Making Democracy Work

13th Annual Susan B.Wilson Civic Education Merit Awards

Awards Information & Application

The South County Chapter of the League of Women Voters of RI proudly announces it is accepting nominations for the 13th Annual Susan B. Wilson Civic Merit Awards.


Deadline: Wednesday, April 22, 2020, 11:59PM



On June 6th at the Rhode Island State House, three teachers were awarded the Susan B. Wilson Civic Education Merit Awards.

1st Place. Lindsay Bliven and Courtney Moffitt Ashaway

Elementary School

2nd Place. Lesdin Salazar Central Falls High School

3rd Place. Michael Gleason and Mary Petrofes Westerly

High School

Lindsay Bliven and Courtney Moffitt exposed their students to the workings of local government by modeling a mock town council meeting encouraging students to experience the roles of all the participants. They involved a local town council representative to allow students an opportunity to understand the roles of town officials. These teachers are giving their students a gift by giving them an early start at civic responsibilities.

Lesdin Salazar worked with students to engage with issues of juvenile justice-a topic that grew only more salient with the recent debates about the Wyatt Detention Center which is adjacent to the school's soccer field. Students visited the offices of the National Juvenile Justice Network and the Justice Policy Institute to learn about pathways to reform. Students got trained on how to network with young professionals working on Capitol Hill, and trained in how to lobby at the Friends Committee on National Legislation.

In 2013 Mary Petrofes an English Teacher and Michael Gleason a Social Studies teacher created a combined freshman course which provided students an alternative to the conventional first year High School English and Social Studies experience. They teamed up to take learning beyond the four walls of a traditional classroom by partnering with the Refugee Center in Providence. Students worked with center staff and the people they serve. They interviewed people from the most war-torn corners of the world who seek a better life in America. Their students developed an appreciation for their struggles as well as for the institutions that keep the American dream a potential reality for those who seek refuge here, as well as for all Americans who seek it for themselves. The relationship that has been established between Westerly High School and the Refugee Centers has yielded untold benefits for both parties.


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 2020. An awards presentation ceremony will be held on Thursday, June 11, 2020, at the State House in Providence. The ceremony takes place in the Governor's Reception Room on the second floor at 3:00 PM sharp.



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.


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.