Virginia General Assembly Receives National Award


NCSL NewsHarrington Award Recognizes Efforts to Advance Understanding of Representative Democracy

Seattle—The Virginia General Assembly received the 2015 Kevin B. Harrington Award for Excellence in Democracy Education at the National Conference of State Legislatures’ (NCSL) 2015 Summit this month in Seattle. The Harrington Award is given each year to an individual or organization for advancing public understanding of state and local representative democracy.

The Virginia General Assembly was cited for its decades-long effort to promote civic education.  Special acknowledgement was given to four legislative staff—Bladen Finch, Senate Page Program director and Civics Coordinator; Jeffrey Finch, deputy clerk of the House; Nathan Hatfield, assistant clerk of the Senate; and Jay Pearson, director, House Information and Communication Services.  They were recognized for their exemplary work in organizing, packaging and marketing educational materials to legislators and students through the Virginia General Assembly’s website.

The website lists a multitude of resources and programs that promote civic involvement, such as:

  • America’s Back to School Program, which engages legislators with K-12 students to help them better understand what it’s like to be a legislator and to give their elected representatives feedback on important issues.
  • Capitol Semester, an internship program for college students in the legislative and executive branches of government.
  • Project Citizen, designed primarily for middle and high school students to promote responsible participation in state and local government.

In addition, the website contains puzzles and interactive games to help students learn how representative democracy works, including a board game on how a bill becomes a law, a civics IQ test, and activity books for younger students.

Kevin B. Harrington was a native of Salem, Mass. An educator by profession, he served as president of the Massachusetts Senate from 1971 to 1978. He was the founding president of NCSL in 1975.  Harrington was dedicated to improving citizens’ understanding of American democracy and believed government should play a significant role in promoting the civic education of its citizens. While serving in the legislature, he organized the Legislative Education Office, which is responsible for developing training for State House interns, the Citizens Legislative Seminar, and the NCSL Legislators Back to School program in Massachusetts. 

NCSL is a bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staffs of the states, commonwealths and territories. It provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues and is an effective and respected advocate for the interests of the states in the American federal system.