Scouting out town government, girls get first-hand lessons
The muster room at the Fairfield Department of Public Works garage on One Rod Highway was abuzz midday Wednesday as girls in green vests and sashes chattered over lunch about their exciting morning.
The occasion was the annual Girl Scouts in Government Day, as 48 girls shadowed town department representatives to learn more about local government. About 20 town departments and agencies participated, with two to three girls paired with each department in the morning. Following lunch, the scouts were divided into three groups to tour the Fire Department, Police Department or an open space property.
Margaret Essex, co-chairwoman of the event and a troop leader, said, "This is an opportunity for the girls to learn about citizenship and get insights into the daily activities of town officials. There was a lot of interest in the event."
Seated at one of several round draped tables and between bites of a sandwich, Jessica Abbazia, 10, of Troop 32448 at Mill Hill School, said, "I went out with the Department of Public Works and we went everywhere ... to Animal Control and a site where they were cutting up a tree that fell on three cars. We even got to drive a dump truck and a bucket loader. It was the best morning I ever had."
Abbazia was paired with St. Thomas student Ally Fallon, DPW foreman Joe Cubbellotti and Public Works Superintendent Scott Bartlett. The latter commented, "It's a very enlightening opportunity to tell the girls what we do. I tell them we maintain everything the town owns, like the roads, sports fields, beaches. I try to tie it into their life experiences and convey that there are people behind the scenes that ensure that these sites are clean and safe. They're lovely kids. We had lots of great dialogue."
Paired with Scout Anna Mayle, 10, of Our Lady of Assumption School and Chris Boccamazzo of the town's Human Resources Department, Katie Westervelt, 13, of Fairfield Woods Middle School, said, "We went to the First Selectman's office to see the swearing in of a new police officer, Walter Berk. It was really cool. I never saw anything like that before. We learned that he had to go through training."
Kelly Rapaci, 10, of Dwight School, shadowed Parks and Recreation, led by Ginna Paules. "We went to the post office, Penfield Beach pavilion and the Beanery on Old Dam Road," she said. "We made posters for the town Easter egg hunt and saw computers and learned about program registration. It was fun."
First Selectman Kenneth Flatto commented, "It's tremendous to start educating our young women so soon about the essential functions of government. The spirit and goodwill of town employees also makes it incredibly fun for all involved."
Early afternoon at Fire Station One on Reef Road, Assistant Chief George Gomola posed questions to the 15 or so Scouts that had come to tour the fire station. "Can anyone tell me what firemen do in three words or less?"
His question was met with replies like "Put out fires" and "Rescue cats."
Then the station conducted a signal test and firefighter Jeff Pinckney explained features and equipment on Engine One.
Said Gomola, "The greatest privilege of having the Girl Scouts in our firehouse is seeing them as they are with curiosity, energy and unique personalities, while they get to see us as real people that they can joke with, feel comfortable around and respect. The hope is that if they ever need help, they'll call us."