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December 4, 2022

Gonzales wins prestigious Helen Putnam Award for Excellence

City recognized for engaging youth in government

GONZALES — League of California Cities has announced that the City of Gonzales was one of 12 winning cities that received the 2022 Helen Putnam Award for Excellence.

The prestigious award is categorized into 12 subcategories, with Gonzales taking home the Ruth Vreeland Award for Engaging Youth in City Government for the Gonzales Youth Council’s mental health service-learning project.

Gonzales Mayor Pro Tem Scott Funk accepted the award on behalf of the city at the League of California Cities’ 2022 Annual Conference and Expo, held Sept. 7-9 at the Long Beach Convention Center.

“We are honored to be recognized for our ongoing efforts to focus on youth services,” Funk said. “This program, and in particular the mental health project, is a great example of how allowing youth a voice in matters can reflect change. We are proud of our youth and understand it’s important for us as adult leaders to continually be listening.”

Gonzales Youth Council (GYC) is a youth leadership and development program designed to engage youth in civic engagement and give voice to future community leaders. Sponsored by the City of Gonzales with support from the Gonzales Unified School District, the GYC undertakes a service-learning project each year. 

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the GYC recognized students were stressed by school closures, social isolation and remote learning, which led the council to launch the Youth Supporting Youth Mental Health Project. 

GYC participants developed a mental health awareness video to support their peers and worked with professionals to create outreach workshops and conduct a student wellness survey. 

“The results from the GYC’s Youth Supporting Youth Mental Health Project were a wake-up call to local leaders unaware of the depth of mental health issues their young residents faced,” the City of Gonzales stated in a Sept. 8 news release announcing the award. “In response, the city council and school district decided to jointly fund a second school-based licensed clinical social worker to support youth mental health and provide other mental health resources.” 

Established in 1982 by the League of California Cities, the Helen Putnam Award for Excellence is given annually and recognizes outstanding achievements by California’s 482 cities. The purpose of the award program is to promote innovative solutions by city governments.

The 2022 winners, recognized for their outstanding programs, were chosen from 155 submissions.

There are 12 award categories, including the Intergovernmental Collaboration; Community Services and Economic Development; Economic Development Through the Arts; Enhancing Public Trust, Ethics, and Community Involvement; Health and Wellness Programs; Housing Programs and Innovations; Internal Administration; League Partners Award for Excellence in City-Business Relations; Planning and Environmental Quality; Public Safety; Public Works, Infrastructure, and Transportation; and the Ruth Vreeland Award for Engaging Youth in City Government. 

League of California Cities, established in 1898, is a nonprofit statewide association that advocates for cities with the state and federal governments and provides education and training services to elected and appointed city officials.

Ryan Cronk
Ryan Cronk is the managing editor for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for South Monterey County and the surrounding communities.

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