Meet the winners of the 2018 Courage Awards

These remarkable individuals have one thing in common: a bold determination to lift up those often unheard, to have faith in those others doubt, and to persevere when everyone says it’s all for naught.

Among the five Crosscut Courage Awards winners is Creative Justice, an organization recognized in the Courage in Culture category. From left to right: Nikkita Oliver, Aaron Counts, Kardea Buss, Jordan Howland, and Heidi Jackson of Creative Justice. (Photo by Matt M. McKnight/Crosscut)

Among the five Crosscut Courage Awards winners is Creative Justice, an organization recognized in the Courage in Culture category. From left to right: Nikkita Oliver, Aaron Counts, Kardea Buss, Jordan Howland, and Heidi Jackson of Creative Justice. (Photo by Matt M. McKnight/Crosscut)

The Crosscut Courage Award honorees span the spectrum, from business owner and political newcomer to youth supporter and longtime public office holder. The one thing they all have in common is a bold determination to lift up those often unheard, to have faith in those others doubt, and to persevere when everyone says it’s all for naught.

Winners were nominated by the community and selected by an independent panel of community leaders.

Daniel J. Evans, former governor

David Brewster Lifetime Achievement Award

Dan Evans has spent a lifetime in politics, serving in the Washington State House of Representatives, as governor of Washington state, and in the U.S. Senate. 

During his three consecutive terms as governor, from 1965 to 1977, the Seattle native was instrumental in aiding thousands of Vietnamese refugees, creating the foundation for a resettlement program that still exists today.

A lifelong outdoorsman, Evans wrote the Washington State Wilderness Act, which protected more than a million acres of national forest lands in 1984. He was a key figure in creating North Cascades National Park, the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and the scenic corridor in the Columbia River Gorge.

Last year, in honor of the Republican’s history of conservation advocacy, the wilderness area within Olympic National Park was renamed the Daniel J. Evans Wilderness.

Evans’ connection to the outdoors was established as a child, when spent time in the Olympics as a Boy Scout. “I fell in love with the mountains,” he says, “and I’ve been hiking and climbing ever since.”

Beto Yarce, executive director, Ventures

Courage in Business

Beto Yarce considered himself luckier than most immigrants when he came to the U.S. from Mexico 15 years ago. His education, his English language skills and the financial support of his family allowed him to maneuver through the many roadblocks on his path to entrepreneurship. But he saw the hardships others faced, and did something about it.

What started as a volunteer position with the workers’ rights organization Casa Latina, helping undocumented immigrants start their own businesses, led to a paid position with Ventures, a nonprofit agency that offers microloans, technical assistance, business developing training, coaching, and other business services to low-income and immigrant populations.

Today, Yarce is the executive director of Ventures, where he has helped launch hundreds of new businesses in the Puget Sound region by offering loans between $1,000 and $35,000.

“A lot of people talk about giving people a second chance,” says Yarce. “Many of [our clients] never even had a first chance. I want to change that.”

Creative Justice, community art program

Courage in Culture

Creative Justice is a community art program that offers young people in trouble a chance to avoid probation or time in juvenile jail. The group’s main tool: art.

The program, formed in 2015, was borne out of both concern for responsible stewardship of public art funds and the debate surrounding construction of the county’s new Children and Family Justice Center, known by critics as the “youth jail.” Participants engage with local artists in a 12- to 16-week-long program, creating a project or presentation that explores themes that affect the cohort’s daily lives, including gentrification and the school-to-prison pipeline. The program also helps to reinforce social skills and behaviors that help participants make positive life choices.

But Aaron Counts, the program’s lead artist, stresses that the emphasis of Creative Justice is to help chart a new, more humane path for the nation’s justice system "and to challenge local judges and prosecutors to view our youth with a wider lens.”

The results have been promising. In 2016, 48 youth participants referred to Creative Justice brought with them a total of 72 charges; of those, 39 charges were dismissed, and 13 felonies were reduced to misdemeanors. “Through incarceration, people are removed from the community,” says Counts. “This is bringing people closer together.”

Tim Burgess, former Seattle city councilmember

Courage in Elected Office

Asked about his proudest moments during nearly 10 years on Seattle’s City Council, Tim Burgess cites the strides he made to benefit some of the city’s youngest residents.

Burgess was the mastermind of a 2014 policy that brought free or subsidized preschool to low-income families, an effort that had to overcome fierce opposition from labor unions, who presented a competing initiative. The City says that the program, up for renewal this November as a part of the city’s Families and Education Levy, has benefitted around 1,700 students, a number they expect to grow by the beginning of this school year.

Burgess stepped down from politics after a brief stint as the city’s mayor in 2017, appointed after former Mayor Ed Murray resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct. He was the second longest-sitting member on the then-present city council.

A former radio journalist, ad agency owner and Seattle police officer, Burgess is known among his council peers as a collaborator and a consensus builder. “You have to learn to get along with people,” he says, “or you’re not going to get much done.”

Lauren Davis, activist

Courage in Public Service

Lauren Davis stood by the side of her best friend, Ricky Garcia, as suicide attempts and a debilitating alcohol and opiate addiction sent him to the hospital countless times. But no matter how dire his situation, Washington state law would not allow him to be involuntarily committed to addiction care.

Davis found this to be unacceptable, and fought to create a law that would allow those struggling with a substance abuse disorder to receive the addiction treatment they needed. Ricky’s Law, which passed in 2016 and went into effect this past April, calls for the construction of nine inpatient addiction treatment facilities (seven for adults, two for adolescents) and earmarks an unprecedented $57 million in state and federal dollars per biennium for addiction treatment.

In March, Davis announced her candidacy for the 32nd legislative district in the Washington state House of Representatives, where she hopes to continue to advocate for those unable to help themselves. “[This journey] gave me unwavering hope that no one, no one, has fallen too far to recover,” she says.

Trish Millines Dziko, Technology Access Foundation Founder

Courage in Technology

From the day Trish Millines Dziko started working in the tech industry in the late 1970s, she noticed the lack of people of color in the field. While her career took her to companies both large and small, including Computer Sciences Corporation, Hughes Aircraft Company, Fortune Systems, TeleCalc, and Microsoft, the industry’s lack of diversity stayed constant.

Dziko eventually left the industry and started the nonprofit Technology Access Foundation (TAF) in an effort to create opportunities for students of color to engage with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. Since TAF’s start in 1996, around 15,000 students have been educated through the foundation, which includes a 6th – 12th grade academy and several “transformation” schools. Additionally, TAF provides a teacher training institute and a fellowship program for educators. Almost all TAF students have attended college.

“We got kids thinking they could do something completely different,” Dziko says, “things society has been telling them they couldn’t do.”

Buy tickets to the Courage Award Breakfast

2018 Courage Awards are sponsored by:

Funders for Courage Awards

Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


About the Authors & Contributors

default profile image

Sheila Cain

Sheila Cain worked as an editor at McGraw-Hill for seven years, and now focuses her efforts on the construction, lifestyle and general business industries as a freelance writer. Her stories have appeared in numerous national and international trade magazines, as well as in local publications. She lives in Seattle’s Phinney Ridge neighborhood with her husband and 15-year-old son.