Students get glimpse into government

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Students from Naugatuck High School shadowed borough officials in Naugatuck on Tuesday during government day. Seen here are students Chris Quarles, a junior on the left, and student Jendaya Bell, a senior on the right, with mayor's aide Ed Carter, left, and Mayor Robert Mezzo, right. –RA ARCHIVE
Students from Naugatuck High School shadowed borough officials in Naugatuck on Tuesday during government day. Seen here are students Chris Quarles, a junior on the left, and student Jendaya Bell, a senior on the right, with mayor’s aide Ed Carter, left, and Mayor Robert Mezzo, right. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck High School senior Jendaya Bell is interested in a career in politics.

On Tuesday, she had an opportunity to learn from the borough’s top elected official.

Bell, 17, was one of 24 students from the high school who learned the ins and outs of local government during an annual program sponsored by the high school and Naugatuck Elks Lodge No. 967. The program is intended to give students an insight of how their community is run.

The scholars were split up between various municipal departments, including Mayor Robert Mezzo’s office, engineering, public works, police, fire, land use, the tax office, information technology and others.

The students are in teacher Theresa Tiscia’s Advanced Placement history class, which has learned about the federal government over the past year.

“We decided that since we were learning about government on a national scale, it would be good for the students to learn what it’s like on a local level, as well,” she said.

For Bell, who will attend Xavier University of Louisiana in the fall, it was a peek into a possible career path.

“I like politics; I want to major in political science, and I had the opportunity see the mayor, so I was like, ‘Why not?’” she said.

She spent about three hours with Mezzo and his aide, Ed Carter, much of the time discussing the municipal and school budget and how grant applications are processed. She and fellow student, Chris Quarles, a junior, said they had no idea so much went into running a municipality.

Mezzo admitted his seminar wasn’t nearly as fun as sitting in a police cruiser or a fire truck. But he feels it’s important for students to have a basic knowledge of how local government operates.

He also said he enjoys the annual event, perhaps as much as anything he does in office.

“I think I will always have an affinity for Naugatuck High School and always appreciate it,” he said. “Time goes by quickly, but I can still remember myself at that age and the interests I had in government. And it’s nice to be able to share that with fine young students. I also wish our citizenry would have an interest in some of the critical functions, like local budgeting.”

Carter summed up the purpose of the day by saying, “A little bit of knowledge goes a long way.”