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Two Briggs teens will ‘change Norwalk,’ council members say

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Briggs High seniors Tanasia Ticking, left, and Laura Lopez talk to  Norwalk Common Council members Thursday. Tanasia has a 11/2 year old child and works at R.E.I. Laura is the mother of a 3-year-old. Both want to see Norwalk become safer for children.

NORWALK, Conn. – Two teenage mothers made a splash with Norwalk Common Council members Thursday, getting an immediate offer of capital budget funds to bring their ideas to fruition.

Tanasia Ticking and Laura Lopez, both Briggs High School seniors, presented ideas they developed while studying violence in the community to members of the council’s Health, Welfare and Public Safety Committee. Looking to move people forward with solutions, they suggested more lighting and video surveillance in the parks as well as police patrols that last longer than a month.

Supportive comments and hopeful promises of action flowed their way, and they were invited to make their presentation to the entire council.

“You’re going to change our city, the two of you,” Councilwoman Michelle Maggio (R-District C) said.

Lopez and Ticking are part of a group called “PhotoVoice” at the school, a year-long project conducted in cooperation with the Health Department. They said they began by looking for ways in which the community has a negative affect on their health. Gang violence and substance abuse would be too dangerous to photograph, and they eventually focused on parks and green space.

Drug users leave dangerous things in parks, they said. They showed council members a photograph of needles in a wooded area behind a park, which, they said, posed a danger to children. They wouldn’t want to take children to parks in Norwalk, they said.

A lot of Norwalk parks feel unsafe at night, they said, a “scary place to hang out because it was dark and full of people who look sketchy or were up to no good. Also they were full of trash and illegal activity.”

They mentioned that the only solution they had seen in the past was to tear the park down. Not good for kids, they said. Surveillance cameras with a direct feed to the police station would make them safer, they said.

They also thought schools should have more drug-free zones. Smoking is also an issue, partly because their classmates light up routinely in front of their children, they said. But they cautioned that “scared-straight commercials with scary images” and judgmental messages don’t work, and said that and drug abuse are related to stress – such as the stress derived from joblessness.

Councilman Jerry Petrini (R-District E) said their suggestions could make their way into next year’s capital budget, even though there is an election between now and the next vote on the topic, as at least some council members will get re-elected and remember them.

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Tanasia Ticking, right, gets a hug from Theresa Argondezzi of the Norwalk Health Department after the presentation to the council committee. Argondezzi and Rhonda Capuano of the Human Services Council told the girls that they did very well, likening it to a job interview.

“This is how you guys plant the seeds with the rest of us,” he said. “By you two coming up to the full council — students that care, young moms that care — you’re going to be very well received. That’s how things start. It’s a long process, but when it comes time to it … we’re going to remember this, we’re going to say, what about these students? They want to see more lighting, more surveillance. We as council people can then funnel the money that way. We have a lot of power over the capital budget.”

The girls said they would get back to them on when they can attend a council meeting, as they have jobs — perhaps the June 11 meeting, they said.

Petrini asked them what could be done to help younger people.

“I would start in the elementary schools and bring more activities to them,” Tanasia said. “I know we don’t have a YMCA anymore. We need to open up another one so that the younger kids can go to it, because if you get younger kids involved and teach them how to grow up right, they’re going to. They’ll start influencing people under them. Me, personally, I had bad influences …. It just got me nowhere.”

Comments

3 responses to “Two Briggs teens will ‘change Norwalk,’ council members say”

  1. David McCarthy

    Wow, this is a great story and it is awesome that Jerry and Michelle are helpful in bringing these young ladies forward and giving them a platform.

  2. 0ldtimer

    Maybe the council can do what smart business has been doing for years, learning from the customers/consumers. Who knows better what needs to be done to make our parks safer ?

  3. dc2

    Oldtimer, you hit the nail on the head! Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for Norwalk officials to plan public improvements sans public input…I’m thrilled Chairwoman Maggio and Mr. Petrini are receptive to constructive dialogue and are open-minded, and that they’ve encouraged our youth to become active in local government.
    Well done Ms. Ticking and Ms. Lopez! I’m sorry I missed your presentation at committee, but hope to see you participate at a council meeting. Great job!

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