|Embargoed until||Contact: Linda O’Neal|
|March 14, 2001, 9:15 a.m.||(615) 741-2633|
A teacher who helps special children get off to a good start and a young man who overcame a difficult start are being honored by the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth. Awards are also being given to two members of the media.
The presentations were part of the 13th Annual Children’s Advocacy Days held in Nashville on Tuesday and Wednesday. More than 270 people participated in the training and advocacy sessions.
Fredrick Harris of Madison was the winner of the first Youth Excellence Award. Merril Harris of Doweltown is the 2001 winner of the Jim Pryor Child Advocacy award.
Jamie Satterfield of the Knoxville News-Sentinel and Becky Magura of WCTE-TV in Cookeville, representing large and small markets respectively, were the winners of the 2001 Making KIDS COUNT media awards.
The Youth Excellence Award, given for the first time this year, honors a young adult, who, after being involved in the court system as a juvenile, overcame personal obstacles and now serves his or her community.
Fredrick Harris, the first winner, has spent a lot of years with the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, first as a resident at Woodland Hills Youth Development Center and now as a case manager, working to help children in residential facilities and group homes.
Merril Harris continues to advocate for the preschool special education classroom in which she teaches and to help her five adopted special-needs children live as independently as possible.
Jamie Satterfield, a reporter with the Knoxville News-Sentinel, was honored for her efforts to inform the public about issues important to children and families.
Becky Magura, station manager at WCTE in Cookeville, led the production of a child sexual abuse prevention series being distributed nationwide.
Gerald Hickson, the head of pediatric medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, gave the keynote presentation on the first day of Children’s Advocacy Days, followed by a discussion of their priorities for children by the commissioners of the Tennessee departments of Health, Children’s Services, Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities. Dr. Shelia Peters and Pat Lawler discussed mental illness and the juvenile justice system.
In addition to the award presentations on Wednesday, Betty Cannon, chair of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, presided over a program that included a panel of state legislators and information on legislation about children.
The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth is an independent state agency created by the Tennessee General Assembly. Its primary mission is to advocate for improvements in the quality of life for Tennessee children and families.
For more information about the awards or Children’s Advocacy Days, contact (615) 741-2633.
(Attached are information sheets about each honoree and details about the event.)Youth Excellence Award Winner - Fredrick Harris
In 1993 Fredrick Harris had a lot of strikes against him. He had been adjudicated to Woodland Hills Youth Development Center and was separated from his troubled family and his home. But despite the many strikes, Fredrick Harris wasn’t out yet.
By the middle of the year, he had earned a GED and begun job training. While still in the development center, where he was considered a role model for other teens, he entered college in 1994. Even after being released from Woodland Hills in 1995, Harris had to deal with family problems, including the death of his grandmother, and negative peer pressure. While continuing to work, he completed a degree in criminal justice from Tennessee State University in December 1997.
Harris returned to Woodland Hills as an intern during his senior year of college, counseling and sharing life experiences with the youths there, as well as demonstrating the possibility of success. After getting a degree, Harris was hired as a case manager by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. He currently works with children in state custody who are in group homes and residential facilities.
Harris has seen the other ways his life could have gone. As he was nearing the end of this undergraduate education, he lost a close friend to a robbery.
In addition to working to make life better for children involved with the juvenile justice system, Harris has reached out to others by making a presentation in a church. He also provides a home for his younger sister.
“Despite the many obstacles Fredrick has faced during his life, he continues to accomplish his goals and maintain a positive attitude about life,” said Tonia Wicker, a DCS case manager II who nominated him.
Jim Pryor Child Advocacy Award Winner – Merril Harris
Many people would say that after working all day teaching preschoolers with special needs and advocating for them and the program she helped get started, Merril Harris deserves to go home and rest. Others would say anyone who, in addition, has taken on the life-long commitment of adopting five children with special needs has done enough to help children.
Harris has other ideas.
“She is always exploring for ways to advocate for all children because she considers all children to be special,” said Felicia Prowse, president of the Upper Cumberland Council on Children and Youth.
“Her firsthand experiences have given her an acute awareness of how decisions made at the bureaucratic level actually impact the lives of children and their families,” Prowse said.
