Meet the 2019 'Crosscut' Courage Awards Winners

Here are the six individuals chosen by the local online news outlet for their leadership and altruism
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This article appears in print in the November 2019 issue. Click here to subscribe.

Being courageous isn’t necessarily comfortable. Supporting a belief or a cause means taking a stand, speaking out and holding firm. It means advocating for others and tirelessly educating. It takes fearless determination and steadfast patience. Not everyone is up for the challenge. Luckily, some are.

Meet six individuals boldly leading and selflessly serving—all for the greater good. Crosscut’s 2019 Courage Award winners, nominated by the community and selected by an independent panel of community leaders, were honored at the Crosscut Courage Awards breakfast on October 17.

Photo courtesy of Crosscut

David Brewster Lifetime Achievement Award
Bobbe Bridge
Founder of the Center for Children & Youth Justice and retired Washington Supreme Court justice

Eyeing retirement in 2005, Bobbe Bridge had a lot to look back on. She spent 14 years as an attorney in private practice, 10 years on the King County Superior Court and eight more as a state Supreme Court justice. Still, Bridge felt she had more to contribute.

Bridge founded the Center for Children & Youth Justice in 2006, a nonprofit designed to rethink society’s approach to juvenile justice and child welfare. She then spent the next 12 years reforming both.

Bridge officially retired earlier this year, but she continues to serve on community and public agency boards.

Photo courtesy of Crosscut

Courage in Public Service
Rex Hohlbein
Founder of Facing Homelessness and Block Architects

It was after Rex Hohlbein had moved his successful residential architecture firm into a space along the Ship Canal in Fremont that his career took a dramatic turn.

As he spent his days designing high-end homes for multimillionaires, Hohlbein watched people experiencing homelessness struggle just outside his door. He started visiting them during his coffee breaks. Before long, his office had become the unofficial hub for folks seeking a cup of tea, a snack or a place to dry off and regroup.

Hohlbein eventually quit his job as a designer and launched the nonprofit Facing Homelessness, which has served as an umbrella organization for community cleanup events, the Just Say Hello campaign and, most recently, The Block Project, which brings together homeowners and unhoused Seattleites to create permanent backyard living spaces.

Photo courtesy of Crosscut

Courage in Culture
Delbert Richardson
Founder of The Unspoken Truths American History Traveling Museum

Many of the artifacts in Delbert Richardson’s Unspoken Truths American History Traveling Museum are scarring reminders of a sadistic past, such as a runaway slave collar and a branding iron. But just as many of those objects are meant to inspire.

When Richardson speaks to rooms full of young people or groups of teachers, he likes to point to posters of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, video game technology designer Jerry Lawson and other prominent black people who have contributed significantly to modern American life. He’s not surprised to find that few people have heard of them.

“My goal is to share information in a way that creates curiosity,” Richardson says. “Hopefully, it encourages them to embark on their own journey of self-discovery.”

Richardson’s museum has grown in popularity through the years, and his once youth-centric presentations have evolved to include workshops and trainings for adults.

Photo courtesy of Crosscut

Courage in Business
Louise Chernin
CEO of the Greater Seattle Business Association

Tt was 1974, and Louise Chernin was a widow with two children—her youngest only 4 months old—when she realized her identity had died with her husband. Suddenly without a mister, she discovered she had few rights because she was no longer married to a man. She was unable to get a credit card in her name, and the phone company now required a deposit on a phone she’d had for three years.

“It plunged me into a rage about the second-class status of women,” says Chernin, the self-described lesbian feminist who took the helm of the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA) in 2002.

In the years since Chernin ascended to the CEO position, the GSBA has grown to be the largest LGBTQ chamber of commerce in North America, and one of the largest chambers of commerce in Washington state.

Photo courtesy of Crosscut 

Courage in Elected Office
Mary Yu
Washington Supreme Court justice

Justice Mary Yu holds a lot of “firsts”: first Latina American, first Asian American and first openly LGBTQ member of the Washington Supreme Court. While she downplays her notability as a matter of opportunity and timing, she knows her firsts come with a heavy responsibility.

Yu worked in the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office before moving to King County Superior Court. She spent 14 years as a judge there before her appointment to the Washington Su-preme Court.

“The pressure is on, in a sense, that being first means making sure someone else is going to be a second and a third. It’s making sure others can look at me and say, ‘I have a shot at the Washington state Supreme Court, too,’” says Yu, who is proudest of the high court’s decisions that have brought justice to the underserved and underrepresented.

Photo courtesy of Crosscut

Courage in Technology
Kieran Snyder
CEO and cofounder of Textio

Kieran Snyder held project leadership roles at Microsoft and Amazon before founding Textio, an “augmented writing platform” that works like an automated writing coach. Snyder is passionate about introducing girls to technology—and making sure they continue to flourish in the field as they enter the workforce.

“Lots of girls like math, learn to code and even enter college with plans for STEM majors,” Snyder says. “It’s what they encounter later on that slows them down.”

Snyder aims to close the gender gap in the technology sector and empower girls to reach for the stars. She has served as a girls’ basketball coach for 30 years, and is one of several mentors with The Ella Project, a comic book series (featuring Ella the Engineer) created to encourage young kids, specifically girls, to pursue careers in coding, science, engineering, arts and entrepreneurship.

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