The Rotary Club of La Mesa Sunrise had the privilege of making a small contribution to an inspiring event that was the brainchild of a Helix Charter High School student:

Uniting for Common Ground

Police and La Mesa youth have more in common than one might think.  Historically the youth have not always felt safe around law enforcement and police have not always understood the lack of respect they have observed from youth.  One student remarked, “We’re afraid of the police because we don’t trust what they will do!”  The police commented, “All the youth have to do is to follow our direction.”  The students were not convinced the police had their best interest in mind and believed the police were there to hassle them rather than help.

A Helix Charter High School Resident Leadership Academy decided to take action to resolve these fears and address the misunderstandings between youth and law enforcement.  Under the leadership of Helix High Senior Asia Duncan, the students joined together with the La Mesa Police Department (LMPD) and the National Conflict Resolution Center (NCRC) to design an opportunity for open dialogue and active listening between youth and law enforcement where both sides heard each other’s concerns and addressed fears and frustrations. 


This dialogue was part of Asia's Senior Project to bring LMPD Chief Walt Vasquez and the NCRC together in dialogue with Helix youth to generate real solutions.  Over 200 people (160 students and 48 adults) filled the Helix Cafeteria for this event on Sept 22.

Many of the youth participating in this event have been raised by parents who were refugees from war-torn countries like Somalia and parts of the Middle East.  Others were youths of color born and raised in the US.  All came with a desire to interact and share their concerns with police who actively listened so as to better understand the students' fears.  The police were also eager to share the day-to-day challenges they must face in order to keep the community safe.  All agreed that each side needs to respect each other and work together to understand the personal and professional challenges faced by police and youth.