Our 2024 Strengthening Democracy honorees are …

The 2024 Strengthening Democracy Awards honorees include volunteers, advocates, students, and other everyday Nebraskans who demonstrate exceptional civic leadership and embody Civic Nebraska’s vision of a collaborative and innovative democratic society.

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Civic Nebraska on June 27 will honor five Nebraskans whose daily acts help build a more modern and robust democracy in the Cornhusker State. 
The 2024 Strengthening Democracy Awards honorees include volunteers, advocates, students, and other everyday Nebraskans who demonstrate exceptional civic leadership and embody Civic Nebraska’s vision of a collaborative and innovative democratic society. Honorees will be celebrated from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus.
“A strong democracy does not build itself. It takes dedicated citizens of all ages working together to strengthen our civic institutions,” said Adam Morfeld, Civic Nebraska’s founder and executive director. “Strengthening Democracy Awards honor Nebraskans for day-in, day-out efforts that may otherwise go unnoticed.”
Nebraskans submitted nearly 50 nominations for the awards, which are given annually. 
Civic Nebraska’s 2024 Strengthening Democracy honorees are:

2024 Community Builder

Bob Reeves

… for decades of service to the Clinton Neighborhood, the neighborhood association, and the city of Lincoln. Reeves was nominated for being a staunch advocate for housing affordability, welcoming new residents to the community, and empowering others to become leaders in various capacities in Nebraska’s capital city.

2024 Civic Catalyst

Juan Carlos Huertas

… for actively connecting the faith community to civic life through innovative partnerships. Huertas, the minister of proclamation and practice of justice at First-Plymouth Church in Lincoln, works to bring people together, have difficult conversations, and get back to a place of connection and understanding.

2024 Young Civic Leader

Chloe Patzloff

… a 16-year-old student at Lincoln Northeast High School, for modeling activism, engagement, and advocacy. As a freshman, Chloe contacted Lincoln’s mayor to speak to her class about urban challenges, including food deserts and gentrification. She also regularly testifies before the Nebraska Legislature on issues that affect women and the LBGTQ+ community in Nebraska. Chloe also helped create and lead the Feminist Collective, a club at Northeast High.

2024 Champion of Learning

EDGE Nebraska City

… including Stacie HigginsSue Little, and Teresa Albers, for building the Engage, Discover, Grow, Embark program in Nebraska City. Each month, local students are given a book, and more than 50 volunteers read the story with them in their classrooms. The program reaches 430 students monthly and awarded its 20,000th book in May. The honorees have inspired volunteers, including retired teachers and local activists, to not only sustain but also expand the program.

2024 Jan Gradwohl Memorial
Defender of Democracy

Brad Christian-Sallis

… for his unwavering commitment to upholding democratic principles in Nebraska and safeguarding the rights of all citizens through his work. Christian-Sallis, the director of power building at the Nebraska Civic Engagement Table, drives statewide ballot initiative campaigns to directly bring questions of societal change to Nebraska voters. He has led campaigns across the state and nation while advocating for voting rights, racial justice, and other causes. The award is named in honor of the late Jan Gradwohl, a trailblazer for women in the judiciary and a fierce advocate for democracy, inclusion, and justice. 

Join us June 27

Strengthening Democracy Awards will feature a keynote address from Tennessee State Rep. Justin J. Pearson, who was expelled from serving in his state’s Legislature in 2023 before being reinstated in a landslide vote. Pearson, of Memphis, was first elected to the Tennessee House at 28. When an armed mass murderer killed six people at The Covenant School in Nashville later that year, Pearson and two other representatives staged a protest on the statehouse floor for common-sense gun legislation. Lawmakers retaliated by expelling Pearson and another representative, but local government panels in Memphis and Nashville reinstated them days later. Pearson again ran for the seat in August and handily won it back.
Those interested in purchasing tickets for Strengthening Democracy Awards or learning more about the celebration can do so here.

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After School Programs

  • Sherman Elementary School

    5618 N 14th Ave.
    Omaha, NE 68110

  • Lewis and Clark Middle School

    6901 Burt St.
    Omaha, NE 68132

  • Lothrop Magnet Elementary

    3300 N. 22nd St.
    Omaha, NE 68110

  • Campbell Elementary School

    2200 Dodge St.
    Lincoln, NE 68521

  • Lincoln High School

    2229 J St.
    Lincoln, NE 68510

  • Lincoln Northeast High School

    2635 N. 63rd St.
    Lincoln, NE 68507