The University of Michigan-Flint is celebrating its third annual Lavender Graduation today, April 19.
The event, organized by the Ellen Bommarito LGBTQ Center, honors and celebrates the college careers and successes of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and asexual students and their straight allies.
The small and personal ceremony “can be affirming and meaningful in our students lives”, said Jennifer Salamone, program manager at the university’s LGBTQ Center.
“It is the payoff for all their accomplishments and they get to celebrate with people that love and accept them,” Salamone said.
The two hour ceremony starts at 6 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom in the Northbank Center. Forty-two students are participating in the event and will receive lavender cords and certificates. The ceremony honors students graduating anytime in the 2016 academic year.
“This year it is more focused on honoring our campus and extended community, along with our graduates”, Salamone said.
There will be two award presentations beyond the student recognition, including one for faculty and staff that “graduates have identified as being important to their lives and role models of acceptance and inclusion,” Salamone said.
The other award “honors alumni who never had a chance to go through Lavender Graduation to validate them and to celebrate what they have done in the LGBTQA+ community after graduation.”
Arely Zimmermann, president of the student group PRIDE, and a participating student in the graduation ceremony, applauded the university holding this event.
“I am really happy that the university has this event because it provides a safe space for those who identify as LGBTQ+. There are many times where LGBTQ+ people don’t feel accepted or safe in an environment because of so much hate that’s going on,” Zimmermann said.
“For this to be an event that the university is hosting means that not only does the university recognize and acknowledge us as LGBTQ+ people, but it cares for our safety and comfort as well. It means a lot that the university has the Ellen Bommarito LGBTQ Center because it’s a place where people go to feel comfortable within the university and the fact that this event is being put on by them further reinforces that.”
The Center offers educational programming related to LGBTQ issues, student advocacy, networking, and a host of other services to students on campus.
Lexi Cucchiara, who is graduating next month, said the Center has been a key component of her UM-Flint career. She works at the Center, and said the support and connections have been “an exceptional experience.”
“I explored and found out about myself. I got to be me here,” she said.
Cucchiara said the ceremony is special.
“We are celebrating all the things we did, plus our identity on top of that,” she said.
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