El Cajon, CA
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Articles by Martin Jones Westlin

It happens every day. Longtime work associations come to an end when one partner moves on for one reason or the other. But in the El Cajon Police Department, one of these partners doubles as man’s best friend — and his reassignment has left an online community reeling and a former officer without the companionship he has come to know for the last two and a half years.

More than 30 La Mesa community leaders launched a campaign to raise $4.45 million toward construction of a new local youth clubhouse, improvements to an existing teen center and an endowment to operate both facilities—because, in the words of one local businessman, “It’s better to build kids than try to mend adults.”

If you throw a foreign word or phrase Craig Merker’s way, he’ll probably catch it. The Grossmont College humanities student has taken courses in Spanish and German, and he learned Latin on his own; currently, he serves as president of Le Cercle Français, the college’s French club. That’s quite a distinction for a guy who’s only in his first semester of French at a two-year school, but Merker’s aptitude for language warrants it, and his enthusiasm does the rest.