Businesses and individuals were honored Wednesday for their work to eliminate underage drinking and substance abuse by Mesa youth.
The Mesa Prevention Alliance shared its progress with about 45 people attending its annual awards luncheon at The Landmark restaurant in Mesa.
While progress continues from the work of the organization that was formed in 2008, there is still so much that needs to be done to make Mesa and its kids safer, said Karen Frias-Long, community development manager for The Mesa Prevention Alliance.
She said more people, more businesses and more organizations need to get involved in the education and enforcement activities supported by the Alliance. She welcomed individuals and organizations to attend its monthly meeting on the fourth Wednesday each month from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at the Family Resource Center at 817 N. Country Club in Mesa.
Mesa Police Sgt. Robert Scantlebury is the chairman of the Alliance board of directors. He told those attending many adults still don’t understand the seriousness of providing alcohol to underage youth.
This is apparent from the “shoulder tapping” program run by the police department with help from youth volunteers from the Mesa Explorers program and East Valley Institute of Technology (EVIT) Law Enforcement program. These young volunteers work with Mesa police to approach adults in the community at local stores and ask them to buy alcohol for them. In the past year 339 adults were approached and 55 agreed to purchase alcohol for youth.
This has been treated as an education program as officers then approach the offending adults and they are educated that they are breaking the law. But this past weekend Sgt. Scantlebury said six citations were issued for providing alcohol to juveniles.
He said there was one recent incident in which a youth volunteer asked a man to buy him beer. The man refused because he didn’t want to have to carry out a case of beer from the store but offered to give the youth marijuana.
He said there are continued problems in Mesa with organized parties that charge admission and make alcohol available to minors. He said 79 citations were issued in the past year for this and similar activities.
The alliance does community education presentations at local schools to give information youth need about the dangers of alcohol and substance abuse.
Vianey Lopez Mendoza and Viridiana Lopez Mendoza spoke to the group about being student volunteers to help with the education efforts. They are sisters and are students at Mesa High School and Westwood High School, respectively.
“There is a big problem with misinformation among youth,” Vianey Mendoza said. She and her sister said this program helps provide the right information for Mesa youth.
Chuck Gray from Congressman Matt Salmon’s office told the audience that the work the Alliance does is very important. He said it is important for young people to be surrounded by mentors and that they need love, care and adult examples to guide them away from alcohol and substance abuse.
The individuals and organizations honored at the luncheon were:
• The Mesa Police Department’s Central, Red Mountain and Superstition Street Crime Squad for its participation in Shoulder Tapping and Party Patrol
• Longfellow School was cited for its support of a successful Adult Peer Leader program called Promotoras. The program has educated parents on substance abuse issues and increased awareness in the community.
• Skyline High School was honored for inviting the Alliance to present an education program to more than 600 incoming freshmen about the risks and harms of underage drinking and other illegal substances.
• A local business, Amazing Jakes, was recognized for its generous donation of more than $9,000 in passes for the Above the Influence event to promote youth living above the influence.
• Kathy Allen was honored as Outstanding Mesa Prevention Alliance member for her continuous support for the Alliance and distributing 2000 party patrol door hangers.
• The Maricopa County Attorney’s office for its continued support of Alliance activities and its partnership in Friday Night Patrol.