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Health check up: Park senior honored with county health award

Park High School senior Briana Mullan poses with her parents Don and Cheryl after she received the Youth Public Health Achievement Award from Lowell Johnson, director for the Washington County Department of Health (right). William Loeffler / RiverTown Multimedia

COTTAGE GROVE — For her efforts as a wellness ambassador to elementary school children throughout the district, Briana Mullan is this year's recipient of Washington County Youth Public Health Achievement Award.

Lowell Johnson, director for the Washington County Department of Health, presented Mullan with the award April 3 during a surprise visit to her classroom.. He headed a delegation that included Park Principal Ginger Garski, County Commissioner Jack Lavold and her parents, Don and Cheryl.

She certainly wasn't expecting the visit.

"I was confused," she said. "I thought, 'OK our principal is coming to talk to us.'"

The Park High School senior spent three years volunteering for the 4-H Youth Teaching Youth program, which tutors children in grades K-6 on healthy living, drug and alcohol awareness, internet safety, citizenship and fairness with children K-6.

The learning material is provided by the University of Minnesota Extension 4-H.

Amber Shanahan, who leads the program, was so impressed by Mullan that she asked her if she could start a Youth Teaching Youth Club at Park for the 2017-18 school year. Under her leadership, the club grew from four teen volunteers to 40.

"It was just a crazy idea that she took and turned into a total reality," said Shanahan, who joined colleague Heather Cory in honoring Mullan. Cory nominated her for the award.

Johnson presented her with a plague and thanked her for helping to make Washington County one of the healthiest counties in the state.

"I feel like she's taken on the values of Park High School," Garski said, "Which are integrity, commitment and compassion."

The awards are presented annually by the Washington County Board of Commissioners and the Department of Public Health and Environment, the awards recognize and honor residents in three categories — a youth, individual, and group — who devote their time, energy, and talents to improving the public health or environmental conditions of individuals, families, and communities in Washington County.

Randy Hayne of Woodbury won the award in the individual category for making dozens of hand-crocheted baby blankets to donate to Family Health and WIC programs, which serve families across Washington County. Public Health nurses share the blankets with clients who are pregnant and families with new babies or young children.

William Loeffler

William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 

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