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Bauer promotes water conservation, understanding

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Horst Bauer, Golden State Ambassador 2012, presents his advocacy speech on the national ‘It Gets Better’ campaign at the 2013 California State Youth Accolades Competition in Santa Clara.

Photo contributed/

POSTED January 25, 2014 1:00 a.m.

Horst Bauer doesn’t claim to have all the answers when it comes to global issues or even those close to home.

But there is a grain of truth to what Bauer has witnessed and what he believes, and the 23-year-old San Francisco State University student can’t wait to share it with the world.

Bauer recently returned from a week-long leadership trip to Israel as a student delegate with the American Jewish Community. There, the former Manteca City Ambassador and other members of Project Interchange met with leaders at every level, including a surprise visit from Secretary of State John Kerry, while immersing themselves in all sides of the Israeli culture.

“It was mind-blowing. It was something so much more, complex and deeper than I had expected; that I thought a seven-day trip to Israel would be,” said Bauer, a political science major and driving force in SFSU’s College of Young Democrats.

“The trip was filled with meetings with high-profiled people and everyday people too.”

While his takeaways were many, the East Union High graduate’s return to California coincided with Gov. Jerry Brown’s declaration of a drought emergency.

As Brown asked for residents to observe a 20-percent water reduction, Bauer recalled an observation he had made while touring the Middle East country.

The toilets.

Yes, Bauer believes two-button toilets and urinals – one to flush more, the other to flush less – may be small but effective agents of change during these dry and dire times.

It works in the desert, he reasons, so why not in California, where nearly 50 days without rain have given politicians, farmers and skiers (among many others) cause for concern?

“Israel is a desert and they’re planting ... they’re turning the desert into agricultural land through water recycling and desalinating ocean water,” Bauer added.

Their ingenuity extends indoors, too.

Bauer noticed that every restroom featured two-button toilets and urinals, placing water conservation at the front of social consciousness. Stateside, “I’ve only seen it a few times,” he said. “Over there, every urinal and toilet has the two buttons. They’re constantly in water conservation mode. There it’s a necessity,” he said.

His sense of community and advocacy was sharpened as a teen with the Manteca Youth Focus scholarship competition and later the state program.

Bauer served as Manteca City Ambassador in 2009, earning a $500 scholarship. After a year’s worth of service, Bauer left the program for two years to pursue his studies.

In 2012, he returned with a passionate letter to the Manteca Youth Focus board of directors, asking for their sponsorship at the California State Youth Accolades Competition.

“When one of our city titleholders leaves the program or graduates from the program, we don’t hear from them until they come back to volunteer,” said Shim Lacy, co-founder and director of Manteca Youth Focus. “He had this renewed sense of purpose. He wrote an amazing letter to the board of directors and they granted him that opportunity.”

Bauer didn’t disappoint.

Though he finished as first runner-up, he was awarded the title of Golden State Ambassador and a $1,500 scholarship.

In July 2013, he was named the California State Ambassador, earning a $3,000 scholarship and the honor of representing the youth at the state fair.

Along the way, Bauer used his visibility and voice to help the under-served and unappreciated. He raised enough money to purchase the book “It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying and Creating a Life Worth Living” for each library in the San Joaquin County chain.

His work isn’t done.

Bauer hopes to raise enough money to purchase at least one book for each library in Stanislaus County.

“We all have predispositions to do what we like to do and what we end up doing. Manteca Youth Focus, with its focal point being community service and helping others, definitely ignited the spark that was already within me and what I’d like to do with politics,” Bauer said. “... It helped foster my sense of community and being an active member of it. For that I’m very grateful.”

Lacy appreciates the kind words. She says Bauer is a shining example for the next generation of youth leaders. To that point, Bauer will return to this year’s competition as a volunteer and mentor for the contestants.

“When he’s asked what made a difference, he gives credit to our organization which is amazing and very humbling to us,” Lacy said. “We believe every one of our kids has this potential, but he’s out their achieving (his dreams). He didn’t let time passing dim that light he has.”

Instead, Bauer burns brighter than ever, sparked by his travels overseas and an insatiable desire to better his community.

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