Some people are just born with an advocate’s spirit. Such is the case with Dr. Donna Polk, the recipient of the 2014 Spotlight Gala Award for Lifetime Achievement.
When she was bullied as a kindergartner, Donna remembers wailing a stick in self-defense and then becoming friends with the girl who bullied her. Donna’s heroics may have started on the childhood playground, but they didn’t end there.
Born into a military family in Denver, Donna moved to Omaha with her late husband and two of her four sons in 1964. Sargent Polk had been transferred to the Nike Hercules missile site near Louisville, NE. She and her family were informed that “colored” people could not live in Louisville and they were directed to the projects in North Omaha. Donna said it was a wonderful experience.
Donna became a champion for the marginalized and disenfranchised, advocating on numerous issues ranging from sexual assault and domestic violence to health care and equality. She helped state senators understand the need to revise assault and domestic violence to protect victims. She lobbied for the passage of the Landlord Tenant Act. She supported the implementation of the Mother Off-Spring Development Program at the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women. She became the first woman to chair the Lincoln Lancaster County Board of Health.
After years of social advocacy and work in the health care field, Donna received her Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska. Donna, who values her African-American and Native American heritage, has been the CEO of the Nebraska Urban Indian Health Coalition for 23 years. This organization elevates the health status of Urban Indians to the highest level possible by offering primary care services, residential treatment, and transportation, among other services.
With topics ranging from equality to healthcare to justice, Donna has been constantly vigilant and unafraid to demand change – and she isn’t done yet. We can’t wait to see what’s next.
For her tireless advocacy for fairness and justice for Nebraska children, we are proud to recognize Dr. Donna Polk as the recipient of the 2014 Spotlight Gala Lifetime Achievement Award.