On Friday, June 12 I pulled into the parking structure of the Anaheim Convention Center. I immediately knew this was going to be a special event because I arrived 45 minutes early and already was being directed up to the fourth floor to park in the structure.
There were a lot of people already getting here. Some had decorated their cars with congratulations and others were carrying flowers and one family was carrying strings of flowered leis.
At the entrance of the ballroom, members of the Anaheim Police Department greeted the families. This included SWAT, equestrian team members and a police K-9.
It might have looked like your typical graduation, but it was far from it. The line to enter the ballroom stretched almost the full length of the building.
Tonight wasn’t just any ordinary graduation. More than 480 elementary school age children from throughout Anaheim were celebrating the completion of the Anaheim Police Department Jr. Cadet Academy Program.
The program was first created by Anaheim police officer Amador Nunez. A former Marine and DARE officer, he had his own unique ideas of how to prepare children for success.
The key was instilling them as early as possible with the character traits of discipline, responsibility and respect.
The program has grown from the 75 kids that first attended in 2004. The curriculum has been honed and the collaborative partnership with the Anaheim school districts has gotten even stronger.
A number of school administrators and teachers were in attendance to see their students graduate. Among them was Patrick Henry School Principal Beatrice Garcia. She had 37 students from her school in the class.
“We really appreciate this program — it is wonderful,” she said. “Some of our students need to develop more structure and discipline in their lives. Others have found their natural leadership abilities taken to another level.”
The Jr. Cadet program runs for nine months, cumulating in a weekend academy (see photos here).
Over nine months, the Jr. Cadets, collectively, participated in 13 community service projects throughout the Anaheim and Orange County areas
Ranging from beach cleanups and packing food for the needy, to building gardens — even digging ditches for an irrigation system — the Jr. Cadets accumulated a total of more than 3,300 community service hours.
In addition, they completed classes on a variety of subjects ranging from drug and gang awareness to cyberbullying.
The Jr. Cadet motto is “Respect Given is Respect Earned.” The program emphasizes different ways to show respect: respect for self, respect for others, respect for community, and respect for country.
Some of the Jr. Cadets were selected to share their experiences with the audience. I couldn’t imagine how they felt standing at a microphone in front of several hundred people. As a testimony to the program benefits they did it with courage and confidence.
The cadets spoke of being terrified when they first started and abut how difficult it was to do the physical training. Some shared how they didn’t want to do it but their parents made them.
In the end, they all shared about learning the value of discipline and teamwork.
About trying your hardest at everything you do.
About learning you can do anything if you put you mind to it.
Others spoke of becoming role models for their siblings and respecting their parents and teachers better.
It was moving to see the respect given to Sgt. Jake Gallacher and Officer Leslie Vargas by each of the cadets. As one cadet put it, “Sgt. Gallacher I will always remember you, I hope you remember me.”
Chief Raul Quezada and the Anaheim Police Department command staff presented the cadets with medals recognizing their achievements.
Special awards were presented to those cadets who excelled in physical fitness, academics, drill and notebooks.
The academy staff presented awards to those cadets who demonstrated unwavering respect and discipline during the entire Jr. Cadet program.
Awards were presented to a boy and girl from each of the advanced and the beginning classes. In addition, each was presented with a brand-new mountain bike.
The audience let out a collective “Ahhh” when it was announced that Anaheim businessman Jerry Zamordian had donated $250 to each of the outstanding graduates.
A virtual fortune to a school kid.
That wasn’t the only surprise of the night.
Loud cheers erupted when it was announced that the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim donated baseball game tickets to each of graduates and their parents. That’s a lot of tickets. Kudos to the Angels organization.
The Jr. Cadet program has been highly successful and is being duplicated by a number of agencies. Pomona School Resource Officer Tomas Ramirez was in attendance to observe the activities.
He is excited about implementing Jr. Cadets sometime this fall.
“I’ve noticed a huge change in the behavior of the kids from the first time I observed a class months ago,” he said. “The change has been amazing.”
Here are the Anaheim Police Department Jr. Cadet Award Recipients:
Top Beginning Female
Top Beginning Male
Top Advanced Female
Top Advanced Male
ADVANCED – PHYSICAL TRAINING GIRLS
3rd: Angelique Mosqueda
2nd: Monique Mosqueda
1st: Michelle Tourino
ADVANCED – PHYSICAL TRAINING BOYS
3rd: Joshua Pineda
2nd: Oscar Mosqueda
1st: Saul Vazquez
BEGINNING – PHYSICAL TRAINING GIRLS
5th: Bianca Benitez
4th: Crystal Arteaga
3rd: Antonia Gathecha
2nd: Jessica Moran
1st: Tatiana Nieves
BEGINNING – PHYSICAL TRAINING BOYS
5th: Nicholas Nguyen
4th: Daniel Ortiz
3rd: Gabriel Perez
2nd: Carlos Nuno
1st: Angel Moreno
ADVANCED – DRILL
3rd: Alex Erazo
2nd: Branden Martinez
1st: Patrick Perez
BEGINNING – DRILL
5th: Kristal Teran
4th: Markus Rodarte
3rd: Eayana Rodriguez
2nd: Alexis Gathecha
1st: Bryan Benitez
ADVANCED WRITTEN EXAMINATIONS:
3rd: Jose Niebla
2nd: Paul Portillo
1st: Marco Badillo
BEGINNING WRITTEN EXAMINATIONS:
5th: Bryan Benitez
4th: Bianca Benitez
3rd: Kristal Teran
2nd: Jose Tinoco
1st: Guadalupe Aguilar
3rd: Julibeth Martinez
2nd: Jesse Chavez
1st: Rosemary Sapien
5th: Didler Esclante
4th: Maryjose Hernandez
3rd: Briana Gonzalez
2nd: Samantha Parea
1st: Joanna Escobedo
Officer Recognition Awards
Loara Elementary School – Beginning
Betsy Ross Elementary School – Advanced
Hansen Elementary School – Beginning
Hansen Elementary School – Advanced
Schweitzer Elementary School – Beginning
Schweitzer Elementary School – Advanced
Ponderosa Elementary School – Beginning
Ponderosa Elementary School – Advanced
Paul Revere Elementary School – Beginning
Paul Revere Elementary School – Advanced
Patrick Henry Elementary School – Beginning
Lincoln Elementary School – Beginning
Lincoln Elementary School – Advanced