FITCHBURG — Fitchburg High School senior Skyleigh LaRose sat in the front row of the auditorium and listened intently, as City Councilors Amy Green and Samantha Squailia talked to students in teacher K. Courtney Franklin’s Women and Gender Studies class.
“They are very inspirational and very well-spoken,” LaRose said.
Green and Squailia — Women in Politics guest speakers on Wednesday morning — were open and honest when fielding a plethora of questions, ranging from why they got into politics to juggling a work-life balance and how they can better serve the youth in the city.
“My goal was for the students to see who is involved in making the decisions that affect their town,” Franklin said, “and how they could get involved in bringing about the change they would like to see in Fitchburg. I think the candid response of both Amy and Sam that they need input from the students on what ideas they have was an opportunity to get involved in their community.”
All in all, it was a tremendous success, said Fitchburg Public Schools K-12 Social Studies Director, John Maderosian.
“I’d like to congratulate K. Courtney Franklin and thank her for her efforts to single-handedly plan and facilitate this panel discussion,” Maderosian said. “Students were engaged and asked some really important questions to the two city councilors, who gave their time to come and speak with our students. Although K. Courtney Franklin is new to the Fitchburg Public Schools, she has been willing to jump right in with both feet and work to create more educational opportunities for students, which includes developing a Women and Gender Studies elective course from scratch. I’m so thankful that she accepted a position and is now part of the FPS family.
“Any time we can bring the field into the classroom or vice versa, we create authentic learning experiences that transcend the classroom and whose impact is longer term, and we certainly saw this (Wednesday). As we continue to work collaboratively to build an authentic, rigorous, engaging and culturally-responsive social studies program for our students, we will do our best to continue to make these learning experiences available to all our students.”
Green, who was elected to the city council in 2013, says her goal is to move Fitchburg forward in every aspect.
“I got tired of yelling at my TV because there was no change happening,” Green said of why she got into local politics. “This was my way to give back and have a seat at the table. You have to be the change if you want change. We should take pride that Fitchburg welcomes any and all to our community.”
Squailia, elected in 2017, fielded a question about work-life balance and how the councilors play that daily juggling act.
“The city council is not a full-time job, and many of us are retired or work other jobs,” said Squailia, crediting her husband for helping more at home and watching their daughter, who attends Longsjo Middle School, when she’s at various events or meetings in the city. “I wake up and go to work, then I work more. I’m always working. I still don’t know how I have the time.”
The topic of working in a male-dominated industry also surfaced.
“We have to work harder — 30 to 50% more and overcome gender stereotypes,” Squailia said.
How to better serve the youth of the city was a hot topic.
“We have struggled with what to do with our youth,” Green said.
Squailia said voicing concerns or offering ideas will help greatly.
“We need to hear from the youth,” Squailia said. “The city does a lot, but we could do more … we need to do more.”
She added: “We need ideas, but we need leaders – leaders and advocating. There are a number of ways to advocate. Reach out.”
Fitchburg High freshman Iyanna Louis is inspired to make a difference in her hometown.
“I want to help my community,” Louis said. “I want to start some programs here. There are so many abandoned buildings, and we could make great use of the space.”
LaRose added: “It was nice to hear that they want to help the youth in Fitchburg.”
Louis and LaRose both briefly stayed after the event to introduce themselves and chat up Green and Squailia.