The Lawrence Journal-World has been selected as the 2003 recipient of the Kids Voting USA Jim Batten Media Partnership Award.
The national award -- given to a news media professional or entity for exceptional service to a state or local Kids Voting program -- will be presented June 21 during the national Kids Voting convention in St. Paul, Minn.
"I am thrilled that the Lawrence Journal-World has been nationally recognized for all of the hard work it has put into Kids Voting for the past 10 years," said Emily Bradbury, executive director of Kids Voting Kansas. "There is not one newspaper in the country that deserves it more."
The national program is designed to help students begin early to develop a lifelong habit of voting -- usually with the side benefit of increasing their parents' involvement in the electoral process.
Kids Voting began in Lawrence in 1992 as a pilot project for the program that went statewide a few years later.
In Lawrence that first year, more than 4,500 students turned out to cast ballots in the November presidential election -- in the process boosting voter registration to record levels in Douglas County. Thousands more have cast ballots in elections since.
Of the newspaper's support for the program, Kids Voting Kansas said:
"From complete financial support to logistical coordination, the Journal-World has made, and continues to make, the Kids Voting Kansas-Douglas County program possible."
Dolph Simons III, the newspaper's operations manager, has served as chairman of the local Kids Voting Committee since it began.
He said the award was a compliment to everyone at the Journal-World, but that there were many others in Lawrence who played roles in developing the program -- and who share the honor.
"From the outset, Ruthi Rapp has been a tremendous help," Simons said. Until she retired two years ago, Rapp was the Lawrence school district's social studies coordinator and long was its liaison to Kids Voting. She's still active with the program.
Simons also noted contributions of all members of the Douglas County Kids Voting committee, the Roger Hill Volunteer Center, school administrators, teachers, parents and volunteers.
"This is a wonderful program, and the best award for all of us is if it results in more kids and their parents taking a greater interest in our elections -- local, state and nationally -- becoming well-informed and expressing their opinions and concerns at the voting booth," he said.
Simons added that it was a special honor to win an award carrying the name of the late Jim Batten, the former chairman of Knight-Ridder Inc. and a pioneer in the civic journalism movement.
"He was an acquaintance and friend of several of us here at the Journal-World, and he was truly an outstanding newspaper executive," Simons said. "He was an example of journalistic excellence which continues to be a standard for others to match."