By CINDY GONZALEZ
Civic Nebraska is honoring five Nebraskans for their efforts in creating a more “modern and robust democracy” in the Cornhusker state.
The organization’s 2022 Strengthening Democracy Awards recipients include educators, advocates, students and activists.
“A strong democracy does not build itself,” said Adam Morfeld, executive director. “It requires dedicated Americans putting community, learning, innovation, empowerment and optimism together and making them work for the common good.”
Honorees will be recognized at a celebration June 9 at DelRay 817 in Lincoln. They are:
Community Builder: Valeria Rodriguez of Gering, for increasing access to opportunities for residents of the Nebraska Panhandle. Rodriguez co-founded the nonprofit Empowering Families and hosts an annual multicultural youth leadership conference. She has organized informational meetings for the immigrant community and has worked to improve voter registration and census counts.
Civic Catalyst: Erin Feichtinger of Omaha, for fighting for housing justice through education and advocacy. During the most recent legislative session, Feichtinger organized, educated and activated hundreds of Nebraskans to fight for rental assistance. She has led other “calls to action,” galvanizing people to confront local and state housing affordability challenges.
Champion of Learning: Ebony McKiver of Lincoln, for promoting civic education across the state. As the Nebraska Department of Education’s social studies specialist, McKiver guides the state’s efforts to implement the Legislature’s revisions to civics graduation requirements and “centers those who have been historically marginalized.”
Young Civic Leader: Brooklyn Terrill of Lincoln, for co-writing and lobbying for meaningful legislation. A University of Nebraska student, Terrill was key to passage of Legislative Bill 519, an immunity policy for certain drug and alcohol charges that could be prohibitive to a survivor or witness of sexual assault reporting the crime. Terrill also volunteers with a local sexual assault crisis line and serves as on the NU government liaison committee.
Guardian of Voting Rights: Jennifer Yi-We Hernandez of Omaha, for innovation to ensure accessibility to voting. As the pandemic struck, she created Ballot Buddies, a volunteer initiative to assist voters stuck at home with getting ballots submitted and counted. She recruits volunteers and provides nonpartisan education about the election process.