By night, she’s your average high school student and community volunteer.
By day, Brooke Nugent is a high-powered city official who oversees the Department of Licenses and Inspections.
Well, she was for one day, at least.
And it was a day that, Nugent said, she’ll remember forever.
Nugent, a junior at Little Flower High School for Girls, is a member of the Rizzo Police Athletic League Center at 2524 E. Clearfield St. In fact, she has been a member for more than 10 years.
She was recently selected to take part in PAL’s prestigious event, Lockheed Martin PAL Day at City Hall, which took place on Feb. 22.
“I found out I was chosen about a month ago,” Nugent said.
The 16-year-old has taken part in many PAL programs. But last week’s day spent shadowing Fran Burns, commissioner of the city Department of Licenses and Inspections, might have been one of the bigger events she’s been part of.
Her day started with a reception hosted by Mayor Michael Nutter, and she was surprised at how big the event was.
“I didn’t know we were going to meet the mayor,” she said. “It was cool.”
Immediately following the ceremony, Nugent and Burns moved on to what was quite an eventful day. While shadowing Burns, Nugent had an opportunity to see some pretty neat things.
“We saw three demolition scenes,” she boasted. “One was burned down already, one was just starting to be worked on, and one was being knocked down while I was there.”
Nugent also learned some things she never knew.
ldquo;I thought they just visited sites. I didn’t know they give permits to buildings. There’s a whole process for people in order to do something with their business or house,” she said.
Commissioner Burns was pleased with the session. “This is the second year I participated and I loved it. I look forward to ‘PAL Day at City Hall’,” said Burns.
She thinks it’s a learning experience for her as well.
“I learn a lot from the experience, especially from the inquisitive nature of the students. They see things that we don’t see every day,” Burns added.
In her time with PAL, Nugent has participated in everything from athletic activities to academic programs. Now, as a volunteer, she gives back to an organization that helped her, and aims to help children take advantage of the same experiences she was afforded as a child.
“I like interacting with the kids,” Nugent said of her volunteer work. “I used to play soccer here when I was a kid. And then I started volunteering here with the Homework Club and in the game room.
ldquo;I was always an active kid, and I know this is the place where I could go to be myself.”
Nugent, who has a special relationship with her PAL center director, Officer Ernie Rehr, acknowledged that with a decade of her life spent with the police program, he holds special importance in her life.
“Ernie has always been in my family. My brother and sister came here. We spent a lot of our days here,” she said, noting she’s also grateful to PAL for making her childhood so pleasant. “PAL offered me opportunities to stay off the streets and activities to keep me out of trouble. PAL helps people go places in life,” she said.
While Rizzo PAL has a registration base of more than 1,300 children, Rehr has taken notice of Nugent’s hard work and dedication to her community. Because of that, he said, he thought she’d be a good fit for PAL Day at City Hall.
“Brooke first started coming to PAL when she was five years old. She followed her older brother,” said Rehr. “She took part in soccer, Homework Club and Positive Images (program).”
What impressed him most was her willingness to give back.
“What was most fascinating was that in ninth and tenth grades, Brooke wanted to volunteer. She spent multiple hours every day in the center tutoring and volunteering in the Homework Club room,” he said. “This year she’s the moderator. When a teenager wants to give back to the extent that Brooke does, it’s amazing. She’s there almost every day.”
Burns, the L&I commissioner, said that when it came to being paired with Nugent, she saw the same enthusiasm in the teen that Rehr is well aware of. Burns could tell that Rehr and PAL have had a positive impact on Nugent’s character.
“Brooke is a bright woman, and she has a bright future ahead of her. You can tell PAL touched her and that she got a lot out of participating in the program,” Burns said. “You can tell she’s on a straight path and that she will be successful moving on to college.”
Although she had a great time during her one-day tenure as commissioner, Nugent has other plans for the future. When asked if she could see herself working in Philadelphia’s city government, Nugent said, “Probably not.”
She’d like to go to the University of Delaware and study physical therapy.
No matter what the future may bring, Nugent was thankful for her once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“It was interesting to learn about other careers; I didn’t know what L&I did until yesterday,” she said. ••