Introducing the 2013 Jim Wolf Equal Justice Award honoree – Sen. John Harms

On October 10, we will celebrate the outstanding contributions of Nebraskans who have stood up for justice and opportunity for all at the 2013 Good Apple Awards in Omaha.  In the days leading up to the Good Apple Awards, we are proud to introduce you to the honorees we are recognizing this year.

The Jim Wolf Equal Justice Award recognizes a Nebraskan who has made significant contributions to justice for all throughout his or her career in the spirit of the late Jim Wolf, a founding Appleseed board member who possessed a lifelong dedication to promoting the common good. The individual should be someone who, like Jim, stepped outside of the comfort of their day-to-day lives and, without thought for their own economic or political gain, devoted themselves to public service to benefit the common good while heeding the call to respond to adversarial and difficult circumstances facing others.

Sen. John HarmsThis year, Appleseed is incredibly proud to recognize State Senator John Harms with the Jim Wolf Equal Justice Award.

A native of Bayard, Neb., Senator Harms has represented Legislative District 48 in the Nebraska Legislature since 2007. Senator Harms serves as the Chairman of the Legislature’s Legislative Performance Audit Committee and the Legislature’s Planning Committee, while also serving as Vice Chair of the Appropriations Committee. He also serves on the Education Commission of the States and the Tax Modernization Committee.

Access to education is a passion of Senator Harms. Since joining the Legislature in 2007, he has been one of the strongest champions for access to education for adults with low incomes. Each year, Senator Harms has brought forward legislation to further open the door to education and training for low-income adults, allowing more Nebraskans the chance to improve their skills, find meaningful employment, and achieve economic stability.

Believing firmly that education is one of the surest paths out of poverty, Senator Harms has introduced and built consensus on multiple pieces of legislation to allow Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) program participants to pursue and prioritize an Associate’s Degree, GED, or high school diploma as a primary work activity. He worked for several years to to pass legislation to extend the time parents could take to get an Associates degree from 12 to 36 months creating a meaningful opportunity for some parents to change the course of their lives.   Shortly after that, he passed legislation to allow older youth to complete high school before having to engage in other work activities and to allow ADC recipients to pursue a GED as a primary work activity.

Because of Senator Harms’ efforts, thousands of low-income Nebraskans participating in the ADC program have the opportunity to pursue higher education as a path out of poverty, become financially secure, and achieve the American Dream.

Education isn’t Senator Harms’ only priority. He has been a strong voice for health care access for low-income Nebraskans and strongly supported the bill to restore prenatal care (LB 599) to more than 1,500 low-income mothers and babies. On the Appropriations Committee, he has judiciously protected funding for education and vital human service needs.  And as one of the founders of the Legislature’s Planning Committee, he has worked to ensure the Legislature maintains a sound, long-term vision for Nebraska.

Senator Harms is a graduate of Chadron State College with a B.S. and M.S. in secondary education, and an Ed. D. in higher education administration. Senator Harms has served numerous roles in education from a high school teacher in Gering, Director of Housing and Financial Aid at Chadron State College, Dean of Students and Dean of Instruction in Norfolk, and ultimately President of McCook Community College from 1973 to 1976, and the President of Western Nebraska Community College from 1976 to 2006.

In a 2007 interview, Senator Harms told the Unicameral Update that his experience teaching at Gering High School for three years led him to pursue more education. His goal, he explained, was to be able to play a more active role in changing education policy.

Senator Harms has proven to be diligent and thoughtful in his approach, always asking, “What does the research and data show?” He looks for common sense and sound policy, and, at the end of the day, is motivated by what is in the best interests of the people he serves.

He is a leader who has a vision for our state and how it can be a stronger, better place. For that, we are proud to recognize Senator Harms with the Jim Wolf Equal Justice Award.

Join us in honoring Senator Harms at the Good Apple Awards on Thursday, October 10, 2013! Purchase your tickets today!

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