June is upon us and people all over Chicago are celebrating Pride. Originally started to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots, a turning point in the gay rights movement, Pride events in the month of June are now recognized across the country as a way to honor and celebrate the diversity, activism, and achievements of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Links – North Shore Youth Health Service has been serving LGBT high school students through its Pride Youth Program for almost 20 years and will join this year’s celebration with three upcoming events.
On Thursday, June 21, from 7:00-8:30pm, Links will host Out in the Suburbs, a panel discussion about LGBT issues in schools. Pride Youth Program participants will share their experiences alongside adult speakers from Equality Illinois, Lambda Legal, PFLAG, and local schools. “Youth panelists show tremendous courage and really make an impact by sharing their personal stories,” said Erschel De Leon, the Pride Youth Program director. “It’s truly empowering for them to be able to speak out about the issues they face every day.” Out in the Suburbs will be held at Kenneth Young Center, 1001 Rohlwing Road in Elk Grove Village.
Links will also participate in Proud to Run, a 10k run and a 5k run/walk that celebrates the LGBT community. Presented in association with Chicago’s LGBT running and walking club, Frontrunners/Frontwalkers Chicago, the event is in its 31st year. Links’ Pride Youth Program participants and alumni serve as volunteers each year, helping with check-in, water stations, and snacks as they show their pride in themselves and their program. Amy Skalinder, Links Executive Director explains, “Proud to Run is an exciting, fun, and healthy event – the perfect opportunity for teen participants to get involved in the broader LGBT community and feel their support.” All are welcome, and Proud to Run donates all proceeds to Links’ Pride Youth Program and the Gerber/Hart Library. The event is on Saturday, June 23rd and the run begins at Montrose Harbor at 8:04am, with an award ceremony at 10:00am.
The final event that Links will participate in this June is the Chicago Pride Parade. The Pride Parade is set for Sunday, June 24th this year with the theme “Pride Links Us Together.” The parade starts at 12:00 noon at Montrose and Broadway, and Pride Youth Program participants, alumni, and volunteers will walk in the parade alongside other LGBT community organizations and businesses.
Links welcomes everyone to join us at our Pride events this month! More information is available at www.linksyouth.org or 847.441.6191.
Links’ Pride Youth Program serves LGBT youth in grades 9-12, providing a safe and confidential space for LGBT youth to build community and support each other. Professional staff and trained volunteers provide ongoing support and education regarding issues such as the coming out process, dealing with homophobia, healthy relationships, and the prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Weekly meetings are held in Northfield, Palatine, and Evanston (in collaboration with the McGaw YMCA), and the program serves over 200 young people each year from 45 north and northwest suburban communities. Links also offers health education in the schools and community and a reproductive health care clinic. The Northfield-based non-profit’s mission is to empower young people to make informed, responsible decisions about their health, well-being, and sexuality.