Shawn Healy to keynote Build Up Omaha

The keynote by the director of democracy programs at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation in Chicago will be one of several highlights at our Jan. 24 event.


Shawn Healy, a leading voice in building greater political participation and civic education in the United States, will deliver the keynote address Jan. 24 at Civic Nebraska’s Build Up Omaha awards.

Shawn Healy

The keynote by Healy, the director of democracy programs at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation of Chicago, will be among several highlights at the event. Build Up Omaha celebrates and recognizes local adults and youth who strive for a stronger civil and civic society. The celebration will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Livestock Exchange Ballroom, 4920 S. 30th St. in Omaha. Information, tickets

“Civic life means understanding the issues in our communities and working to solve them, engaging in meaningful debate with those who disagree, participating in the political process, and showing up at the polls,” Civic Nebraska Executive Director Adam Morfeld said. “Omahans will come away from Shawn’s talk with new insight into how we all can work to improve our collective civic life.”

Healy leads the McCormick Foundation’s Democracy Program, which strengthens democracy through informed and engaged citizens and communities, and responsive systems of government. In 2014, he chaired the Illinois Task Force on Civic Education and led a successful push for a required high school civics course in Illinois. He also led the Illinois Social Science Standards Task Force, whose recommendations were adopted in 2015.

Healy is a regular guest speaker and panelist at academic and professional development conferences across the nation. He is a frequent contributor to local and national news and produces original scholarship on political participation and civic education.

The McCormick Foundation has championed the Illinois Democracy Schools Initiative, which supports high schools empowering students to nurture and sustain democracy. Democracy Schools expand and prioritize civic learning opportunities and experiences for schools to improve overall democratic outcomes.

Natalie Simmonds

Build Up Omaha is hosted by Natalie Simmonds, founder of dotted i writing services. Dotted i helps nonprofit organizations fulfill their missions through grant writing and management, fundraising, and public relations. She is an avid writer and is passionate about issues of social justice and disability rights. A past Build Up Omaha winner, Simmonds has been recognized for work in the area of mental health advocacy. She has worked with business organizations, higher-education institutions, arts groups, geriatric care programs, youth-serving education services, disability advocacy organizations, and more.

Simmonds graduated magna cum laude from Boston College in 2000, with a double major in English and communication. She was awarded the Nebraska Restaurant Association Neighbor Humanitarian Award in 2006. In 2012, she earned her master’s degree in industrial/organizational psychology from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She is the secretary of the Omaha Mayor’s Commission for Citizens with Disabilities, secretary of the board of directors of Kicks for a Cure, and is a member of the Marian High School Alumni Board.

Nine Omahans – five adults and four youth – will be honored with Build Up Omaha awards this year. Honorees will be announced Jan. 7.

Build Up Omaha awards in 2017.

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