Jennifer Brown considers herself to be much more than a school nurse. She’s another mother to each and every student who goes to Martin Middle School.
For this reason and for her supervisor’s strong belief and support of her work, Brown was named the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth Child Advocate of the Year in a ceremony held at the UT Martin University Center Watkins Auditorium on Oct. 21.
Brown has served as a school nurse for nine total years with the last two having been served at Martin Middle School and before that at Martin Primary, Martin Elementary and Martin Middle. She was nominated for the honor by her supervisor, Beth Kempton, and admitted, “She must think I do a great job.”
Brown explained this award goes to guidance counselors, probation officers and, in general, those who work with children on a daily basis.
“The Northwest Council on Children and Youth is an offshoot of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth,” Marti Herndon, a council and commission member and professor of family and consumer science at UT Martin, said.
“There are nine regional coordinators across the state and all of them are connected through the state commission. This is an advocacy group for children and families and it was developed and is overseen by state legislature.”
“Through resource mapping, gaps are located and resources are redistributed for effectiveness. The vision of TCCY is that all children in Tennessee have the opportunity to achieve their fullest potential and are safe, healthy, nurtured and educated,” she continued.
“This is a policy-making body that works with state agencies, juvenile courts, child advocacy groups, interested citizens and other organizations to improve services to children.”
According to the website, commission members, central office staff and regional coordinators are engaged in improving the coordination of services for children, collecting and disseminating statistical and programmatic information, citizens and organizations of children’s issues, tracking legislation and making recommendations to the governor and legislature, evaluating the delivery of services to children in state custody and their families through the Children’s Program Outcome Review Team quality service review process and administering the Federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, the Juvenile Accountability Block Grant and other federal and state grant funds for juvenile justice programs.
Commissioners are on committees and report back their findings to the main commission regarding such activities and programs as the Council on Mental Health, an ombudsman program, Kids Count Data which is a subheading under the national effort, Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Second Look Commission, a committee formed to see how resources could be better distributed in severe-case areas that need a second glance in order to find a solution for the problems.
School nurses, like Brown, once worked under the umbrella of special education, but now have been moved to general education.
Brown took the job when her oldest son was six months old.
Previously, she’d been working at Martin Medical Center, but when she began having children, she admitted her priorities changed and even though she loved her job, she felt like a change was in order. Now, as her son is preparing to go into the fourth grade, she will soon be seeing him at Martin Middle.
“It’s really worked out,” she said. “I love the kids and the staff and it’s been very humbling to get this award. Many people go through each and every day unrecognized in what they do and I accept this award on their behalf.
“The light just happened to shine on me. I feel like a mother to these children. If they need a pinch, they get a pinch and if they need a hug, they get a hug.”