Manatee County teen pregnancy prevention awards presented

jtate@bradenton.comMay 22, 2013 

BRADENTON -- The first Teen Pregnancy Prevention Recognition Awards were presented Tuesday by the Healthy Teens Coalition of Manatee County in the Synovus Bank meeting room.

Mary Ann Legler, coalition chairwoman, said the organization wanted to honor people and organizations dedicated to preventing teen pregnancy. Roughly 30 people attended the ceremony.

"We had to start some place and this was a great

starting place with the people who were chosen today," Legler said.

She said she hopes the awards ceremony focuses attention on teen pregnancy prevention.

"Teen pregnancy is something people don't want to talk about," she said. The Manatee County Youth Commission was given the group Youth of the year award, one of five recognitions given out.

Ella Biggins said the Manatee County Youth Commission worked to raise community awareness in part by convincing Manatee County cities to proclaim May as Teen Pregnancy month. Biggins is chairwoman of the commission's Teen Pregnancy Prevention Committee.

"It makes us feel really accomplished and like we are making a difference," said Biggins.

Committee Co-chairman Toby Chinwuba said he had no idea what he was getting involved in when he joining the commission. He also said he's glad he joined.

"It's my first time doing anything like this. I learned how to be a leader and how to be a leader in our community," Chinwuba said.

Barbara Harvey, former Manatee County School Board member and founder of the Educational Consultants Consortium, was given the Elected Official of the Year Award.

Harvey spoke of the long fight to change the way the community deals with teen pregnancy. When she began more than 15 years ago, she said, she had no idea how the issue would evolve.

"I am just in awe because we saw it and we did it," she said. "We cannot stop now."

Other honorees include:

• Nonprofit of The Year -- Florida Department of Health in Manatee County;

• Youth of the Year (Individual) -- Mackenzie Yaryura;

• Youth of the Year (Group) -- Manatee County Youth Commission;

• Elected Official of the Year -- Barbara Harvey; and

• Adult of the Year -- Linda Paul.

JANEY TATE, City of Bradenton and Palmetto Reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. You can follow her on Twitter at Janey_Tate.

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