Each year, Civic Nebraska’s Strengthening Democracy Awards recognize Nebraskans whose work embodies the spirit of modern, robust democracy. Among our 2019 honorees are educators, administrators, students, and everyday Nebraskans. We officially honor the winners May 2, but before then, here’s a chance to learn a bit more about what makes them special.
Building Young Leaders Award
Civic Nebraska honors Nola Derby-Bennett for her service to young people and the community as director of Lincoln’s Community Learning Centers.
Derby-Bennett leads the city’s CLC network of 29 community schools, coordinating funding, connecting partners, and ensuring high-quality academic and enrichment programming at every CLC site. This includes the Campbell CLC in North Central Lincoln, which Civic Nebraska runs.
“Nola is a tireless advocate for the community, our schools, and our children,” said Kent Day, Civic Nebraska’s director of youth civic leadership programs. “She brings knowledge, leadership, and compassion to a vital program that helps Lincoln sustain and grow its nationally recognized CLCs. Nola ensures that Lincoln’s CLCs continue to enrich the lives of our students, families, and neighborhoods.”
In Derby-Bennett’s tenure, CLCs have begun to expand to Lincoln high schools, starting with North Star High School. The high school programs, she has said, are geared toward helping students consider and make plans for what they’ll do after graduation.
“They’re less about a place for a young person to be and more geared toward introducing them to opportunities and connecting them to whatever their future might look like,” she told the Lincoln Journal Star earlier this year.
In addition to her work with CLCs, Derby-Bennett is on the Board of Directors for Leadership Lincoln and Rotary No. 14, as well as a variety of committees and coalitions in Lincoln and Lancaster County. She formerly directed The Hub, a Central Access Point for Young Adults, helping to develop, grow and lead the nonprofit organization.
Outstanding Educator Award
Civic Nebraska honors Charity Iromuanya, school community coordinator at Everett Elementary School’s Community Learning Center, for inspiring young people to aspire to new heights.
“Charity has been a staple at Everett and has her hands in everything that happens, from during the school day to after school,” said Lindsay Limbach, who nominated Iromuanya. “If it weren’t for her, many of these opportunities would be hard to coordinate. But she makes it her job to ensure they happen and she always does it with a positive and proactive attitude.”
A Lincoln native, Iromuanya ensures her CLC students are open to opportunities that may not be otherwise available to them – such as visiting Nebraska U., The Omaha Zoo, local businesses, and a host of other environments that spur them to consider ambitious career choices. Iromuanya also coordinates a popular spring break and summer program in collaboration with Everett summer school.
“This is not only setting students up for success but also introducing them to other positive adults that help them see these visions,” Limbach said. “She sees everyone for what they have to offer and builds on those strengths.”
A former high-school and college athlete, Iromuanya is also the head coach of the Lincoln Northeast girls basketball program.