Love where you live!
LA MESA -- For the last four days, 23 young East County youths got the full attention of the La Mesa Police Department.
It was all good.
The first annual Youth Leadership Camp, the brainchild of La Mesa police Captain Dan Willis, took the young men and women through a series of events that was half bootcamp half motivational town meeting.
The students, all 15 to 18, spent their days racing up Cowles Mountain -- while tethered by crepe paper that they couldn't break. They painted over graffitti and weeded the yards of the elderly. They heard inspirational speeches from war heroes and civic leaders.
The four day event, including Thursday night's graduation dinner (see photos below), had been financed with donations from Edco. Carl Burger Dodge, the San Diego Charges and the La Mesa Rotary. Mayor Art Madrid as well as council members Dave Allan and Ruth Sterling attended the graduation ceremony.
Police Chief Ed Aceves said the students were recruited from local high schools who were asked to "give us your best,'' Aceves said. He credited his leadership team with organizing and executing the long days of events and was quick to say this would be an annual event.
"We like to give back to the community, but giving this kind of experience to the future leaders of this community is a no-brainer,'' Aceves said. "It took alot, but we'll do it next year.''
This year's leaders included:
Josh Evangelist from Hilltop High School.
Edmond Edwards from Madison High School.
Nathan Hagen, Matthew Murray, Steven Alamillo, Ean Hendrickson, Austin Lolli, Trenton Castro, Chris Padilla and Billy Padilla -- from Valhalla High School.
Michael Boner, Aaron Colera, Celeste Osuna, Tyler Zink, Kailey Fox, Victoria Ochoa Senka Lorja, Lydia Insunza and Serenity Green from Helix Charter High School.
Skyler Youngblood, Jacob Rothrock, James Rothrock, and Justice Davis from Grossmont High School.