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Gladly Learn and Gladly Teach

A young advocate for people with developmental disabilities learns about county government and offers a few ideas himself.

County Board Chairman Jay Fisette got the chance to meet Pete Scampavia Thursday, a 16-year-old advocate for people with developmental disabilities who is living with one himself.

Scampavia shadowed Fisette throughout the morning as part of a mentoring program organized by the Arc of Northern Virginia, a group focused on people with disabilities. During meetings with county staff and County Board member Barbara Favola, Scampavia shared his suggestions on how the county could make some improvements to help people with disabilities. One in particular was for students crossing the street near McKinley Elementary School.

“Pete very quickly made a request for crosswalks,” Fisette said.

Scampavia said the idea is practical given the heavy traffic surrounding the school.

“There are these cars going by,” he said. “Somebody could get hurt.”

After the meetings, Scampavia shared his observations on Fisette’s work as chairman.

“It’s interesting to watch,” Scampavia said. “He’s trying to save money.”

Scampavia, who bags groceries at a Safeway store in Arlington, also requested that the county seek out ways to find jobs for people with developmental disabilities. Several other advocates like Scampavia met with other local leaders during the week as part of the Arc’s program.

ACCORDING TO Cindy Daniel, director of Arc's mentoring and training programs, State Del. Brian Moran (D-46) and Fairfax County Board Chairman Gerald E. Connolly also participated. The program, she said, helps both the advocates and the larger community.

“It educates the community to show them that people with developmental disabilities are citizens,” Daniel said. “They want to be involved.”

Meeting with advocates like Scampavia, she said, helps local leaders put a human face on the decisions they make when it comes to people with developmental disabilities. The meetings also give the advocates a chance to learn something and meet someone new.

“It works both ways,” she said. “They learn from each other.”