Pictured Justine Cruise-Roberson, Teddy Marrufo, Zaida Sanabia and Brandon Parrott-Sheffer. Photos by John Pennycuff
On Tuesday, May 18, the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) presented its annual awards to Chicago-area students and high schools for their accomplishments in raising awareness and promoting the rights of GLBT youth.
The Chicago Safe School and Youth Scholarship Awards Ceremony was held at William Jones College Prep in the South Loop. The evening began with a short role-playing skit by seven student actors and later included songs written and performed by a young rap artist. There was also a slide show and a video clip of the recently aired WTTW 11 special on Gay Straight Alliances (GSA).
GLSEN's co-chair, Kristen White, opened the proceedings with a brief overview of the organization's mission and successes. Founded in 1996, GLSEN Chicago now offers support to more than 50 local GSAs. They hold the Summer Institute to educate teachers and school staff on how to foster a safe learning environment for all. They also help organize the National Day of Silence, during which participating students and teachers remain silent to bring attention to the issue of GLBT harassment. This year 3,000 schools across the country took part in the national Day of Silence, held April 21. The day is followed by the festive Night of Noise rally, where student delegations distribute information and listen to invited speakers. More than 300 people showed up outside the Thompson Center for last April's event in Chicago.
The evening's first three awards were presented by John Larson, President of Northern Illinois PFLAG Regional Council. The first went to Rachael Flood of Dekalb High School for her key role in negotiating with an attorney and the School Board to establish her school's GSA.
Eleanor Fort of the Latin High School picked up the next award for spearheading her school's many GSA initiatives. She organized an About Face Youth Theater performance and played one of the lead roles in the school's production of The Laramie Project. She also made and displayed a large panel in the school lobby explaining Illinois Senate Bill 101, which aims to extend anti-discrimination protection to GLBT people.
The final PFLAG Award was presented to the Kelly High School Diversity Club for their involvement in planning a series of GLSEN-sponsored events like the Youth Leadership Summit, Day of Silence, and Night of Noise rally. Kelly students consistently volunteered in high numbers to prepare the events and help them run smoothly. The school paper also published a special issue on the Day of Silence along with a coming-out testimony from a student.
The GLSEN Jump Start Student Leadership Recognition and Night of Noise Planning Team Recognition Award went to Talia Stein of Stevenson High School in Buffalo Grove, and Josh Terrazas of Morton East High School in Cicero for their energy and dedication in developing a variety of activities within their own GSAs as well as at the regional level.
The Toni Armstrong Jr. Pathfinder Award, named after a founding member of GLSEN Chicago, was created to honor a person or organization which has taken unprecedented steps to make schools safer. This year it went to Peggy Finnegan, Manager of Family Life and HIV/AIDS Education at Chicago Public Schools. Finnegan is responsible for the inclusion of two questions regarding sexual identity and same-sex behavior in the most recent edition of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Because of her determination, CPS has now joined a small number of school districts across the country that collect information on GLBT students. The survey is anonymous and allows administrators and school boards to identify a variety of risk factors. The questions yield quantitative data as well as information on the climate students encounter in their schools. Systematically documenting the experiences of GLBT students in this way will be an essential tool in getting schools first to acknowledge their presence, and then to address the issue of harassment.
The Bayard Rustin Legacy Scholarship recognizes an African American student for his/her outstanding work in advancing civil rights and GLBT visibility. Justine Cruise-Roberson of Oak Park River Forest High School earned the award for her tireless activism. As president of her school's GSA, she turned it into a 30-member group and helped to bring a wide range of speakers to their meetings. She also got 500 of her fellow students to participate in this year's Day of Silence and obtained the support of eight different organizations.
The Erika and Mala Scholarship rewards commitment to advancing GLBT visibility and equality within a school. It was presented to Teddy Marrufo of Lane Tech College Prep in Chicago. A member of his GSA for three years, he felt that more needed to be done and so he put his name forward and was elected president. He immediately began to reach out to all students, making information and inclusion his main goals. On a personal level, Marrufo engaged in a dialogue with student athletes and believes he is gradually changing the way they view gay people.
Amigas Latinas sponsor the Axia Diaz Latina Youth Scholarship, which goes to a young lesbian or bisexual woman of Latina heritage. Zaida Sanabia was the much-deserving recipient of this year's award. As a student of Carl Schurz High School in Chicago, she made a video to show others how to start a GSA. When she interviewed a teacher who had made derogatory comments about the school's GSA, also called the Spirit Club, the principal demanded that she give over the footage. Sanabia was threatened with suspension, but she held on to the film and managed to complete her project. The video is now featured in festivals and used as a teaching tool in schools, universities, and various community organizations. The young woman is currently an intern at Beyondmedia and has also won the Chicago Foundation for Women's Ripple Effect Award.
The Al Wardell Scholarship is intended for a student who will pursue a teaching or other helping profession in college. It was won by Brandon Parrott-Sheffer of Hinsdale Central High School, who volunteered to be profiled as a gay student in a school article. In a conservative community, he encountered many obstacles and misconceptions when he set out to establish a GSA. After long efforts he finally succeeded and will soon be leaving his leadership role as he is moving on to Ripon College in Wisconsin.
The Barbara Gittings Legacy Award is given in honor of the pioneering editor of lesbian magazine The Ladder. Gittings was also instrumental in the movement to remove homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses. This year's award went to the Stevenson High School GSA and its leader, Talia Stein, for their resolve against a school that would not allow the creation of a GSA. Stein and her friends were convinced that the federal Equal Access Act protected their right to start a club. Because it was important to them to work within the system, they contacted Lambda Legal for advice on the best way forward. A representative of the organization intervened on their behalf and the school now has a thriving and respected GSA.
