ILA awards Omega students


AWARD WINNERS: Seniors Tabitha Irvin and Julia Hanson accept their honors.

Anna Tokash, A&E Editor

Over the summer, DGN students Josiah Poynter, Emily Hernandez, Julia Hanson, Tabitha Irvin, and Lauren Pierret won Illinois Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Award, also sponsored by the American Library Association. Two of the recipients, Irvin and Hanson, are current Omega staffers.

All five winners were nominated for attending and speaking at the Nov. 15 D99 Board of Education meeting. At the meeting, local conservative groups attacked “Gender Queer: A Memoir”, a graphic novel involving messages about a personal journey of accepting queerness at a young age. Irvin decided to speak out after attending a previous board meeting in October.

“Once ‘Gender Queer’ was fed to the fire, the student body began voicing concerns; as someone who has long advocated for elevating the voices of my peers, I jumped on the opportunity to address the board,” Irvin said. 

Hanson also spoke during the November board meeting, as well as wrote a review in The Omega last year about “Gender Queer: A Memoir”. 

For both, speaking at the board meeting was important for their journalism careers. They felt nervous about public speaking, especially when their opinions were going against their peer’s opinions. 

“Even speaking in front of a small class used to make me anxious, so this step forward excited me.” Irvin said. 

Following the November board meeting, a DGN parent passed the names of each student speaker to Julia Nephew, a children services librarian, who nominated the students. 

“Before I spoke at the board meeting and was nominated by the ILA, I had little idea of the challenges that impede intellectual freedom on a daily basis. This experience has taught me that all voices deserve to be heard and that, as a journalist, I play an important role in the amplification of these voices.” Irvin said. 

Irvin and Hanson attended the ILA Annual Conference Oct. 18. They were recognized in person for their hard work and received a certificate for the award. 

“When Tabitha and I were announced at the ceremony, they gave us a standing ovation,” Hanson said. 

Hanson felt the importance of the award being given to younger recipients because of this ceremony. This was especially apparent with the crowd at the ceremony because Hanson and Irivin were some of the youngest attendees.

“To see that many adults understand the importance of allowing students to actually learn, not just traditional ideas, but new things is reassuring.” Hanson said.