Perhaps the most important biographical fact needed to know about Mary Jo Podgurski deals with joy. “I am blessed to spend my days interacting with young people and I treasure every moment; I believe deeply in their wisdom. My primary mantra is simple: Every young person is a person of worth. Actually that tenet translates well to my primary value - that all must be respected, regardless of age, size, race, ethnicity, sexuality, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, socio-economic status, education, religion, or position in society. My papa was my spiritual guide and he taught me that “we are all in this together” and “this too shall pass” and I strive to live by those beliefs.”
Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski founded The Washington Hospital Teen Outreach in 1988. Her undergraduate education is in nursing and education, her Master’s work was in counseling, and her doctorate is in education. She began volunteering with pregnant teens in 1976 and has created numerous youth development and education programs using reality-based, interactive educational techniques that are evidence-based and empower youth. Teen Outreach programs have reached over 230,000 youth in all 14 Washington County school districts. She directs a monthly Adolescent Advisory Board of 75 teens, maintains an active peer educator group (since 1995), and produces teen educational dramas through the Real Talk Performers. The Outreach’s Ambassador for Respect Program was created in 2006 and models respect for throughout the county.
Dr. Podgurski is a past president of the Lamaze International Board of Directors and was lead faculty for the Lamaze International Teen Specialist program from its inception until the program closed. She was the 2003 recipient of the Elizabeth Bing Award for her work with pregnant and parenting teens.
Dr. Podgurski has presented over 500 workshops locally, nationally and internationally. Her publications include Games Educators Play One and Two, Me Too: Real Talk about Sexuality for People of ALL Abilities, and numerous original educational dramas. Since 2005 she has authored a weekly newspaper column for the Observer Reporter paper entitled Ask Mary Jo. She is proud to be an adjunct faculty member in the Education Department of Washington and Jefferson College where she created and teaches the course: Teaching and Dealing with Sexuality in Schools in 2010.
Dr. Podgurski’s certifications include childbirth education from Lamaze International, certification as both a sexuality educator and a sexuality counselor from AASECT (American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapist), and certification as a trainer in the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program.
Dr. Podgurski was co-founder of the first GSA in Washington County in 2005 and is proud to serve on the Washington County GSA board of directors. Her Outreach has run the Common Ground Teen Center since 2005.
Dr. Podgurski has received numerous awards, including the UPMC Dignity and Respect Champion Award in 2011, the Three Rivers Community Foundation Social Justice Award and the Washington County Children and Youth Champion for Children Award in 2009. She was the 2008 Washington County NAACP Human Rights Award recipient and the 2004 Washington County recipient of the Athena Women of Wisdom Award. She was awarded the 2004 NOAPPP (National Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy, Prevention and Parenting, now Healthy Teen Network) Outstanding Professional Award.
Mary Jo and her partner Richard are the parents of three adult children and are blessed with three grandchildren.