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Teens learn about jobs, how city works
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One Ambition High school firefighters for a day Judith Gallegos and C. J. Whiteley, both 18, get the hang of manning a fire hose in front of the Powers Avenue Fire Station. - photo by GLENN KAHL

Jhon Torres, 19, was ready to sign up for a fire academy after spending a day with the Manteca Junior Ambassador Leadership Academy as he learned the basics of the fire service with other students from the One Ambition Charter High School.

Near the end of the daylong event, Torres spoke with Battalion Chief Bob Davis telling him it just seemed like the natural place for him to be in the future.  The teen said he had planned to major in psychology, but now he wasn’t sure having gone through a series of challenges at Station One wearing a firefighter’s turnout coat.

“It’s really interesting, good exercise, a clean environment, they work together well and somebody would always have my back,” he said. 

The challenges for the 14 students at the Powers Avenue firehouse included a hose drag through the station in teams of three and out the front of a parking bay while on their knees, a search, again on hands and knees in full turnout gear with oxygen tanks on their backs, and a vehicle extrication exercise using the Jaws of Life.

The students all got their chance at shooting water from a pressurized fire hose onto the station’s driveway and into the street.

The Leadership Academy is run by chamber of commerce executive director and City Councilwoman Debbie Moorhead. It is held monthly throughout the community from September through May. 

This month students will be exposed to an “assisted living” environment.  In April the select group of students will be given the challenge of a rope course at Del Osso Farms where they must again conquer their fears.  They have already met with staffers at city hall as well as with city council members.

Moorhead said the comparable adult leadership sessions are very expensive to attend whereas the student version is less costly. 

“Our youth need to know they can be the leaders of tomorrow.  They can learn about the city and how it works,” Moorhead said.

“We want those with less to know they can be anything they want to be.  Part of that is knowing they can walk up to the mayor or a city council member and talk to them directly,” she added.  “They can go to a city council meeting and talk about their needs.”

The students from the charter school near city hall included: Rivar Mason, Veronica Dedrick, Veronica Ortiz, Nicholas Hoffman, Alexa Montano, Cecelia Cervantez, Judith Gallegos, Chelsea Schweiger, Julieann Alejandro, Kylie Padilla, Favio Barrita, Alexis Menchaca, Jhon Torres and Christopher Whiteley.