The business trail blazers, politicians, public safety heroes and young professionals of Turlock’s tomorrow learned just what it takes to be a decision maker for the city during the third annual Mayor’s Youth Conference on Thursday, converging at City Hall for a lesson on leadership and teamwork from Mayor Gary Soiseth himself.
“It’s our goal to make City Hall as accessible as possible to everyone in Turlock, especially to our youngest residents,” said Soiseth. “The conference is a great chance to explain to them the various challenges facing our town, and they often have some of the best ideas to solve them.”
Just under 100 students from Turlock Junior High School, Dutcher Middle School, eCademy Charter at Crane, Pitman High School, Turlock High School, Turlock Christian High School, Roselawn Continuation High School and Sacred Heart School were chosen by each school’s administration to attend the event, said Soiseth, and received an up close and personal look at how Turlock’s local government is run.
“Instead of just picking students in leadership roles, the school administrators do a great job of finding a diverse mix of students to participate, which allows us to have a better conversation about city issues impacting our young people,” he said.
Soiseth explained to the students the importance of understanding how City Hall works, and, more importantly, how the decisions made within the building affect their lives. In addition to hearing from the Mayor, the students also learned about the City’s economic development, planning and parks departments from City officials, received demonstrations from the Turlock police and fire departments and were able to see some of the City vehicles used on a daily basis.
THS seniors Eva Gemperle and Sebastiani Kim hoped to learn not only valuable information for their lives today, but potential tips for the future as well.
“People vote on things and you see stuff happening around town, but most don’t realize how it all works,” said Gemperle.
Kim added, “And I want to go into business someday, so knowing how the City Council works is a big part of that process.”
Kim, Gemperle and the rest of the conference were able to see just how the Council works thanks to a mock City Council meeting held during the conference, which showed the students how proclamations and recognitions are made, as well as the process for adopting initiatives and programs within the City.
Police Chief Nino Amirfar wished that more students were able to attend the informative event, which also saw officers from his department give a special K9 unit demonstration, and Turlock firefighters teach students the science behind battling blazes – both new additions to the Conference this year.
“This teaches the kids to be involved in their community and understand it, and to get their information straight from the sources instead of getting it from somewhere like Facebook,” said Amirfar. “I wish there were 5,000 kids out here instead of 100, because the more they know about the community and the more they become involved, the stronger we will be.”
Students were involved with the process throughout the event, asking questions during the City Council meeting and a lunch Q&A with the Mayor and City staff, and even listening attentively during a live Stanislaus Regional Water Authority Board Meeting.
“Every year I get more and more impressed with the thoughtful questions and concerns about the City,” said Soiseth, recalling when he attended the event as a high schooler and was able to listen to then-Mayor Curt Andre speak passionately about city governance, but also candidly about the ups and downs of being Mayor.
“It’s my hope that I lived up to the standard he set by having those frank conversations and, hopefully, inspired the next generation of Turlock leaders.”