Tom Arnone raised four children who all attended Enfield Schools. He has a background in construction management, building maintenance, and public works. Tom is a past President of Thompsonville Little League. Coached children’s sports for over 10 years. Former Board of Education, who served on the Finance Committee. He was the founder and President of Kids First children’s charity. Co-Chairman of The Enfield Together Coalition, preventing teen alcohol abuse through education and enforcement. And finally is in his 2nd term as Councilmen At Large.
- Tom, did you always know that you wanted to serve others and help today’s youth?
I, like so many kids, was bullied through elementary school and into Jr. High School. When I gained popularity in high school I stuck up for the kids being bullied or picked on, even at the risk of my own popularity. That’s when you start building inner strength in resisting peer pressure. I can’t say that was the point in my life when I wanted to serve othes but the seed was planted.
- Can you walk us through how you first got started in your career path?
I follow two career paths. First is a full time job at the Windsor Locks Water Pullion Control Plant. My brother influenced my interest in the environmental field. Back in 1972 when I was 10 the federal government passed the clean water act. My brother showed me an article on the Connecticut River and how polluted it was. The picture showed huge amounts of human waste floating down the river. I grew up wanting to do somthing in the environmental field. I stumbled into the wastewater field 30 years ago. This year I’m honored to receive The James J. Courchaine Collection Systems Award. The award is extended to a New England Water Environment Association member to recognize his/her outstanding efforts in the operation, maintenance, management or design of a wastewater collection system.
My second career is my volunteer work in my community. I started like so many parents going to PTO meetings getting involved with the schools. I had my first leadership experience as president of Thompsonville Little League. I had two major accomplishments, implementing “The every player plays policy and lighting one of our fields. Then before I knew it all my children were off to college. My interest in politics came about after having a discussion about our schools with a friend. She urged me to run for the school board. Being a father of four I felt having a good understanding of the school system is an important tool. Two years later I ran for town council and lost, there is no better lesson in life than humility. I like to think of it as strengthening the sole. In your darkest moments you need to rethink who you are pull youself up and move ahead. I started thinking about my dad and how he loved working with the kids at the youth center. That’s where I got the idea for Kids First (the name came from my campaign slogan while running for the board of Ed). With the help of Pam Brown at Enfield’s Social Service Director, I applied for a 501 C3 nonprofit corporation and Kids First was born. But Enfield still needed a strong advocate for children. In 2011 I ran for town council and won and have been re-elected for my third term.
- How did you handle the bumps in the road? Were there any moments when you wondered if all your hard work was worth it?
Family and friends having someone to talk to. Never making a decision out of frustration or anger; you’ll only regret it. I thank my wife for that advice
I truly believe in what I do and never think it’s not worth it. It’s when you feel people don’t care, that’s frustrating. The shortage of volunteers is a big problem due to the lack of time in so many peoples life. But you have to think beyond that, believe in what you doing and never look back.
- I’m wondering if you can help us understand what you attribute your success to.
My family, my grandmother raised five children by herself. My grandfather came to America alone in 1917 at the age of fourteen. My parents; my mother’s strong convictions and my father’s sense of duty. My wife for keeping me on a steady path.
I wasn’t always on the road to sucsess. In my late teens i rebelled, but my family always stood by me. It was their encouragement and patience that put me on the path to success.
- What do teens need today more than anything else?
We need to let them just be teens. They need adult mentors they can talk to. Recreation that is fun but teaches Social lessons in life. One of Kids First most successful programs is our conflict resolution basketball program. We teach how to play basketball and how to have fun and how to resolve their own problems. Parents need to lead by example.
- What would you tell a teen who was struggling?
When I identify a child struggling I’ll get them help in whatever their struggling with. That’s an important step in this complex world teens live in. Enfields Youth Services has free counciling for teens and their families, homework club for help with school issues and a youth center to just be a teen. This year Enfield will be sending a youth assesment team into the schools. The team will be made up of two social workers, they’ll be on hand to council students, help teachers and identify youth with problem and provide over all training to staff.
- Tom, what else do you want to tell us about what you do anandd what you want to eventually be doing?
Kids First will help any organization that’s helping kids. We lend our expertise, help with fundraising, and will act as a fiduciary or whatever it takes to insure that children get what the need.
Personally I’ll continue to be a voice for children on the Enfield Town Council. The next big project for Kids First is to help build an outdoor basketball court at our youth center. We just started our fundraising effort with our annual Pirate Faire on the Enfield town green
- Can you please share with all of us something else that I should have asked you?
What do I see in the future for our country’s youth?
I see a movement reforming the way we treat juveniles. Stopping the pipeline from school to prison. Mental health screening at an early age to help identify troubled youth getting them counciling and preparing them on how to deal with anger issues.
- How can people get in touch with you if they have additional questions?
Thanks for your time Tom and keep up the good work! Our youth needs more people like you!
Author and Speaker of the Granddaddy’s Secrets teen leadership book series.
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