Eastern Hosts Civics Day for West Valley Students

13th Annual visit to campus gives kids a lesson in civics

February 13, 2023 By Morgan Henderson

Eastern Washington University welcomed Washington State Supreme Court Justice Debra Stephens – along with approximately 100 students from the West Valley School District —  for its 13th annual Civics Conference on Feb. 10. 

Justice Stephens speaks to students from the West Valley School District

Stephens, a West Valley alumna, has been a member of the court since January 2008.  

A native of Spokane, Stephens practiced law and taught as an adjunct professor at Gonzaga University School of Law prior to her tenure on the bench. As an attorney, she appeared more than 125 times before the state Supreme Court, in addition to appearances before the Idaho Supreme Court, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and as counsel of record in the United States Supreme Court.

Every year she takes a break from her busy schedule to come to Eastern to deliver the Civics Conference’s keynote address and to lead breakout sessions at the event. 

The conference was launched in 2010 by the Partnership for Civic Engagement, a joint program of the West Valley School District and Eastern Washington University. The partnership works to advance the common good by cultivating citizens who are civically aware, think critically, value social justice, are involved in their communities and understand the purpose of government.

To kick off this year’s event — themed around the question of “Who Gets Recognized… And for what?” — Stephens was joined by Chris Valeo, a professor of English at EWU, Shari McMahan, EWU’s president, and Kyle Rydell, West Valley School District’s superintendent.

“One of the core traits of an eagle is gratitude, so I’d like, with gratitude in mind, to start by thanking our Supreme Court Justice, Deborah Stephens, for being here today,” McMahan said. “She graciously gives her time every year for this event to share her passion for civics education.” 

Justice Stephens

For her part, Chief Justice Stephens expressed both her pride in being from Spokane and in having gone to West Valley Schools. Stephens went on to share her personal story of becoming a first-generation college student.