Kid Governor brings ‘Protecting Our Pets’ platform to Groton
Groton ― Several dogs from Dog Scouts of America Troop 188 of Ledyard, accompanied by their owners, paraded into the Groton Public Library on Saturday morning and lined up to see Connecticut’s Kid Governor Makhi Ettienne-Modeste.
Ettienne-Modeste, 11, of Windsor, beamed as he greeted the dogs one-by-one, petting them, feeding them treats and even playing a little soccer with one.
The sixth-grader, an advocate for pets, was elected last fall by fifth graders as the 2022 Connecticut’s Kid Governor on a platform of “Protecting our Pets.” He stopped by Groton Public Library on Saturday morning as part of his tour of libraries across the state to talk to constituents, an annual tradition for Kid Governors, and also planned to visit Waterford Public Library on Saturday.
Wearing a Connecticut Kid Governor sash, Ettienne-Modeste spoke at a podium near an array of donations of pet food that the Junior Friends of the Groton Public Library collected as part of a pet food drive to benefit Groton Animal Control.
Ettienne-Modeste said he chose his platform because pets are amazing and he loves them. When he heard about pets being abused or injured, he wanted to make a difference.
His platform calls for educating fifth graders about the signs of animal abuse and showing kindness to pets, creating posters that raise awareness, and donating to local animal organizations to help animals that have been abused. He raised money and donated supplies to local animal organizations, and his cabinet ― the six runners up for Kid Governor ― helped him make fun toys for cats and dogs.
“I wanted fifth graders all over Connecticut to get involved too and they did,” he said.
Ettienne-Modeste, who has two pets, Blue, a pit bull, and Paco, a chihuahua terrier mix, said he encourages people to donate to animal shelters.
His mother Joy-Lynn Hardy, said her son has always loved pets.
She said she has seen her son blossom as Kid Governor. While he was shy at the beginning, he now can talk to anyone, shake hands and work a room better than most adults.
She said the program teaches kids about civics and also is fun. She and other parents of children involved in the program talk about how much the program has helped build their children’s confidence.
Ettienne-Modeste on Saturday spoke about his term, from his inauguration in January at Connecticut’s Old State House and his office at the Old State House to his monthly meeting with cabinet members and their platforms. His cabinet includes Olivia Campbell of New London, whose platform is food insecurity.
Ettienne-Modeste said he and his cabinet visited the State Capitol in April, where he got to meet Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz and Gov. Ned Lamont, and even got to sit in the governor’s chair. Ettienne-Modeste said he hopes to be governor one day. He said he also spoke to officials about his platform and raised awareness.
On Saturday morning, he spoke with elected officials in Groton: City of Groton Mayor Keith Hedrick and state Rep. Christine Conley, D-Groton.
When asked by audience member Janice Cuddy what advice he would give to the next kid governor, Ettienne-Modeste said to “do your best and not give up.”
Cuddy, a New London resident and member of the Groton Public Library Circle of Friends, told him after the event that she loves his platform and that he had an awesome answer.
“Never give up: that’s good advice for everything,” she said.
Nichole Pitruzzello, Connecticut Kid’s Governor State Coordinator said the Kid Governor program is a statewide civics program from the Connecticut Democracy Center that teaches fifth graders about how state government and elections work and how they can make a difference. Each year, fifth graders elect a Kid Governor for the year.
She encouraged local fifth-grade teachers to have their class participate in the election this fall, and for fifth-grade students or their parents to encourage them to participate.
“We believe that each of us no matter how old we are can make a difference, and Kid Governor empowers our state’s fifth graders to change the world,” she said.
Anna Wynn of Ledyard attended the event with her 5-year-old daughter, Sophia, who petted the dogs and listened to Ettienne-Modeste’s speech.
“I think its good for her to see other kids being successful and have a good role model,” Wynn said. “I think that’s important.”
Wynn said it’s cool to see young representation and young people getting involved in the community, especially since fifth graders have been hit hard during the pandemic.
“To see kids actually going out and bringing the community back together is really cool,” she said.