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Rosemary Rodriguez, executive director of census advocacy organization Together We Count, is one of eight recipients of the 2020 Governor's Citizenship Medal. (Photo courtesy of togetherwecount.org)

Eight of Colorado’s most exceptional leaders of 2020 have been awarded Governor’s Citizenship Medals, state officials announced Tuesday.

The leadership development group CiviCO teamed up with Gov. Jared Polis to honor seven individuals and one organization for providing much-needed leadership in an unprecedented year that included a global pandemic and widespread civic unrest.

“These eight remarkable leaders have paved the way for community advancement and put Colorado on the map for how individuals and organizations serve their communities and make statewide impact,” Polis said in a news release.

The recipients will be feted at a virtual event as part of Colorado Leadership Month, the release stated.

The Vanguard Legacy award, given to a business leader with a demonstrated record of community service, went to Polly Baca, President and CEO of Barragan Consultants. A longtime pioneer for both women and the Latino community, Baca was the first woman of color elected to the Colorado State Senate as well as the first female Chair of the Democratic Caucus of the state House of Representatives.

Thornton High School graduate and Harvard University freshman Ananda Birungi was given the Emerging Community Leader medal. Birungi, a Ugandan immigrant, was awarded for initiating several education-based projects at her school and in the community.

Former DaVita CEO Kent Thiry received the Growth & Innovation medal for helping establish two statewide ballot initiatives and founding several nonprofits dedicated to improving economic mobility for Colorado families.

Rosemary Rodriguez, the recipient of the Public & Community Service medal, is a longtime public servant and executive director of Together We Count, a nonprofit that advocates for fair representation in the national census.

VF Corporation, an outdoor apparel company headquartered in Denver, was given the Corporate Citizenship medal for contributing more than $20 million to organizations dedicated to the protection of outdoor spaces and “equity and belonging for all people.”

Two individuals and a philanthropic organization received COVID-19 Hero medals for their extraordinary work during the coronavirus pandemic: Colorado State Epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy; COVID response team leader Pat Myers; and the Colorado Health Foundation in Denver.

“The 2020 Medal recipients embody what it means not only to be a successful leader but more importantly, a significant leader for our state,” said Jennifer Landers, Executive Director of CiviCO.

The medal recipients will be featured in a Rocky Mountain PBS special on Jan. 14, and in the “What’s Your Story?” exhibit at the History Colorado Center, according to the release.

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