NAUGATUCK — Growing up in New Britain with a single mother, Chip Schofield experienced firsthand the difficulty of being a teenager.
“There’s really not that much in terms of activities for them, so they always seem to get in trouble,” Schofield said.
A summer camp counselor, who acted as a father figure, showed Schofield a different path. Now a borough police officer, who works extensively with youth, Schofield has been named Officer of the Year by the Naugatuck Exchange Club.
The community service group will honor Schofield next month at its 11th Annual Community Champions Banquet, along with Frank Johnson Jr., citizen of the year; Capt. David Seeger, firefighter of the year; and Christine Wesche, educator of the year.
“As an adult, you can really influence young minds,” Schofield said. “I want to be the role model for the children in Naugatuck.”
Schofield, a 13-year veteran of the force, is the school resource officer at Naugatuck High School and teaches drug prevention classes to fifth-graders. He is also in charge of the borough’s Police Explorer post, which teaches teens to perform the functions of police officers. He will become a detective with the department’s Juvenile Division at the end of the school year.
Among other officers, Schofield is perhaps best known for investigating a 2009 graffiti spree that rang up $30,000 in damages. The investigation led to the arrests of nine teenagers who spray-painted at condominium and apartment complexes in the borough. Schofield also helped create the graffiti wall at Linden Park to give teens a legal outlet for their designs.
Schofield has won numerous department medals and citations, including one for breaking away from a funeral procession to administer CPR to a contractor unconscious on a roof, saving his life.
Johnson was named Citizen of the Year in part for his work to benefit youth as well. He chaired a political action committee that worked to pass last November’s referendum for an $81 million renovation of Naugatuck High School. Johnson is also a Pop Warner football coach and co-founded the Naugatuck High School Football Alumni Association
Borough residents might experience déjà vu upon seeing Johnson’s name tied to a citizenship award. Johnson’s father was a celebrated veteran and Naugatuck High School teacher. Another citizenship award, given out in the fall, is named after Franklin Johnson Sr.
Frank Johnson Jr. said the memory of time spent at the high school with his father pushed him to support the high school renovation.
“I had no doubt in my mind that this was something extremely important, and it could certainly benefit our town for years and years to come,” Johnson said. “My father always used to tell me that being in a position to help someone is a privilege, that you should never turn your back on an opportunity to help someone out.”
Seeger, this year’s honored firefighter, is a 27-year veteran of the department who has been involved in almost every community service event the firefighters’ union holds. He has helped organize contests and events for children, as well as fundraisers to benefit youth sports.
“It’s our way of giving back to the community,” Seeger said. “It’s been a good job for myself, so I feel it’s just a way for me to give back.”
For more than three decades, Seeger has been second-in-command for Little League programs in 11 Naugatuck Valley towns, from Watertown to Shelton. Before that, he was the 20-year-old vice president of Union City Little League, after playing and working for the league as an umpire.
Wesche, the educator of the year, is a family and consumer science teacher at City Hill Middle School. She teaches financial literacy and cooking to her seventh- and eighth-grade students.
Wesche maintains the school’s website and runs the Creative Cooking Cafe, which allows her students to prepare and serve meals to staff once every six days. Examples include New England clam chowder, roast beef sandwiches and lemon chicken. The students also prepare salads and desserts.
“I thought it was a great way for kids to put into practice skills that they learn in the classroom and see how it applies to the real world,” Wesche said.
Many of her students go on to take the high school culinary classes taught by Diane Doherty, who won the Exchange Club award last year. The students win every year in statewide cooking competitions.
Wesche also organizes an annual holiday dinner for senior citizens, prepared and served by her students.
“It’s great exposure for the kids, for other people to see what they’re capable of doing,” Wesche said.
The Community Champions Banquet will be held March 20 at Leary’s Crystal Room, 98 School St. Tickets can be purchased through Nancy Bolton at (203) 232-8338.