PROVIDENCE, RI – This afternoon, Secretary of State Gregg M. Amore presented National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) Medallion Awards, as well as the NASS John Lewis Youth Leadership Award, to honorees at a State House ceremony.
NASS Medallion Awards are presented by Secretaries of State to individuals or organizations for excellence in categories closely related to the goals of NASS, including elections, civic education, state government services, and philanthropy.
"It's a great honor to present awards to these individuals and organizations who have contributed so much to our Rhode Island community, whether it be through civic education, voting access, or business services," said Secretary of State Gregg M. Amore. "Civic engagement takes many forms, and the entire RI Department of State is grateful for the contributions of these honorees."
This year, Secretary Amore presented NASS Medallion Awards to the following individuals and organizations:
- Bob Cooper, former Executive Secretary of the Governor's Commission on Disabilities, for more than 45 years of dedicated service to improving the lives of individuals with disabilities, including a strong commitment to making voting accessible.
- Chanda Womack, founding Executive Director of the Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education (ARISE), for her organization's efforts under her leadership to ensure civics education for all students in Rhode Island, as well as the creation of "Gen Z Votes," a virtual campaign to promote voter registration and first-time voting.
- Daniel Holmander, shareholder and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office registered patent attorney at Adler Pollock & Sheehan P.C., who volunteers his time and expertise to help Rhode Islanders complete trademark applications at monthly free legal clinics hosted by the RI Department of State Business Services Division.
- AARP Rhode Island, for their partnership in ensuring older adults in Rhode Island have access to voting through advocacy for legislation such as the Let Rhode Island Vote Act, which expanded voter access and elections security, as well as communications initiatives like tele-town halls featuring Secretary Amore and informational elections advertising.
- Progreso Latino, for their dedication to Rhode Island's Latino and immigrant communities and work to support greater self-sufficiency and socio-economic progress by providing transformational programs that support personal growth and social change.
In addition, Secretary Amore presented the NASS John Lewis Youth Leadership Award to the fourteen youth plaintiffs in the 2018 Cook vs. McKee lawsuit.
The plaintiffs, mostly representing low-income and minority communities, filed a class action lawsuit against the State of Rhode Island in November of 2018, alleging that the State had violated their rights under the United States Constitution by failing to provide them an adequate civic education, because their education should prepare them to become competent and effective citizens in our democracy.
Though the U.S. District Court and the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not rule in favor of the plaintiffs, the case led to a settlement with the State of Rhode Island on June 15, 2022. Under the terms of the settlement, the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) incorporated the Diploma Seal of Civic Readiness for graduating seniors, established a civics award program to recognize middle school students, and appointed a Civic Readiness Task Force that includes students, parents, educators, community members, and advocacy organizations. Simultaneously, the General Assembly passed the Civic Literacy Act in 2021, which establishes civic education proficiency as a graduation requirement.
Honorees received their awards at a ceremony in the State Library.
To learn more about NASS and NASS awards, visit https://www.nass.org/about-nass/awards.