Lavender Graduation celebrates seniors


Jessica GuerrucciReporter

As graduation approaches, a ceremony was held to celebrate the achievements of six students in the LGBTQ+ community and their contributions to the university.

The third annual Lavender Graduation was conducted last week. Students were presented with lavender cords to wear at graduation on May 24.

The keynote speaker, Colleen Bielitz, associate vice president for strategic initiatives and outreach, gave them six lessons to take with them.

“Be kind to others, help others, and make memories people have of you that will outlast your mortality. Be courageous, step outside of your comfort zone, and know that life will take care of you in its own way,” said Bielitz.

Lavender Graduation, Bielitz said, was created by Ronni Sanlo, an author, after she was denied the right to attend her children’s graduation because of her sexual orientation.

As a result, she created Lavender Graduation in 1995 to honor LGBTQ+ students.

During her speech, Bielitz spoke about her own experiences with her family and the advocacy she has done in the community by speaking at conferences and local schools. Out of all her lessons, she said, “life takes care of you in its own way,” was the most important.

One of the graduating seniors, Maui Lopez, an interdisciplinary studies major, cried when hearing Bielitz’s speech.

“It’s just emotional thinking back to seven years of school and my participation in the queer community, how it’s nice to see other people around me, and other allies in the queer community,” said Lopez. “That just got me emotional.”

While attending the university, Lopez said they participated in Prism, as well as other events in the community such as Pride in the Park and the True Colors Conference. Lopez said they experienced discrimination while advocating, but their experience at Southern has been mostly positive.

“I’ve had my fair share, but Southern overall is pretty engaging, pretty understanding,” said Lopez. “In an ideal or perfect world, no one would be discriminatory against the queer community, but it happens.”

Physics and engineering major Christian Peloso, and one of the seniors, said he enjoyed the Lavender Graduation because it was a smaller ceremony where his mother could come see him get his certificate.

In addition to helping start the Larping Club, Peloso said he participated in Prism and has been involved in the LGBTQ+ community on campus.

“I went to Prism a couple of times and that wasn’t really my thing, but knowing that support group and the SAGE Center, which I’m now a part of, is really great to have,” said Peloso.

Social work major Rory Dougall, who was also amongst the graduates, said he enjoyed the smaller graduation ceremony.

Dougall has been part of Prism and an advocate on campus. He has done presentations in classes and advocated for inclusion of material related to sexuality as part of education for people with disabilities and educated public health students on human sexuality.

Jenna Retort, the SAGE Center Coordinator said after working closely with the students, she said it is bittersweet to see them go.

“It’s sad to see them go,” said Retort “but you know they’re going to go off and do really great things.”

 

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