Civic Nebraska recognizes five Nebraskans for ‘strengthening democracy’

By: - May 20, 2022 10:48 am

View from the Rotunda in the Douglas County District Courthouse on Monday Jan. 24, 2022. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

Civic Nebraska is honoring five Nebraskans for their efforts in creating a more “modern and robust democracy” in the Cornhusker state.

The organization’s 2022 Strengthening Democracy Awards recipients include educators, advocates, students and activists.

“A strong democracy does not build itself,” said Adam Morfeld, executive director. “It requires dedicated Americans putting community, learning, innovation, empowerment and optimism together and making them work for the common good.”

Honorees will be recognized at a celebration June 9 at DelRay 817 in Lincoln. They are:

Valeria Rodriguez (Courtesy of Civic Nebraska)

Community Builder: Valeria Rodriguez of Gering, for increasing access to opportunities for residents of the Nebraska Panhandle. Rodriguez co-founded the nonprofit Empowering Families and hosts an annual multicultural youth leadership conference. She has organized informational meetings for the immigrant community and has worked to improve voter registration and census counts.

Erin Feichtinger

Civic Catalyst: Erin Feichtinger of Omaha, for fighting for housing justice through education and advocacy. During the most recent legislative session, Feichtinger organized, educated and activated hundreds of Nebraskans to fight for rental assistance. She has led other “calls to action,” galvanizing people to confront local and state housing affordability challenges.

Ebony McKiver

Champion of Learning: Ebony McKiver of Lincoln, for promoting civic education across the state. As the Nebraska Department of Education’s social studies specialist, McKiver guides the state’s efforts to implement the Legislature’s revisions to civics graduation requirements and “centers those who have been historically marginalized.”

Brooklyn Terrill

Young Civic Leader: Brooklyn Terrill of Lincoln, for co-writing and lobbying for meaningful legislation. A University of Nebraska student, Terrill was key to passage of Legislative Bill 519, an immunity policy for certain drug and alcohol charges that could be prohibitive to a survivor or witness of sexual assault reporting the crime. Terrill also volunteers with a local sexual assault crisis line and serves on the student NU government liaison committee.

Jennifer Yi-We Hernandez

Guardian of Voting Rights: Jennifer Yi-We Hernandez of Omaha, for innovation to ensure accessibility to voting. As the pandemic struck, she created Ballot Buddies, a volunteer initiative to assist voters stuck at home with getting ballots submitted and counted. She recruits volunteers and provides nonpartisan education about the election process.


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site.

Cindy Gonzalez
Cindy Gonzalez

Senior Reporter Cindy Gonzalez, an Omaha native, has more than 35 years of experience, largely at the Omaha World-Herald. Her coverage areas have included business and real estate development; regional reporting; immigration, demographics and diverse communities; and City Hall and local politics. She has won awards from organizations including Great Plains Journalism, the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing (SABEW) and the Associated Press. Cindy has been recognized by various nonprofits for community contributions and diversity efforts. She chairs the board that oversees the local university’s student newspaper.