D97 Middle School Rainbow Clubs Recognized by Local LGBTQIA+ Association

D97 Middle School Rainbow Clubs Recognized by Local LGBTQIA+ Association

Brooks and Julian middle schools’ rainbow clubs were recently awarded the top honor from the Oak Park Area Lesbian and Gay Association+ (OPALGA+) for their collective work to promote diversity and combat discrimination. 

As recipients of a 2022 Founders Award, these student-led, student-organized clubs were recognized at the OPALGA+’s annual gala on Oct. 22. 

Rainbow clubs work to create welcoming and accepting school environments for elementary or middle-school students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“These clubs and safe spaces are truly all about the students, and making sure there is a place they feel supported, included, welcomed and heard,” Brooks social worker and Rainbow Revolution sponsor Abby Berman said. “Everything we do in our club is driven by them and what they see as gaps in the support and inclusion of LGBTQIA+ students.”

At Brooks, club members have worked on numerous projects to support LGBTQIA+ students, including making packets with tips for teachers on how to create more inclusive classrooms and developing a names/pronouns survey teachers can use with their students at the beginning of the year. 

Humanities teacher Ashley Kannan, who runs Julian’s Rainbow Tribe with social worker Nate Murawski, said the distinction is especially meaningful because the club was started by two “courageous” students back in 2016. “What they started has moved into similar affinity spaces in Brooks, River Forest, and as far as Palos Heights.”

During the 2022 Scholarship Gala, where Berman and Murawski accepted the Founders Award on behalf of their students, OPALGA+ raised over $30,000 to provide financial support for the continuing education of local LGBTQIA+ students and allies. 

For Kannan, Julian’s club, which has grown to about 40 members, is “a reminder of how students can lead us into being more, into being better, and into transforming what is into what can be.”