Award Winners Named, Kid Governor® Program Underway

OKLAHOMA CITY – Following the 2022 Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) Fall Forum, we are still feeling overwhelmed with the number of positive solutions provided by the delegates who attended and shared input.

As the OICA team works to put these thoughts into a document for submission to lawmakers to hopefully file these ideas as bills for 2023, we hope to further collect input from advocates about issues facing Oklahoma’s children.

In addition to the policy work accomplished, our board of directors also selected four winners for awards presented at our conference. Due to scheduling conflicts, we decided to move the presentations of the awards to the lunch gathering held during our upcoming Legislative Learning Lab on the first Monday in February.

We look forward to hearing from each of the winners and highlighting their accomplishments. I am pleased to announce the 2022 winners here.

Our 2022 Jasmine and Melvin Moran Kidizenship Award winner is Connor Quintero. Connor started the “Boots for Bennie’s Barn” project which collected used boots from across the state and donated them to Bennie’s Barn facility in Enid. Bennie’s Barn is a therapeutic horseback riding facility that serves special needs youth and adults. Connor spends many hours working to support this mission and is an inspiration to those young people around him.

The recipient of the newly created Jari Askins Justice for Children Award is Timothy Michaels-Johnson. Timothy was the first dedicated child’s attorney employed by Tulsa Lawyers for Children and continues his outstanding work with this organization ensuring the effective and zealous representation of abused and neglected children in Tulsa County by recruiting, training, and assisting volunteer attorneys.

The Steven A. Novick Child Advocacy Award is presented to an advocate who works “behind the scenes” to ensure efforts are accomplished through either a volunteer or a professional mission to better the lives of children. Christina Kasti was selected as our winner this year. Christina is a board member of the Licensed Childcare Association of Oklahoma, and she also owns the largest licensed childcare facility in Oklahoma. Christina dedicates a tremendous amount of time through volunteer work and advocacy to see better for youth in childcare settings.

Our longest-standing award is the Laura Choate Resilience Award which recognizes an Oklahoman who has faced tremendous obstacles as a youth, but who has risen above those travails to help others. Courtney Gaines, our 2022 winner, has worked in conjunction with the National Down Syndrome Society to make HB1203, the Down Syndrome Information Act, a reality in Oklahoma. Courtney also works as an advocate for those with Down syndrome.

We look forward to highlighting each of these tremendous advocates at the 2023 Legislative Learning Lab (LLL), our conference established to help advocates better understand the legislative process. We will hold the first two days of LLL in a virtual setting, and then the final day will not only honor the above advocates, but we will also recognize outgoing Kid Governor® Charlotte Anderson and inaugurate our new Kid Governor®.

More than 1,000 5th-grade students are currently going through the educational component right now. These participating classrooms are studying civics education and the importance of voting. We will soon have our nominees selected for the students to vote on who they feel should be the next Kid Governor®. Each participating 5th grader will receive our civics-oriented comic book, Mighty Mia and Dyna-Bit Save Democracy, which encourages young people to be involved in government.

To learn more or contribute to expanding this program, please go to and click on the Kid Governor® link.

About OICA: The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy was established in 1983 by a group of citizens seeking to create a strong advocacy network that would provide a voice for the needs of children and youth in Oklahoma, particularly those in the state’s care and those growing up amid poverty, violence, abuse and neglect, disparities, or other situations that put their lives and future at risk. Our mission statement: “Creating awareness, taking action, and changing policy to improve the health, safety, and well-being of Oklahoma’s children.”