am working and attending college.
Shakita, age 18
Homeless Transitional Aged Youth

“We Are Good at What We Do”

Government grants have paid the bills for the 32 full-time employees of Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley, but it’s time to diversify the organization’s income, says Executive Director Edwin Weaver.

The nonprofit seeks $150,000 in individual donations to supplement its $2.4 million annual budget. Weaver takes pride in his organization’s efficiency, saying it’s lean and delivers great outcomes, including a high success rate housing 18 to 24 year olds living on the street. “I can guarantee that every dollar that we spend goes directly to youth and family services,” Weaver says. “We are good at what we do, we are ethical, and the money goes where it’s supposed to.”

Street Outreach Team Results

75 homeless young adults ages 18-24 met
57 of them exited with positive housing outcomes
Success Rate of 76%
–Santa Barbara County
Community Services Department
Housing and Community Development Division

Key Supporters

Luke Ontiveros, Board President
Santa Maria-Bonita School District
Bob Bush, Board Vice-President
Orcutt Union School District
Retired Superintendent
Carrick Adam, MD MSPH, Board Secretary
SB County Juvenile Facilities
Medical Director
Matt Beecher, Asst. Sup. for Business Services
Santa Maria-Bonita School District
Holly Edds, Superintendent
Orcutt Union School District
Jude Egan, Owner
Offices of M Jude Egan
Steven Funkhouser, Owner
Starry Sky Coffee
Antonio Garcia, Superintendent
Santa Maria Joint Union HSD
Emilio Handall, Superintendent
Guadalupe Union School District
Alice Patino, Mayor
City of Santa Maria
Mark Richardson, Retired Superintendent
Santa Maria Joint Union High
Kevin Walthers, President
Allan Hancock College
Scott Campbell, Pastor and President
South Valley Church
and the Santa Maria Pastors Network
Bob Nelson, County Board Supervisor
Santa Barbara
Jordan Cunningham, California State Assemblyman
District 35
Lisa Brabo PhD, Executive Director
Family Service Agency
Paul and Alexandra Allen, Owners
Main Street Produce
Sylvia Barnard, Executive Director
Good Samaritan Shelter
Pastor Miguel Hidalgo, President
Spanish Speaking Minsters Alliance
Marc Schneider, Santa Maria Police Chief
Joyce Dudley, District Attorney
Santa Barbara County