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‘Working together for social change’

Local group gets national award

DIXON – Michael Sheridan, a 2013 Dixon High School graduate, spoke to a crowd Saturday at the Ronald Reagan Bath House at Lowell Park.

He looked at the others.

“How awesome this is!” he said. “This wouldn’t have happened 50 years ago.”

The event: The annual picnic of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays Sauk Valley, or PFLAG.

Sheridan is one of PFLAG’s three scholarship recipients this year – the others are Brittney Miers of Mendota and Trenton Ely of Amboy.

Sheridan and Miers attended the picnic.

“It’s amazing to be a part of this. We’re all working together for social change,” Sheridan said to applause from a few dozen people.

Sheridan is a theater studies major at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.

Miers, a Mendota High School graduate, is studying psychology at Roosevelt University in Chicago. She hopes to get her doctorate and then have a sex therapy practice and gender identity clinic.

At the picnic, PFLAG’s president, Michael Soto, had good news. The local chapter will be honored in October in Washington with an award for education. It was the result of the chapter’s Youth Outlook program, which supports gay and lesbian teens.

Karol Teal, along with volunteers, meets with the teens every week in Sterling and monthly in Dixon.

The group hopes to raise money to send Teal and Barb Schwamberger, the chapter’s founder, to attend the national PFLAG conference to accept the award.

Soto said the Youth Outlook program is valuable.

“When I was growing up, everyone said I was sick,” he said, referring to society’s treatment of gays and lesbians. “It’s nice that things are changing.”

To the scholarship recipients, Soto said, “You’re growing up in an era when everyone can get married. I never thought I’d see that in my lifetime.”

PFLAG is seeking more volunteers for Youth Outlook, Teal said. The training, she said, is the hardest part, involving 30 hours of sessions in Naperville.

At the picnic, the group presented the Amboy News and Sauk Valley Media, which publishes the Daily Gazette and Telegraph, with Community Ally awards.

Schwamberger, who presented the awards, said the newspapers have been good about publishing information on PFLAG’s activities.

About the Amboy News, she said, “Occasionally, we get big headlines. When we give our awards at the high school, they are there to report that. They are a small paper, but they get around.”

She praised Sauk Valley Media for its coverage of a controversy in Erie over the last year in which the school board banned the use of a book about different types of families. 

Some residents objected to a sentence in the book that stated that some families have two mothers or two fathers, contending that was inappropriate for elementary school students. Others said the book promoted diversity. 

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