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Bradenton police chief tells girls to be like her and aim high

Gender, color, whether you’re “short, tall, big, small” are no longer boundaries to dreaming big and achieving goals, Bradenton’s first female police chief told students in the Just for Girls summer program Wednesday.

More than 20 girls heard from Melanie Bevan and shared their own career aspirations with the chief, who took the post in February.

“There’s no boundaries anymore,” Bevan said. “Everything and anything is possible.”

Students told Bevan of their plans to become lawyers, doctors, psychologists, marine biologists and teachers.

“These are some good answers, I’m impressed,” Bevan said.

She cautioned the girls in the room that it takes hard work and perseverance for them to achieve their goals, and in many cases, it takes a lot of education. She talked about her own experiences, which included starting college right after high school but then becoming a police officer right away instead. Bevan went back to college later to help advance her career, and she holds a doctorate degree now.

She also talked specifically about what it takes to become a police officer. They’re looking for applicants who work hard, stay out of trouble and exhibit leadership skills. Being a leader can be hard, Bevan said, but it’s possible.

“Everybody in here can be one,” she said.

Bevan talked about some of the great women she looks up to, including Diana Nyad, the first person — man or woman — to swim 90 miles from Key West to Cuba without a protective shark cage.

“I’m not a great woman, I’m just the police chief in the city of Bradenton,” Bevan said.

But Becky Canesse, CEO of Just for Girls, said Bevan serves as an inspiration to the girls in the program.

“Girls need to see women in a leadership role,” Canesse said. “She’s reached a level of real importance, and they don’t see that that much.”

Bevan also brought the "Bradenton Baseball Buddies" program to the schools. She presented students and faculty with ticket vouchers provided by the Tampa Bay Rays honoring their hard work and citizenship throughout the school year.

Meghin Delaney: 941-745-7081, @MeghinDelaney

Fun facts from the chief

During her talk, Bevan shared some tidbits with the students. Some of them are below:

  • She hasn’t seen “Finding Dory” yet, but asked students if Dory got any smarter in the sequel.
  • “Monsters, Inc.” is one of her all-time favorite movies.
  • She became a St. Petersburg police officer at 19.
  • When she started, there were fewer than 30 women on the force.
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