BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. — A small news outlet in Michiana wrote a hit piece about REAL News Michiana for uncovering the operations of a Southwest Michigan LGBTQ organization that has infiltrated numerous public schools and berates parents for wanting to be involved in the education of their own children. It turns out, the VP of that media organization also happens to be on the Board of Directors for The OutCenter of Southwest Michigan.
WSJM, which is part of the Mid-West Family radio group, published the false and defamatory story late last week. WSJM titled the story OutCenter of SWMI responds after attack by ‘conservative news’ website. WSJM essentially copied and pasted a press release from the organization. WSJM never reached out to REAL News Michiana for comment or a response.
The story by WSJM states in part, “We are seeing more and more cases of self-identified reporters taking words, social media posts, and website quotes out of context and twisting them to fit a narrative. This dishonest framing misrepresents our dedication to making schools more equitable and saving the lives of at-risk students … which feeds into homophobic stereotypes commonly used to fearmonger and mislead.“
The story goes on to quote the OutCenter Executive Director, Mary Jo Schnell, claiming they could have a defamation suit against RNM, but they’re not planning to sue (Hint: truth is not defamation).
It turns out, the VP of Business Development and Innovation for WSJM’s Mid-West Family, Zack East, is also on the OutCenter Board of Directors. East also uses the on-air name Dave DiPaolo as a host on Z94.3 (another Mid-West Family station). WSJM was the only media outlet in the area to run a story stemming from the press release sent out by the Outcenter.
Below is East’s biography taken directly from the Outcenter’s website.
Zack East is the Vice President of Business Development & Innovation for Mid-West Family – Southwest Michigan, an employee-owned broadcast company that owns 7 Southwest Michigan radio stations, multiple digital brands, and local events. He has been in the Southwest Michigan area since age 12 when his family moved to Three Oaks. Zack graduated with honors from River Valley High School in 2002 and received his Bachelor of Arts with honors in Communication from Ferris State University in 2006. He was lucky enough to begin part-time work in radio at Mid-West Family at the age of 19, interning for the Sunday Papers radio show on WGN Radio Chicago at age 20, and being hired full time post-graduation back in Southwest Michigan.
Zack currently resides in both St. Joseph and Grand Rapids with his partner Charlie and their dog, Gracie. He is also active as Board Chair of United Way of Southwest Michigan, and a Board Member of the Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber.
RNM reached out to East to get comment about the obvious connection and assumed influence he had in getting the story published. As of publication, he has not responded.
OUTCENTER TARGETS CHILDREN
The WSJM story was published following a REAL News Michiana story showing the OutCenter’s infiltration into multiple Berrien County schools, where the organization had put up fliers in high school hallways, asking children to attend a non-school Outcenter function.
Multiple parents tell RNM the flyers were posted in Brandywine and Niles High Schools. RNM was provided with pictures of the flyers from both locations, where we’re told they’ve been placed in the school hallways.
The flyers, which contain the OutCenter of Southwest Michigan logo, advertise a meet-up for children at the Niles Public Library where kids can get snacks and play games. The event is scheduled for November 16th at 5:30pm.
RNM reached out to both high school principals and both school district superintendents. As of publication, we have not received a response.
OUTCENTER AND SCHOOLS
The OutCenter has been obsessed with kids and Berrien County schools. The organization and its staff is known to target children and the education system in Southwest Michigan, with a main focus of recruiting children to create LGBTQ clubs inside of schools.
In February, RNM broke a story about New Buffalo Area Schools looking to hire the radical organization for professional development of its middle school teachers under the guise of anti-bullying. The school board approved a grant application, put together by one of the district’s music/band teachers.
REAL News Michiana obtained the grant application through a Freedom of Information Act Request. In it, teacher Christina Beushausen, describes the professional development as “role play” exercises from the Executive Director of the OutCenter of Southwest Michigan, Mary Jo Schnell.
The OutCenter focuses much of its efforts on pushing for LGBTQ clubs in schools. On its website, it advertises a “Teen Pride Summit Series” where it says the OutCenter will “Help you start your school’s GSA (Gay Straight Alliance club).” The summit covers a host of issues on how to create a club constitution, fundraising, events and how to recruit for the clubs.
RNM has learned the OutCenter has been sending their staff into Berrien County schools. According to documents obtained by RNM, OutCenter Program Coordinator Gerik Nasstrom, attended and spoke at an October school board meeting in Niles. RNM was not able to find any information that Nasstrom has children of his own in the schools.
Nasstrom is open about his push to reduce the influence of conservative families on their own children.
“Growing up in a conservative faith community left him with an undeveloped understanding of both broader LGBTQ+ issues and his own queer identity.” Nasstrom’s bio reads on the Outcenter website. “After years of deconstructing, education, and self reflection he refocused his efforts on progressive advocacy and outreach to those who are in communities like the one that he was raised in. His goal is to continue the amazing work of the OutCenter while expanding its reach.”
Nasstrom calls himself a “Queer Leftist Christian” on his Facebook page and advocates being “ruthless with institutions.”
MARY JO SCHNELL
While her organization is built to infiltrate and influence schools, Mary Jo Schnell (OutCenter Executive Director) herself is extremely vocal about not allowing parents to have a say in the education of their children. Her social media is full of posts lambasting parents for disagreeing with progressive indoctrination. She also attacks conservatives, Thanksgiving and Chick-fil-A while promoting censorship and Critical Race Theory. You can see several of those posts below.
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