Aug. 26, 2013
Anne Ziaja Awarded the National Trust for Representative Democracy's Kevin B. Harrington Award for Excellence in Democracy Education
Anne Ziaja of Dracut, who directs the Massachusetts Senate Legislative Education Office, received the Kevin B. Harrington Award for Excellence in Democracy Education at the National Conference of State Legislatures’ (NCSL) 2013 Summit this month in Atlanta. Sponsored by NCSL’s Trust for Representative Democracy, the national award recognizes an individual or organization for advancing the public’s understanding of state and local representative democracy.
Harrington, the founding president of NCSL, was dedicated to improving citizens’ understanding of American democracy. Ziaja received the honor bearing his name for exemplifying the same passionate commitment to excellence in democracy education.
“To receive the Harrington Award and be honored on a national level is a highlight of my career,” said Ziaja. “Advancing the understanding of representative democracy, and the rights and responsibilities we enjoy, assures that we will have an informed citizenry. I have been fortunate to work with many senators, representatives and legislative staff to educate Massachusetts residents about our state legislature, and give them the tools they need to engage.”
Ziaja has worked in the Legislative Education Office for 35 years, advancing civic education for countless young people, high school and college interns, and adults.
Notably, Ziaja has consistently achieved 100 percent participation by Massachusetts senators in NCSL’s America’s Legislators Back to School program, which is designed to teach young people— the nation's future voters and leaders—the role and responsibilities of a state legislator.
Ziaja also spearheads a number of other civics programs at the Massachusetts State House including the Senate’s Citizens' Legislative Seminar, a two-day program through which participants learn about the state legislative process and engage with legislators and staff.
Additionally, Ziaja works with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to coordinate the annual Student Government Day which brings hundreds high school students to the State House each spring to play the role of legislators, justices and constitutional officers in mock hearings and sessions.
Finally, Ziaja directs the Massachusetts Senate Internship Program, overseeing dozens of college and graduate interns who are placed in legislative offices throughout the year. During the summer, Ziaja runs a speaker series, offering 70 individual seminars during which elected officials, from state senators and representatives to the Governor of the Commonwealth, to speak with interns about public service, government, policy and other related topics. More than 300 students participated during the 2013 program.
“Anne Ziaja has worked tirelessly over the years to help educate young people in Massachusetts about democracy in general, and the legislative process in particular,” said state Senate President Pro Tempore Richard T. Moore, D-Uxbridge, a past President of NCSL. “The state’s young people will be better prepared to lead us through future challenges in large part due to Anne’s efforts.”
“We are so lucky to have Anne Ziaja as a Senate employee, and I am lucky to have her as a constituent,” said state Sen. Barry R. Finegold, D-Andover, the senator representing Ziaja’s hometown of Dracut. “Her efforts in advancing civic education with Senate interns and through the Citizens' Legislative Seminar is incredibly important work, and she does an exceptional job.”
Kevin B. Harrington was a native of Salem, Massachusetts. An educator by profession, he served as president of the Massachusetts Senate from 1971 to 1978. 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. He was a leading advocate of civic education and believed government should play a significant role in promoting the civic education of its citizens.
Nominations were reviewed by a special committee of legislators and legislative staff appointed by the NCSL president and the NCSL staff chair.
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.