The evening's final prize, the Safe School Award, was created just this year. It is based on an elaborate set of criteria: school policies, staff training, problem solving, public displays of information, curriculum integration, and the existence of a GSA. The winner was the host of the ceremony, William Jones College Prep and its openly out principal, Dr. Donald Fraynd. As part of CPS, the school has a non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and gender. Additionally, staff are trained on teaching a diverse student body; law classes examine gay civil rights; the library subscribes to Out and The Advocate; the drama department has put on gay-themed plays; more than 100 students regularly participate in the AIDS Walk Chicago; and the school has the largest GSA in the Chicagoland area. In presenting the award, Kristen White remarked, "If every school was like this one, perhaps GLSEN would not need to exist."
There is a series of events for LGBTQ youth and supportive straight friends during Pride (June 25 to 27) that allows you to celebrate your identity and to meet new, fabulous folk!
Friday, June 25
Howard Brown Health Center will be celebrating SYNERGY's one-year anniversary! SYNERGY, Chicago's premiere drug-and-drama-free dance for LGBTQA youth, will be held at Ann Sather's Restaurant (929 W. Belmont—right off the Belmont L Stop) from 8-11:30 p.m. There's a $5 suggested donation, but the first 100 people will be let in free! They will also be hosting their first SYNERGY's Next Top Model Competition. The winners of Next Top Model will be crowned and will ride on the SYNERGY Float during the Chicago Pride Parade.
The first Pride Picnic at Stevenson Park (49 Lake Street, Oak Park) is noon-4 p.m. Youth from all over the city and burbs will be there for an afternoon of food and fun. Stevenson Park is only a few blocks from the Austin stop on the Green Line.
Chicago's Dyke March and Rally will also being going on Saturday afternoon, starting at 2 pm.. on the corner of Foster and Ashland in Chicago's Andersonville. This is a great chance to connect with and support the women's community. For more info, check out dykemarchicago.com .
Out in the Loop is a NEW variety show where young LGBTQ people can share their talent on stage during Pride. Performers will be showing off their words, rhymes, rhythms and beats or whatever mad talent they have. Out in the Loop will be held from 10-Midnight at the Loop Theatre (8 East Randolph) in Downtown Chicago. Seats are limited, so make sure you get there early! There is no cover for this event, but donations will be accepted and used to stipend the performers.
Sunday, June 27
March in Chicago's 35th Annual Pride Parade with Howard Brown's SYNERGY Pride Float.
There's no better feeling then cruising down Halsted with thousands of people cheering for you, so make sure you join Howard Brown or other youth-positive contingents. If you and your friends want to march, meet at the corner of Belmont and Clark at 10 a.m. The first 50 riders to show up will get a Youth Pride Weekend t-shirt.
If you don't want to march in the Parade, but still plan on going, join HBHC at the Pride Zone. The Pride Zone is a fun, safe, and informed spot for you to watch the Chicago Pride Parade with people your age. 'We'll have water, candy, sun screen, condoms (in case you meet a hottie), and other goodies that will make watching the Parade an awesome time,' organizers said. The Pride Zone will be held in front of the Brown Elephant Resale Store at 3651 N. Halsted from 11-3 p.m.
GLBT Scholarship for Latino/Latina High School Students
By Becky Raisman
High school seniors listen up! Are you GLBT, Latino/Latina? Do you want to go to college but don't know any GLBT Scholarships? Well, do I have news for you.
My two good friends Tony Alvarado-Rivera and Emmanuel Garcia are founders for The Alvarado/Garcia Scholarship for GLBT Latino/Latina high school seniors. Tony Alvarado works for About Face Youth Theatre and Emmanuel Garcia is an Arts/Media Management student at Columbia College Chicago.
I had the privilege of interviewing Alvarado and Garcia about the scholarship they founded. 'Emmanuel and I came up with the idea of the Alvarado/Garcia Scholarship some time before our 21st birthday,' Alvarado said with a smile.
'We both have the same birth date and based on our history of throwing fabulous events, we knew we wanted to have a huge event that would not only celebrate our day, but also give back to the community. Hence, we joined forces with the Association of Latino Men for Action (ALMA) to create the Alvarado/Garcia Scholarship.'
So the two held a fundraiser to kick off their dream.
'It was great because so many different types of people came together to fund the scholarship. We are not funded by the government or corporations. We are funded by the community that really believes in seeing LGBT Latino/Latina attend college. The scholarship is specifically for LGBT Latino/Latinas. When looking at the opportunities (scholarship wise) that exist for LGBT students, there is not much out there,' said Garcia. 'The same is true for Latino/Latina students. We wanted our scholarship to create more opportunities for young LGBT Latino/Latinas.'
A mentorship program is also part of the scholarship. 'The mentorship component to the Alvarado/Garcia Scholarship is really the most important. Emmanuel and I felt it important to not only assist a recipient with funds, but also with mentorship. Emmanuel and I have had some great mentors and role-models growing up,' said Alvarado.
The recipient will receive mentorship from ALMA as well as peer support from Garcia and Alvarado. They recognize that for many college students, their first year is the hardest. They need to adjust to a different set of people, course work, and academic independence. Part of the requirements upon receiving the scholarship will be that the individual must create a project based around social change in the Latino/Queer/or both communities. Through the scholarship the two hope to build successful leaders, activists, and role models for the future.
Alvarado and Garcia are planning a huge fundraiser for the scholarship, which will be presented at the end of August. Their goal is to have a national scholarship program in the future and they are well on their way.
To download the Alvarado/Garcia Scholarship or to find out more about ALMA visit www.almachicago.org . Also see www.emmanuelgarcia.com