Each year at our Spotlight Gala, Voices for Children highlights individuals and organizations who find unique ways to reach out, serve and advocate for the best interests of children. We are proud to honor Former State Senator Jeremy Nordquist as the 2015 Champion for Children award recipient.
Elected to the Nebraska Legislature at 26, State Senator Jeremy Nordquist proved there is no age requirement for thoughtful policymaking. From the time he was sworn in to the legislature in 2009 to his resignation this June, Senator Nordquist has been an effective and tireless advocate for children and the driving force behind numerous policies that are making Nebraska a better place for families and kids.
After graduating from Creighton in 2004 and working as a Legislative Aide, Nordquist was urged to run for the state legislature by his then-boss, State Senator John Synowicki, who was term-limited. Since coming to the Legislature, Nordquist has thrived in Nebraska’s non-partisan unicameral model, where his exhaustive work and preparation in support of legislation and pragmatic approach to governance have made a remarkable difference in helping pass pro-family legislation.
One example is his role in helping children gain access to health services through School-Based Health Centers. For years, data has indicated challenges with children accessing the health services they need. Part of this is related to the difficulty working parents face in finding time away from their jobs to take their children to receive care or not knowing where to access care. In addition to limiting routine care for many children, this can also lead to more severe health problems that require ER visits.
In response to this issue, in 2010 Senator Nordquist sponsored LB1106, which called for the creation of School-Based Health Centers — on-site facilities in schools that promote the health and education success of school-aged children by supplementing health services a child may already have.
Nordquist testified during the bill introduction, “I believe that every child deserves an opportunity to have a healthy start at life, and the school setting is an appropriate and efficient site to deliver the needed care.”
Today, ten School Based Health Centers provide on-site medical services for more than 5,000 Omaha Public School students through a collaboration of the Omaha Public School District, OneWorld Community Health Centers and Charles Drew Community Health Center. For many kids, School Based Health Centers are a crucial link to essential health services. In schools with SBHCs, 90.5% of students are eligible for free or reduced lunch, approximately 30% of children are uninsured, and 60% are enrolled in Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Senator Nordquist’s role in creating School Based Health Centers is just one part of a career full of efforts to help Nebraska’s kids. While in the Legislature, Nordquist has sponsored or played a key role in successful efforts to remove barriers to saving in public programs, increase the minimum wage and preserve the increase for youth workers, provide drivers licenses for undocumented youth brought here as minors, address the “cliff effect” in child care, and ensure all low-income mothers receive prenatal care. In his professional life outside the Legislature, he has also worked to increase access to early childhood education.
When the sum of all his work is taken together, it becomes clear the substantial role Nordquist has played in getting us closer to a place where all Nebraska children have the opportunity to grow into healthy and successful adults.
On June 30, Senator Nordquist resigned from the Legislature but his work in governance will continue as Chief of Staff for Congressman Brad Ashford. Following his extremely effective tenure as a state senator, we are excited to see the difference Senator Nordquist can make on the federal level, and are honored to name him our 2015 Champion for Children.
The 2015 Spotlight Gala will be held Saturday, September 19. For additional information, click here.