May 09, 2018
The Washington County Community Foundation (WCCF) has named Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski, an internationally known expert in sex education, the recipient of this year’s Dr. Howard Jack Outstanding Public Educator Award. For the past ten years, she has overseen both Common Ground Teen Center, which provides a safe place for teens to gather and learn about becoming adults, and Teen Outreach, part of the Washington Health System.
She earned a Master’s Degree in counseling in 1994 and a Doctorate in Education in 2009.
Dr. Podgurski is the author of 32 books, including Me Too: Real Talk about Sexuality for People of ALL Abilities and Inside Out: Your Body is Amazing Inside and Out and Belongs ONLY to YOU, a program on child abuse prevention for elementary students. She is the creator of The Nonnie Series – books for children ages 8 and up on challenging topics, including gender, race, puberty, sexuality and death. In response to the #Metoo movement, she is currently working on Nonnie Talks about Consent.
For Dr. Podgurski, supporting teens is a 24/7 responsibility. She thinks adults would be well served to stop and listen. “The best thing adults can do is get to experience silence. These kids are wise – listen to them. They have a depth our generation didn’t have. This generation has unique challenges. They have a different wisdom.”
Her early career involved working in oncology. “It taught me that no one is immortal. If you know that, you make the most of the life you have. The best way to spend my life is to create ripples – the kids go and teach each other or parent well. I love what I do.”
The Dr. Howard Jack Outstanding Public Educator Award will be presented to her at the WCCF’s annual Legacy Luncheon on Friday, May 11. In her honor, the Foundation will award a $1,000 grant to the Teen Outreach ECHO program at the Washington School District.