Making Democracy Work

12th Annual Susan B.Wilson Civic Education Merit Awards

Awards Information & Application

Presented by the League of Women Voters South County


Deadline: Tuesday, April 30, 2019, 11:59PM



On June 7th at the Rhode Island State House, three teachers were awarded the Susan B. Wilson Civic Education Merit Awards.

1st Place. Christine Bernardo Jamestown Lawn Ave School

2nd Place. Jennifer Haskell Middletown High School

3rd Place. Seth Kolker Central Falls High School

Christine Bernardo and Students

Christine Bernardo created civic lessons for all student levels beginning with introductory civics for the nascent student citizens, continuing with students at the helm, stating and proving their claims and finally and most importantly, actively participating in their community and beyond, to effect positive change.

Jennifer Haskell and Award Presenter Christine Davidson

Jennifer Haskell's tireless work illustrates to our students that active learning extends beyond the 1:55 afternoon bell or the June dismissal for summer recess. Mrs. Haskell's "Program" is a resounding success. By constantly reshaping the Current World Issues course and guiding field trips so that all students can experience history, Mrs. Haskell creatively finds ways to make our academic offerings more interesting and history more accessible to all kinds of learners. By serving as advisor to after school clubs such as the Model UN, Class of 2020, and the newly established Political Action Group, she authors a variety of moments where kids can find ways to make their voices heard in our community. And finally, by keeping an eye out for partnerships and professional development opportunities, she forges relationships which allow her students to speak with figures who are playing a role in government today.

Seth Kolker and Students

Seth Kolker and his students co-founded an after-school course this year entitled "How to Change the World." The goal of the program is simple and bold: by the end of the year, students will have a working theory of how they want to change the world. All year, they meet with inspiring activists, lawyers, business and non-profit leaders, community volunteers, and elected officials who work for local change. In April, they travel to Washington, DC for a week long trip that students design and plan themselves. Upon returning to Rhode Island, students apply what they have learned to carry out capstone projects to boost civic engagement and change their own community for the better.


The education of every child should include civics education. An educated electorate is the cornerstone of our democracy and educating students, some of whom are about to vote for the first time, about the importance of their responsibility as citizens and voters is crucial.

To encourage teachers engaged in this endeavor and to honor exceptional work in this area, the League of Women Voters South County (LWVSC) is sponsoring the Susan B. Wilson Civic Education Merit Awards with funding from the League of Women Voters Rhode Island Education Fund.


The intention of these awards is to honor three individual Rhode Island educators or teams of educators whose teaching exhibits extraordinary ability and innovation, and fulfills one or more of the following criteria:

  • Enriches students' understanding of their own civic rights and responsibilities;

  • Encourages students' civic participation;

  • Brings context and relevance to pivotal civic events--historic and/or current--affecting the United States on a national, regional, statewide, or local level;

  • Promotes understanding and appreciation of individuals who play a role in aforementioned pivotal civic events.


  • Any individual educator or team of educators teaching in a Rhode Island school (preK - 12th grade) is eligible to apply for the merit awards on his/her/the group's own behalf.

  • Any RI resident or RI group/organization may apply for the merit awards on behalf of an educator or team of educators teaching in a Rhode Island school upon consent of that person or teaching team.


Through a review of submitted on-line applications three individual Rhode Island teachers or team of teachers will be selected to receive a financial merit award. Award recipients will be ranked in the following manner:

  • First Place: Grand Prize, $1,000
  • Second Place: Jury Prize, $500
  • Third Place: Honorable Mention, $250

Because this is a merit award in recognition for what a teacher has accomplished, the manner in which funds from this award are spent are left exclusively to the discretion of the recipients.

There will be three judges, one of whom may be a member of the LWVRI Board of Directors or its designee.

Award decisions will be announced in mid-May 2018. An awards presentation ceremony will be held on Thursday, June 7, 2018, at the State House in Providence. The ceremony takes place in the Governor's Reception Room on the second floor at 4:30 PM.



The online application form consists of two parts:

  • Applicant/Nominee(s) Information
  • Descriptive Narrative


The online form submission should include the following information:

  • Name of individual or group submitting the application;
  • Name of merit award nominee(s), job title(s), home mailing address(es), e-mail(s) and phone number(s);
  • Name, address and phone number of nominee(s)'s school;
  • Name of the individual to be the primary contact (designated contact) along with e-mail address and phone number.


To allow the greatest flexibility in presenting important details, applicants must submit a descriptive narrative of the work relevant to the aforementioned criteria. This work will be referred to as "the program." The narrative may be composed within the online form or downloaded as a completed word document.

Some useful information to include in the narrative is listed below. It is not necessary or expected to address every bullet point specifically. The purpose of this list is to help with the composition of the narrative so that the details will illustrate the relevance, distinctiveness and effectiveness of "the program."

  • Description of the educator's career development and interest in civic education;
  • Number and demographic description of students effected by "the program;"
  • The goal or purpose of "the program;"
  • How long has "the program" been implemented and describe how it has evolved and improved;
  • Description of how "the program's" effectiveness is monitored within a school year and/or from year-to-year;
  • What information is gathered from monitoring "the program" and describe how this information helps to improve "the program;"
  • Statistical/anecdotal information illustrating highlights of the program and/or distinctive nature of "the program;"
  • Public recognition of the value of "the program" in the school's community -- locally or wider in scope;
  • What about "the program" is worth replicating in other schools and describe how viable such replication would be.


All RI educators and the individuals or groups who nominate them are encouraged to apply annually, although award recipients are not eligible to apply for the three (3) consecutive terms following receipt of their merit prize. Applications received between August 19, 2017 and April 30, 2018 are eligible for the 2017-2018 term.


To contact The League of Women Voters South County about anything related to these awards, email and include a phone number.

Eligibility disclaimer:
1. Family members of LWVRI Education Fund Board of Directors, LWVRI Operating Board of Directors or LWVSC dues paying members are not eligible to receive these awards.
2. Awarding of prizes will be at the discretion of the panel of judges, including that no prizes may be awarded.


Susan B. Wilson, a founding member of the League of Women Voters South County, was a passionate proponent for education and civic engagement. In 1964, she helped organize the local chapter of the League and, when the state switched from paper ballots to mechanical voting machines, she made sure voters knew how to use the new technology. She held workshops for adults in the local schools and was tireless in her work and commitment to voter service and education. In naming these awards in honor of Susan B. Wilson, the League of Women Voters of South County acknowledges the importance of her work for the League and for the values of voter education and civic engagement, which she espoused.