Advocates recognized for help in knocking down legal barriers to education in Nebraska
OMAHA — Four Nebraska advocates, including two state senators, have been recognized by the nonprofit Education Rights Counsel for efforts to remove legal barriers to educational equity.
The Education Rights group, which focuses on advocacy and legal representation for under-resourced Nebraska public school students, presented the Aequitas Awards Nov. 16 during its annual fundraiser, Rooted in Action.
The Ambassador for Youth Rights award winner is Carley Starling, a psychologist who is clinical director for Boys Town Behavioral Health Clinic in Grand Island. For more than 20 years, the Education Rights group said, Starling has been advocating for the rights of children and families as a foster parent, sign language interpreter and applied behavior analyst and psychologist.
The Advocacy in Education winner is the Children’s Justice Clinic, which is a partnership between the University of Nebraska College of Law and the Center on Children, Families and the Law. The clinic, run by Michelle Paxton, provides opportunity and mentorship for third-year law students to serve as guardians ad litem in Nebraska’s Juvenile Court system.
A Community Champion award went to State Sen. Terrell McKinney of Omaha, who the group described as a devoted father, community organizer, activist and wrestling coach in the North Omaha community. Prior to being elected to the Legislature, McKinney, who is pursuing a law degree, worked on organizing efforts for causes such as food insecurity and Medicaid expansion.
A Community Champion award also went to State Sen.Danielle Conrad of Lincoln, a civil rights attorney who is serving her third term in the Legislature. Described as a lawmaker who reaches across political party lines, the group credits Conrad for introducing a new child tax credit this year in Nebraska and for expanding health care, strengthening the social safety net and educational equity.