2023 All-America City Finalist –Saginaw, TX

Originally settled in 1882 as a small railroad town, Saginaw is expected to grow to a population of 34,492 residents by the year 2040. Growth has resulted in a community of varying age groups, education levels, ethnicities, and walks of life. To accommodate growth, the city has conducted impactful efforts to engage the residents of Saginaw to align city services with the values of the community. In doing so, several commissions, committees, and boards have been created which have resulted in a future for Saginaw by Saginaw.   

Student Apprentice Program (SAP) 

The long-lasting effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on labor markets continued into 2021, resulting in the “Great Resignation.” Multiple departments within the city began to see a need for additional help while being constrained by a highly competitive labor market. Pinched for funds and additional help, city staff began seeking alternative options to offset the high cost of labor while still being able to recruit capable and integral employees. Further realization of the need for high school students to gain career experience led to the creation of the Saginaw SAP.  

The Saginaw Student Apprentice Program (SAP) was implemented in June 2021, providing youth with summer employment and life skills, and city departments with eager employees amidst an incredibly difficult and competitive labor market. To entice the right candidates for the program, city staff worked with local schools to help advertise the Saginaw SAP.   

Students are interviewed and selected in the spring and work their respective stations in the summer months. Youth have been placed in the parks and recreation department, public works, police department, library, and animal shelter. Participants are evaluated twice throughout the program and given valuable feedback as well as career guidance via mentors. Those who finish the program have the opportunity of being offered full-time employment with the city, where available opportunities exist.   

Police and Fire Junior Academy  

The Police and Fire Junior Academy/Camp are aimed at increasing the awareness of how to handle emergencies, as well as increasing the trust of Saginaw youth in emergency personnel.  

Police Academy 

The Saginaw Police Department’s Junior Police Academy is designed to help the youth of Saginaw learn about law enforcement, build leadership skills, and encourage community participation. This program offers a unique and interactive experience that allows young people to gain firsthand knowledge about law enforcement while having fun and building relationships with members of the police department. Through classroom instruction, hands-on training, and scenarios, students learn about different aspects of law enforcement, including patrol work, crime scene investigation, K-9 handling, and traffic stops.  

Another important aspect of the Junior Police Academy is its focus on promoting physical fitness. Students are encouraged to stay active and learn the importance of physical fitness in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The program also addresses important topics like social media, bullying, and online safety.  

Fire Camp 

Each June the Saginaw Professional Firefighters Association (SPFFA), in coordination with the city, conducts a week-long day camp for approximately 30 students from the Saginaw area. Students are brought to fire facilities within the city, where they receive guidance and information from experienced and trusted fire personnel. Students experience exercises to familiarize themselves with fire prevention equipment. General fire safety is taught as well, such as the importance of smoke detectors, and drills, such as “STOP DROP, and ROLL”. Students are also taught extensive lessons in CPR, and First Aid.   

Hoping to inspire the generation of tomorrow, the Saginaw Fire Camp hopes to build future fire personnel, while educating and empowering the local youth.  

Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council (MYAC) 

The City of Saginaw, Texas, faced a problem with the lack of youth involvement and input within the community. In response, the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council (MYAC) was created in 2018. MYAC aims to educate local teens on the functions of local government and receive their input on community issues.  

The program runs for five months, involving education on the essential, core functions of a city and presentations by MYAC members to the city council on ways the city could be more accommodating toward the youth. Participants are selected from high schools in the community through a combined effort of city staff and school staff. After interviewing the applicants, the committee is officially formed, composed of juniors and seniors from various high schools in the area. Committee members meet once a month to learn from city staff about the community, the functions of local government, and MYAC’s role as an advisory committee.   

MYAC members are also given tours of city facilities such as police and fire stations where they can interact with public safety leadership and see first-hand what services they provide to residents. City staff works with MYAC to answer any questions, as well as explain any additional processes or functions of the city.  

After the first few meetings, MYAC members are divided into groups and pick a topic to present to the council. The topics have ranged from sidewalk repairs to improve walkability near schools to the need for a larger library to accommodate the fast-growing population.   

MYAC has given youth a platform to share their concerns and ideas with local governments. This has encouraged greater civic engagement among young people and has helped them feel more invested in the future of their community. Additionally, MYAC has been successful in influencing local policy; youth recommendations put forward by the committee have resulted in direct improvements to the community.  

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