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Mesa resident launches kids running program after officer use-of-force incident

“Running breaks down barriers and builds bridges,” marathon runner Nycole Leyba said.

MESA, Ariz. — A Mesa marathon runner is passing on her love of running to the next generation, with help from Mesa police and firefighters.

For her efforts, Nycole Leyba received a community leadership award over the weekend from the East Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

“There is youth in our community that come from underserved neighborhoods that may not get the opportunity to play in sports,” Leyba said. “I provide this run program to not only help them with physical fitness, health and wellness, but to connect them with police officers.”

Mesa firefighters, Mayor John Giles and city council members have also participated, Leyba said.

Leyba, a wife and mother of two boys, says she started We Run Mesa in 2019 after a use-of-force incident involving police and a citizen. Leyba said, “somebody convinced me to do something instead of just complaining.”

“Running breaks down barriers and builds bridges,” Leyba said.

She launched the running program with the help of the Mesa Parks and Recreation Department. The Mesa Police Department has also donated shoes to participants who need them. Sessions are held in the winter and spring. Nearly 100 children have participated.

“If you want a seat at the table. If you want real change. Get involved with your community,” Leyba said. “Take your passion, if it’s running, music, theatre, share it with the community. Because in the end we all want what’s best for our community.”

The next session of We Run Mesa starts in January. For more information, go to the City of Mesa Parks and Recreation Department or follow Nycole on Instagram at the handle “The Runner Mamma.

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