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East Norwich Junior Firefighters celebrate 25 years

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The East Norwich Junior Firefighters marked their 25-year anniversary last Saturday. To celebrate, the installation of officers was held at the Crescent Beach Club in Bayville instead of at the firehouse.

Some of the juniors were honored for a variety of reasons, from attendance to taking home the top accolade — junior firefighter of the year — bestowed on Connor Cronin. But even if they didn’t become an officer or take home a plaque, all of the juniors appeared to be proud to be members of the organization.

The juniors, a youth program, teaches medical and firefighting techniques as well as discipline and leadership skills. There are 48 junior programs in Nassau County, with members ages 12 to 18. In order to join a fire department a candidate must be 18, but a junior in good standing can join at 17. And although the hope is that the juniors will become fire department members, there is never any pressure to do so.

But some juniors do go on to become volunteer firefighters. Past junior captains Sean Cronin and Jason Shoemaker joined the East Norwich F.D., and Shoemaker is now the department’s second assistant chief.

The East Norwich Junior Firefighter program, which began in 1994, has 13 members, male and female. Mary Grace Syrett was installed on Saturday as the new captain, John Travaglia as lieutenant and Jonathon Cox as first lieutenant.

Jonathon, 15, greeted attendees as they entered the banquet room to offer his assistance with the table cards. “Being a member of the juniors is a great experience for anyone who joins,” he said, adding that he might become a firefighter when he’s old enough. “This is a great way to get involved in the community.”

Kayla Cronin, 15, said she agreed with Jonathon, adding that being a junior would look great on her college resume. And there are other benefits too, she said. “You learn to bond with everyone here, and it’s such an amazing program.”

Rita Phelps’s son, Dillon, 16, joined the juniors four years ago. She said he loves being a member.

“He knows how to help people now,” Rita said. “And being in the juniors has also given him a sense of security, because he’s a part of a Fire Department family who will always back him up.” She added that she has seen changes in her son. “He’s more responsible, disciplined, and more respectful,” she said. “He’s also more conscious of people’s needs.”

District Court Judge Rhonda Fischer, who spoke at the installation, said she was impressed that so many girls were members of East Norwich’s junior program.

“If you continue on the path you are on now,” she told the juniors, “the community will be enriched, as will you.”

Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino, who described the juniors as “exceptional people,” said he appreciated their service to the community. “To be this committed at this young an age proves to us that our juniors will keep East Norwich strong,” Saladino said. “They will provide for the safety of the community for many years to come.”

The youngest legislator in Nassau County, Josh Lafazan, who is 25, also shared a few words of advice, saying, “Remember, age is not a prerequisite for success. You are successful.”