With appreciation for her outstanding achievement in LGBTQ+ advocacy for children, the Board of Governors honors Caroline (Schless) Andres '84 P'24 with the 2021 Alumni Seal Award for Service to the Community.
Ms. Andres is a middle school English language arts teacher and writer/performer who is also a passionate advocate promoting affirming policies and procedures for gender expansive children in Illinois public schools. Even with society’s growing awareness of the issues facing queer and transgender children, the need to address discriminatory policies toward these students remains pressing.
LGBTQ+ children are more likely to face homelessness, be bullied at school and fall to suicide (50% of teen suicides are transgender students). As a parent in the third largest high school district of Illinois, Ms. Andres led an advocacy group that addressed the lack of supports for queer students — with specific emphasis on students who identify as transgender, non-binary, or are questioning their gender — to create supports within the public schools these students attend.
This advocacy also included medically accurate, evidence-based training for teachers and staff, hosting public forums and panel discussions and a myriad of meetings and letter writing. Though opposition was fierce, after five years, the campaign was successful and was representative of local-level advocacy that helped spur Governor Jay Pritzker to create an executive task force addressing gender inequities. This task force went on to generate the Gender Inclusive Schools Framework that Illinois State Board of Education published in 2020 for which Ms. Andres was consulted.
Thank you Oxy for recognizing the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion. I feel this award doesn’t belong to me and it isn’t me that should be recognized— it’s the student leaders and the kids that endure being misgendered or bullied or othered or abandoned for being themselves that need the recognition far more than I do."
Currently, Ms. Andres is working to create a local drop-in center for LGBTQ youth and allies that will offer educational programs surrounding LGBTQ+ issues for youth and adults, mental health services for youth and be a place to gather and have fun. In addition, she and her husband, Phil Andres ’84, are the proud parents of Wren Andres ’24, who served as a student liaison and rallied other student voices to help bring about positive and lasting change for LGBTQ+ students in Illinois.