As child advocates gathered recently in Nashville at the 31st annual Children’s Advocacy Days to network, learn from leaders and share their unique knowledge of ways the state can improve child well being with policymakers, they also honored those who have contributed to a better state for its children.
The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth included an acknowledgement of Lynette Wagster, general manager of the Weakley County Press and her team for making an impact for future generations. The John Seigenthaler Making Kids Count Media Small Market Print Media Award is given to those journalists and entities that shed light on relevant issues and focus on community coverage.
Seigenthaler was a First Amendment advocate, often reaching beyond the scope of traditional journalism through his investigative reporting and willingness to take a hard stand for truth in accuracy. He served as editor of “The Tennessean” in Nashville before becoming publisher of the newspaper. He was also named as the first editorial director of the “USA Today.” While working as administrative assistant to incoming Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy in 1961, Seigenthaler was considered one of the only other Justice Department figures to witness a meeting between Martin Luther King, Jr. and Kennedy.
“We work hard with each edition to ensure our reporting is not only accurate, but covers what our community wants to read about. It is an honor to be given this award in tribute to one of the most notable journalists in this nation. A special thank you goes out the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth for this designation,” Wagster said.
“Our youth are our investment into our community. All that we do ultimately impacts them. With that in mind, we work to have a meaningful impact for years to come,” she added.
Gov. Bill Lee and first lady Maria Lee welcomed participants to War Memorial Auditorium for the 31st annual event, and commissioners of state departments serving children, including those newly-appointed, updated listeners. Julie Sweetland of the FrameWorks Institute and Hugh Vasquez of the National Equity Project were keynote speakers. A fast-paced program shared information on a range of relevant issues.
Other awards were presented to the following:
- A.C. Wharton, former mayor of Memphis and of Shelby County, was given the Senator Douglas Henry Public Official Award for his efforts on behalf of child safety and violence prevention.
- Debbie Miller, Deputy Commissioner for Juvenile Justice of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services received the second annual Linda O’Neal Lifetime Achievement Award.
- 12-year-old former foster child Aiden Lee Reece, of Gainesboro, Tenn., received the Youth Excellence Award for his work to help fund wells in India.
- Kristen Rector, CEO of Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee, was recognized with the Jim Pryor Child Advocacy Award.
- Two journalists working in local journalism to share information on efforts to solve community problems were honored. Larry Bowers, general news reporter for the Cleveland Daily Banner, Cleveland, Tenn., received a John Seigenthaler MAKING KIDS COUNT Media Small Market Print Media Award for his 57 years of journalism and coverage of local communities.
- Our Kids Center received a John Seigenthaler MAKING KIDS COUNT New Media Award for its video and social media campaign, “What if I told you?”
- Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee honored Unsung Heroes at the event. Recognized were Wanda Newland of East Tennessee, Michelle Williams of Middle Tennessee, and Ethel Johnson of West Tennessee.
- The Tennessee Department of Education made a special recognition of Jan Bushing for her advocacy and support for Family Resource Centers.
The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth is an independent 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. Information on the agency is available at www.tn.gov/tccy.
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