Northeast Times

City’s L&I chief is pleased to see her shadow

Little Flower Cath­ol­ic High School stu­dent Brooke Nu­gent, 16, spent a day shad­ow­ing L&I chief Fran Burns. Nu­gent learned a lot.

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. ••

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