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Manteca Unified hopeful building on service to youth

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POSTED November 3, 2012 2:01 a.m.

WESTON RANCH – Like any candidate seeking office, Manteca Unified Board of Education hopeful Sam Fant has ideas.

He doesn’t have a checklist or a blueprint for success. There is no 12 point plan.

But Fant – the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Stockton – knows that everything starts and ends with providing an environment where the youth can thrive. And that means getting them off of the street and into an environment with supervision and positive reinforcement.

Given his track record with serving his community – the Lincoln High School product was named to the Stockton Planning Commission at age 21 and was recently added to the Board of Directors of the San Joaquin County Fair – Fant sees seeking elected office to represent the youth that he so deeply cares about as the logical next step.

“I want to get active and aggressive and provide some accountability to the people – those that have kids and even those that don’t,” Fant said. “I would strive to do everything in my power to see that every child has the same chance to succeed in our educational system.

“I want to see everything fair and balanced – a level playing field for all of the children in Manteca Unified.”

After graduating from high school Fant pursued a career in law enforcement by attending the San Joaquin County Sherriff’s Academy while at the same time taking criminal justice classes at Merced College.

He earned his POST certification and was ready and able to go to work as a law enforcement officer in any one of a number of places in Northern California.

Working with the youth, however, was his true passion.

So he took as a job at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Stockton – which operates two community centers and 25 satellite sites at campuses across the city – and began working his way through ranks. Before long he was the Teen Center Director, and when the big job opened up he threw his hat into the ring for the opportunity to oversee the entire operation.

His selection not only allowed him to work to construct the curriculum followed at each of the school sites, but shape the programs that he wholeheartedly believes plays a major role in the lives of those children that utilize the services of the organization.

“My drive is that I want to see our community thrive and succeed – that’s my passion,” he said. “I believe that it starts with the youth. They’re the future generations that we’ll be working with for decades to come, and making sure that they’re ready for the future is an important task.”

But it’s Fant’s work outside of the youth organization that may have helped him the most in his endeavor into politics.

While his position as a planning commissioner was appointed, he worked closely with those inside of Stockton’s power structure to tackle the hard tasks that sometimes fell through the cracks. An example is when he spearheaded an effort to shut down rogue marijuana dispensaries and draft an ordinance that tightly restricted those that did meet the permitting requirements.

And when Stockton was facing dire financial straits, it was Fant that served as a go-between for certain members of the City Council and representatives from public safety unions during negotiations to make concessions in order to balance the budget.

All of that experience, he said, has prepared him for the job of overseeing the operations of the Manteca Unified School District.

“I have the ability to read and understand those budgets but also ask the tough questions when they need to be asked,” Fant said. “I do my own independent research as well so that I’m prepared and ready to make the decision that I feel is best for those that I represent.”

Hailing from Weston Ranch, the South Stockton product says that the constituents he hopes to represent face a different set of challenges than other parts of the district – mainly the fact that most of the parents work in the Bay Area and don’t arrive back home until school has been out for several hours.

Leaving those students with nothing but time on their hands, he said, is a recipe for disaster. And crime is up as a result.

“Crime is up like no other out there right now,” he said of the neighborhood. “It’s a very unique area with a very unique set of challenges compared to other schools because there are no after school programs and there is no Boys and Girls Club.

“Once that bell rings, there isn’t anything left for them to do. Unless they’re in a sports uniform they have nowhere to go. That’s why I’m pushing for a program where the computer lab stays open a little bit later or the gym stays open – something productive. I think that would help the situation a lot.”

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