TURLOCK — A pack of teenagers, clad in black, swarmed through downtown Turlock one morning this week, accosting strangers and attracting raised eyebrows from passers-by.
These weren't a bunch of truant thugs, out to raise havoc. They were members of Teens in Action, a leadership program offered through the city's recreation department.
Nineteen students from Pitman, Turlock and Turlock Christian high schools will meet once a month through the school year to explore businesses and industries in the area.
Karen Packwood, senior recreation supervisor for the city, said the goal of the first meeting is to get the students comfortable with working together.
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Karessa Mann, who took part in Teens in Action last year — the program's first — said the Go Game taught students team-building skills they used throughout the year.
Students apply and then interview for spots in the program, which costs $100, though scholarships are available.
That first adventure "set the bar pretty high," but Mann said the monthly expeditions that took students everywhere from a radio station to a hospital to E.&J. Gallo were eye-opening to those who took part.
And that's the idea, Packwood said — to show students the variety of careers in the area and encourage them to stay in the local area when they complete college.
Local businesses and service groups sponsor the program.
All that, however, comes later.
On Wednesday morning, the business of the day was to win the game, which started with teams of kids being issued digital cameras and cell phones, on which they would be assigned "missions."
Their tasks entailed finding actors planted around downtown and asking them questions, re-enacting famous works of art and performing movie scenes using only fingers as characters.
A mission called "historical ballet" had one team performing an interpretive dance about Woodstock.
At one stop, teams had to find a woman sitting on a bench outside a store at Main Street and Golden State Boulevard and make her laugh.
Once they managed that, she told them, "You know what would really make me laugh is to see one of you eat a jar of baby food."
Sixteen-year-old Payton Riley got the honor for her team and quickly consumed a jar of oatmeal and applesauce.
"That's probably one of the grossest things I've eaten in a long time," she said. "I am NOT going to have a baby."
Turlock High senior Tasha Anderson, 17, said she got involved in the program because she had friends who went through it last year.
"I was always jealous, hearing about the great places they got to go," she said.
In Wednesday's game, Anderson got to know her teammates, and she learned a lot about downtown Turlock.
"I didn't realize how many businesses they had to offer," she said. "I drive through there all the time, but I didn't know about all the little shops that were down there."
Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2343.