Each year, Civic Nebraska’s Strengthening Democracy Awards recognize Nebraskans who embody the spirit of a more modern and robust democracy. Among our 2022 honorees are educators, administrators, students, and everyday Nebraskans. We’ll officially honor the winners on April 13, but before then, here’s a chance to learn a bit more about what makes them special.
Civic Nebraska honors Cheyenne Hartshorn with the 2023 Champion of Learning award for going above and beyond to support student-driven service learning and civic leadership.
Cheyenne, of Lincoln, is a social studies and government instructor at Lincoln Northeast High School. Among others, Cheyenne was instrumental in developing Capitol Experience Day, a Civic Nebraska program that immerses students in the workings of state government during a daylong visit to the Nebraska State Capitol.
Capitol Experience Day teaches critical thinking, civil discourse, and the governing process through an interactive lineup of a state legislator, a state executive branch official, and a Nebraska Supreme Court justice. Students also engage in a mock committee hearing, in which they deliberate a piece of current legislation of their choice from different viewpoints. By the end of the day, students have a greater understanding of their role as citizens in the state’s legislative process. In the years since “Cap Days” were established, Cheyenne’s classes have been consistent participants.
Cheyenne also has guided Northeast students to advocate and activate beyond “Cap Days.” Recently, one of her students participated in the Capitol program and then approached her about how to get more involved in issues that mattered to her and her classmates. Cheyenne connected her with Michael Bandy, then Civic Nebraska’s site leader at our Lincoln Northeast Community Learning Center, to start a new Feminist Club in the after-school program. The club is now planning an entire year of advocacy as they learn how to be civic leaders and advocates.
Students in Cheyenne’s classes are active participants in shaping the direction of their educational journey. Young learners in her classroom are grouped in “pods,” and work together to apply the power of collaboration, civil discourse, and compromise – the building blocks of powerful, lifetime citizenship.
“In my time at Northeast, I had the pleasure to see firsthand the impact Cheyenne has on students and the school community,” said Bandy, who is now Civic Nebraska’s director of Youth Civic Leadership. “From the way she sets up her classroom to how she empowers students to take control of their own learning, Cheyenne is a fierce advocate for student voice.”
An innovator and educator to other teachers, Cheyenne is known as a problem-solver as well as a booster of our work with her fellow instructors and community partners. Colleagues describe her dedication to meaningful student-led civic engagement and leadership as inspiring – not only to young people and Cheyenne’s fellow teachers but also to Civic Nebraska’s staff.
“One thing that has always stuck out is how Cheyenne leaves her classroom open to students as a safe place after school,” Bandy said.
“She unselfishly supports students well beyond what is required or expected, and that makes her a true champion of learning.”