OLYMPIA—This past Monday at the Civic Education Day luncheon in the Columbia room of the Capitol, Melissa Hernández, a Panamanian who ended up residing in Wenatchee, was chosen to receive the state’s top civic educator award.
Melissa Hernández, Family Services Specialist for the Wenatchee School District, has worked to spread awareness and educate individuals on the value of being informed and active citizens. She co-chaired the North Central Washington Interagency Council Network, where she seamlessly coordinated among social service agencies. She is a facilitator and trainer for the Wenatchee School District Migrant/Bilingual Parent Advisory Committee, to educate parents on how to best navigate the educational system, how to become their child’s best advocate and how to be active partners in education. Melissa also co-founded the Emerging Leaders Alliance to encourage young professionals in the community to become informed, involved, and active citizens.
State Rep. Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney (D-Seattle), who entered two nominees, both Latinas, for educator of the year, said of Melissa that she “is a role model in many respects as a teacher, mentor, and community activist. She has touched the lives of many students and parents by providing programs and encouragement in the areas of education, civic and community involvement. I am so proud to see her get this well-deserved recognition.”
In 2001 Melissa Hernández became a Cultural Awareness Training co-facilitator for the Wenatchee School District Staff. During the time Wenatchee’s Spanish-language newspaper, Informe Hispano was in circulation, she wrote a monthly education column. She has also been the host of a live radio show “Cafecito Educativo” on La Super Zeta Spanish-language radio station for five consecutive years on behalf of the Wenatchee School District.
For ten years Melissa Hernandez spearheaded a class on navigating systems in our democracy — from social services and city government to K-12 and higher education. She also developed and coordinated student leadership and civic conferences for students in middle schools and high schools.
Melissa Hernández is the sixth recipient of this prestigious accolade since the Washington State Legislature began granting this award in 2007. The award recognizes an educator in the state who has been most involved in teaching youth about government at the state and local levels.
While Gutiérrez Kenney’s other nominee, María Gillman, didn’t win the top award, she was one of the finalists in this year’s competition. Gillman lives in Seattle and is a Senior Lecturer in the Division of Spanish and Portuguese Studies at the University of Washington.
Each year, award recipients are chosen by the Civics Consortium, which is made up of representatives from civics organizations and programs like the House/Senate Civics Programs, the Page School, Legislative Information Center, Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, TVW, Secretary of State’s Office, the Administrative Office of the Courts, YMCA Youth & Government, and Washington 4-H, among a few others.