Civic Nebraska honors 5 with Strengthening Democracy Awards

Lincoln, Nebraska (May 16, 2022) – Civic Nebraska on June 9 will honor five Nebraskans who create a more modern and robust democracy in the Cornhusker State.

The 2022 Strengthening Democracy Awards honorees include educators, advocates, students, activists, and everyday Nebraskans who demonstrate exceptional civic leadership and who embody Civic Nebraska’s vision of a collaborative, innovative democratic society.

“A strong democracy does not build itself. It requires dedicated Americans putting community, learning, innovation, empowerment, and optimism together and making them work for the common good,” said Adam Morfeld, Civic Nebraska’s executive director. “Our 2022 honorees have lifted up these values every day by word and deed, and we are proud to honor them.”

Civic Nebraska’s 2022 Strengthening Democracy honorees are:

›› Community Builder: Valeria Rodriguez, Gering, for increasing access to opportunities for all residents of the Nebraska Panhandle. In 2017, Valeria co-founded Empowering Families, a nonprofit that builds a stronger and more welcoming community through education, civic participation, and individual empowerment. She has helped organize DACA and naturalization clinics, registered residents to vote, worked to ensure a complete 2020 census count, and hosts a yearly Multicultural Youth Leadership Conference for 200 area students.

›› Civic Catalyst: Erin Feichtinger, Omaha, for fighting for housing justice through education and advocacy. Erin leads calls to action and guides Nebraskans in working together to tackle the state’s housing affordability challenges. In the most recent session of the Legislature, Erin was instrumental in organizing, educating, and activating hundreds of Nebraskans to fight for rental assistance and other issues of fundamental housing fairness at the state and local levels.

›› Champion of Learning: Ebony McKiver, Lincoln, for promoting quality civic education across the state. The Nebraska Department of Education’s social studies specialist, Ebony leads the state’s work in grounding social studies education in facts and history. She guides the state’s efforts to implement the Nebraska Legislature’s revisions to civics graduation requirements and centers those who have been historically marginalized.

›› Young Civic LeaderBrooklyn Terrill, Lincoln, for conceiving, co-writing, and lobbying for meaningful legislation. Brooklyn, a first-year student at Nebraska U., was a key force behind LB519, an immunity policy for certain drug and alcohol charges that would be potentially prohibitive to a survivor or witness of sexual assault reporting the crime. The Legislature passed LB519 and Gov. Ricketts signed it into law this year. Brooklyn also volunteers at a local sexual assault crisis line and serves on the Government Liaison Committee for Nebraska U.’s student government.

›› Guardian of Voting Rights: Jennifer Yi-We Hernandez, Omaha, for her innovation to ensure accessibility to voting for community members. Amid the onset of COVID-19, Jennifer recognized that some voters needed help getting their mail-in ballots turned in on time, so she created Ballot Buddies, a volunteer initiative to assist stuck-at-home voters with getting their signed, sealed ballots turned into the Douglas County Election Commission. Jennifer recruits and vets volunteers, promotes the importance of voting, and provides nonpartisan education about the election process and local deadlines.

Strengthening Democracy Awards will take place at 5 p.m. on June 9 at DelRay 817 in Lincoln. The celebration will include drinks, heavy appetizers, and entertainment, including performances from Nebraska State Poet Matt Mason and Zedeka Poindexter, an Omaha slam poetry champion and poet-in-residence at the UNION for Contemporary Art. To register to attend, visit