Strengthening Democracy: Valeria Rodriguez

The founder and leader of an effort to engage and lift up all Panhandle residents is our 2022 Community Builder.

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Each year, Civic Nebraska’s Strengthening Democracy Awards recognize Nebraskans whose work embodies the spirit of more modern and robust democracy. Among our 2022 honorees are educators, administrators, students, and everyday Nebraskans. We’ll officially honor the winners on June 9, but before then, here’s a chance to learn a bit more about what makes them special. 
Civic Nebraska honors Valeria Rodriguez as its 2022 Community Builder for increasing access to opportunities for all residents of the Panhandle.
Valeria Rodriguez – 2022 Community Builder
In 2017, Valeria and other Scottsbluff-area residents gathered to discuss and analyze the needs of their community. From that first conversation came a critical list: better promotion and broader public understanding of the area’s true diversity; stronger education and advocacy about access to higher education for all students; more opportunities to learn about their power to create change; and clear, regular entry points to civic engagement.
“We realized that an organization that was needed to really advocate for our community members, ensuring that our community is educated on really how to build a collective power, how can they go to the City Council and raise a concern,” Valeria recently told KNEB Radio. “For their children, how can they approach their school board if there’s an issue or even their principal.
“It’s really building and empowering our families to be advocates and to utilize their voice to create change.”
Soon, Empowering Families was born. The nonprofit organization came to life in 2018 and began building a stronger, more welcoming community, organizing DACA and naturalization clinics, hosting the Mexican Consult three times, registering new voters, and spreading understanding about the 2020 Census.
In addition, the organization hosts the annual Multicultural Youth Leadership Conference for 200 students in the Panhandle.
Valeria, whose family emigrated from Mexico years ago, remains Empowering Families’ executive director while working full-time at the Immigrant Legal Center in Scottsbluff.
“Valeria is a believer in making a more welcoming and inclusive community, because the more inclusive and bonded the community the stronger and more well-off it will be,” said Gilberto Rodriguez, who nominated Valeria.
“She has earned respect and loyalty because she puts the dedication and time into creating a better community – for the present and the future.”
Join us as we celebrate Valeria and her fellow Strengthening Democracy honorees on Thursday, June 9, at DelRay 817 in Lincoln. Save your spot today!

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