Our 2018 Strengthening Democracy honorees are …

A strong democracy does not build itself – it takes dedicated citizens of all ages working together to strengthen our civic institutions. This spring, Civic Nebraska honors community leaders whose efforts make sure all Nebraskans benefit from our democratic society.

The 2018 Strengthening Democracy Awards honorees include educators, community groups, organizers, and students who demonstrate exceptional civic leadership and who embody Civic Nebraska’s vision of a collaborative, innovative citizenry. Civic Nebraska will honor the winners 5 p.m. April 12 at Chez Hay, 210 N. 14th St. in Lincoln.

 “Civic Nebraska was founded 10 years ago by politically diverse young Nebraskans based on the idea that it takes hard work, collaboration and innovation to build a strong democracy in our state,” said Adam Morfeld, Civic Nebraska’s executive director. “Often, this work can be taken for granted. Through our Strengthening Democracy Awards, we ensure civic leaders are recognized in their efforts to build a modern and robust democracy.”

Civic Nebraska’s 2018 Strengthening Democracy Awards honorees are:

Outstanding Educator: Kate Endorf, Weeping Water middle and high school teacher, for her dedication to the Rural Civic Action Program and her commitment to creating student leaders in her community. Endorf’s classrooms have consistently yielded some of the best RCAP projects, including renovating the town’s basketball courts and gazebo, and a student-led public education campaign promoting positive self-image.

Outstanding Community Partner: Nebraska Community Foundation, for its work to establish the Rural Civic Action Program in McCook. The foundation dedicated time and resources to build a network of support and provide resources for an RCAP pilot program at McCook Community College. High school and college students led a semester-long effort to identify a pressing community issue, design a service-learning project to address it, and implement the solution.

Outstanding Administrator: Amber Rhoades, Lincoln Parks and Recreation, for assistance and informative trainings in starting vital new Community Learning Centers in Lincoln and Omaha. Rhoades is an office assistant at Belmont and Airpark recreation centers.

Outstanding Civic Health Partner: Rachael Wendler Shah, assistant professor of English at Nebraska U., for launching the Husker Writers program and partnering with Civic Nebraska’s Capitol Experience Day. The program’s focus on writing for public audiences complemented the legislative committee hearing component of “Cap Days.” Students honed their critical thinking, analysis, persuasive speaking, and civil discourse skills throughout the school year, and elevated the discussion about legislative issues.

Outstanding Civic Health Partner: Charlyne Berens, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, for being the driving force behind creating and implementing a civil discourse and media literacy class with OLLI that benefited more than 70 adult learners. The partnership helped Civic Nebraska’s civil discourse programming work for Nebraskans.

Outstanding Youth Engagement: Jeff Cole, Beyond School Bells, for investing in programs that benefit the young people and families Civic Nebraska serves. Beyond School Bells is at the forefront of the national movement to enrich the hours students spend outside of school and provides research, professional development, and motivation for extended-learning opportunities.

Outstanding Student Leaders: Jailynn Gragg and Eathyn Schroeder, Campbell Elementary; and Avanna Gray and Hana Mengiste, Dawes Middle School; for demonstrating exemplary student leadership both in their official school capacities and in extracurricular activities.

Defender of Democracy Award: Heartland Workers Center, for its tireless work in the 2018 Legislative session. In its mission to improve the quality of life for Latino and Latina immigrant workers, Heartland Workers Center develops community leaders, strengthens civic participation and defends worker rights. The group organized powerful hearing testimony over bills ranging from voter ID to redistricting. Thanks to their work, Nebraska remains a state that does not impose harmful barriers to the ballot box.

PolitiFact co-founder and Pulitzer Prize winner Matt Waite, professor of practice of journalism at the University of Nebraska, will deliver this year’s keynote address. Reserve your seat here!