By Jackie James

Are you a Mesa teen, looking for some fun, activity, or direction? The City of Mesa, in partnership with the Mesa police department, Mesa Public schools, and other local businesses, offers a variety of programs to assist kids with self-esteem, leadership skills, and peer bonding. Ranging from an award winning after school program to a hands-on teen court, the City of Mesa utilizes these programs to strengthen the community and the link to the local police department.

Teen Court-

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be an attorney, bailiff, or even part of a jury consisting of only your peers? Teen Court introduces high school students across Mesa to real-life legal situations and the teens determine the real-life consequences! Cases include infractions like curfew violations, or stealing, for example, and the perpetrators are bound by the jury’s decision. Teen Court is currently being held via computer due to social distancing, but high school students are encouraged to join. New cases are heard each month.

Youth Leadership Program-

The leadership program consists of two-weeks where teens grades 10-12 are pushed to their limits mentally and physically with a series of challenges. Previous years’ highlights include famous guest speakers, personality assessments, repelling down a seven-story building while harnessed, and even careening through an obstacle course in a police car! This program is offered once a summer and students must apply to be accepted. Best of all, it’s free and fun!

Kino Junior High After School Program-

This program, geared towards high risk youth in Mesa junior high schools, is the 2019 Out-of-School Time Program Award of Excellence winner. Students are recommended for this program by guidance counselors and school administrators and concentrates on providing life skills, character development, relationship building, and even career exploration. After school activities are broken up into one-hour sessions of physical activity and indoor projects, and the program runs nine weeks in the fall and nine weeks in the spring. The focus is on providing junior high aged students the resources to make positive choices, in and out of the classroom.

RadKids National Safety Program-

Remember hearing about “stranger danger” when you were a kid? That’s old news! RadKids, a national program featured through the City of Mesa Police Department, is a free program that zeroes in on safety for kids 6 to 12 years old through knowledge and empowerment. RadKids equips kids and their parents for situations by mixing a bit of self-defense, surrounding awareness, and emergency preparedness into fun and informative sessions. RadKids is held at Eagles Community Center.

Police Activities League-

We Run Mesa held at Eagles Community Center, the Police Activities League is a challenging and fun one-hour, weekly program for kids aged 5 to 18. While the program’s focus is increased socialization through fitness, kids also experience heightened self-esteem through the completion of physical challenges, including an obstacle course. At the end of the ten-week program, surprise guests join the workouts!

All these programs are facilitated by Cindy Martinez, Youth Development Officer, and Nicole Torrez, Youth Intervention Specialist. Officer Martinez and Ms. Torrez not only develop, promote, and participate in these programs, but they are instrumental in maintaining relationships after the kids “graduate”. They follow up for feedback, to see if there is interest in other programs, to ensure the students are staying on a good path and to provide, solid career and school resources.

While the programs are offered to both males and females, both officers encourage young girls to explore their options, and not be limited when it comes to pursuing a job in a predominantly male field, like the police and fire departments.

“As a police officer, we don’t have a lot of females (on the force),” said Officer Martinez. “These programs show girls that they are capable of doing what the boys can do. They are a confidence boost.”

Ms. Torrez added, “One benefit for girls in the afterschool program is that they spend more time with other girls, and they work together on team building activities. They start to view one another in a different light when they must help each other.”

Interested in learning more? Contact Officer Martinez at 480-644-2153 or Ms. Torrez at 480-644-5739. Or visit


Jackie James, freelance writer, blogger, and mom to four kids, has over thirty years’ of experience penning articles for websites, magazines, and various other marketing mediums. She wrote her first children’s book at age 11, and it’s been one paragraph at a time ever since.