Harris continues to advocate for the DeKalb County School System preschool program she leads. Through her guidance, the DeKalb County Children’s Council, affiliated with the Upper Cumberland Community Services Agency, was able to receive grant funds to improve the quality of life for children in the region.
In addition to her 12 years as a member of the council on children and youth, Harris serves on the board of directors of Tennessee Voices for Children, chairs the DeKalb County Children’s Services Council, and is a member of the DeKalb County Health Council, Parents Encouraging Parents, the TennCare Partners Program Council, and One-In-Teen.
“Her theme has never wavered since we met,” Filomena Walker with the Tennessee’s Early Intervention System in Cookeville, said. “All children and all people count.”
Making KIDS COUNT Media Award Winner, Small Market –
Rebecca R. “Becky” Magura, the station manager at WCTE-TV in Cookeville, led the production of a child sexual abuse prevention series, “Robbin Esther’s Secret Box.” The series is designed for teachers to use with children ages 5 to 11 and is based on a book written by a local woman sharing her experience with sexual abuse by her father. The series will be distributed nationally through the National Educational Telecommunications Association.
“WCTE, a public television station, is well-known in the region for its commitment to the well being of children and families” said Kathy Daniels, the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth regional coordinator working with the Upper Cumberland Council on Children and Youth. “This is due in part of the enthusiasm that Becky Magura has for children and education.”
In addition to providing non-violent entertainment and educational programming, WCTE delivers free workshops for parents and caregivers on using television as a teaching tool. Through its “Ready to Learn” program the station has established reading centers in public agencies and Genesis House, a domestic violence shelter, and the Rescue Mission in Cookeville. Two hundred free children’s books are distributed monthly.
Many Hispanic families are served through the materials and broadcasts made available in Spanish.
“Becky has with much sensitivity done an impressive job of producing and marketing this video and book,” Daniels said.
Making KIDS COUNT Media Award, Large Market – Jamie Satterfield
Jamie Satterfield, a staff writer for the Knoxville News Sentinel has kept East Tennessee and, through her newspaper’s participation in the Associated Press, sometimes the entire state informed about children and youth concerns.
Satterfield goes where the stories are, not waiting for them to come to her. She keeps the public and public officials informed about current events, legislation, changes in services and issues that both positively and negatively impact the children in the region and the state. Her stories reflect a rare understanding of policy issues.
“Her efforts have been particularly effective in informing the public about the lack of adequate placement facilities and foster care placements for children who can no longer remain in their homes through no fault of their own,” said Robert Smith, Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth’s coordinator for the East Tennessee region, including Knox County.
Satterfield’s articles on problems of children in state custody and in juvenile courts gave the community and agencies information needed to seek solutions. She understands how policy issues make a difference in the lives of individual children.
Satterfield has been with the Knoxville News Sentinel since 1984. She and her husband, Jerry Newman, have two children, Megan and Elijah. She previously worked for The (Sevierville) Mountain Press. The Knoxville newspaper has a readership of about 120,000 each workday and 150,000 on Sunday, making it the third most read newspaper in Tennessee.
The 13th Annual Children’s Advocacy Days will be held Tuesday, March 13, and Wednesday, March 14, in downtown Nashville. The event will give Tennesseans concerned about the needs of children the tools and the opportunity to share their concerns with state legislators.
Events on Tuesday begin in the Tennessee Tower Multimedia Room at 1 p.m. Speakers include Dr. Gerald Hickson, director, Pediatrics, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine; the commissioners of the Tennessee departments of Health, Children’s Services and Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities; Pat Lawler of Youth Villages; Dr. Sheila Peters of Greene, Peters & Associates; Andrei Lee, Davidson County Juvenile Court referee; Dr. Larry Thompson, of the Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities; and John G. Morgan, state comptroller.
Events on Wednesday begin at 9 a.m. Award presentations follow. A panel of legislators, including Sen. Ward Crutchfield, Senate Majority Leader; Rep. Steve McDaniel, House Minority Leader; Rep. Eugene Davidson, House Majority Leader; Sen. William C. Clabough, Senate Republican Caucus chairman; and an update on legislation complete the morning’s events. After lunch, participants will meet with legislators and other advocates.
Children’s Advocacy Days is sponsored by the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth. For more information call (615) 741-2633 or access the agency website at www.state.tn.us.