‘Happiness, Peppiness and Self-love’

LGBTQIA students honored at Eastern’s Lavender Graduation

Sandy+Williams%2C+Easterns+Pride+Center+coordinator%2C+hugs+an+EWU+Lavender+Graduate+as+they+obtain+their+certificate+in+Showalter+Auditorium+on+May+8.

Photo by Laura Lango

Sandy Williams, Eastern’s Pride Center coordinator, hugs an EWU Lavender Graduate as they obtain their certificate in Showalter Auditorium on May 8.

By Ayanna Fernandez, Contributing Writer

It is around that time again; when the school year comes to an end and it is time to say goodbye to those students who have worked to successfully achieve their degrees and be able to call themselves a college graduate.

Other than the huge, traditional graduation that happens in June at Eastern, there are several graduation ceremonies that take place on campus to recognize and honor local graduates within different communities.

The pride club held its sixth annual Lavender Graduation on May 8, at 6 p.m. in Showalter Hall. Whitney Meyers, event and visit coordinator with admissions, said Lavender Graduation is more than just recognizing Eastern LGBTQ graduates.

 

“We also bring in students from other colleges around the city, as well as local high schools,” said Meyers. “It’s a support event. It’s really good for high school students to see that there are resources once you get out of high school and there are communities, especially in college. You may be a struggling LGBTQ youth but you have a place in college and you should go to college. You can achieve so much.”

Performances and speeches were given by alumni, students in high school and college as well as faculty members and guest speakers.

Keynote speaker Ron Simons, founder and CEO of SimonSays Entertainment, said he is a huge supporter of education and any time he can share information or knowledge to help expand young minds, he will always snag that opportunity.

“I think it is important for us as a society to improve our level of acceptance and I think acceptance has to begin with individuals who have been marginalized, whether they are LGBTQIA,” said Simons. “I think by having an event like this begins to build a structure for people to empower themselves to be their true selves, which makes them better members of our society and, in my opinion, healthier people.”

Heather Forrest Fruscalzo, a graduating senior, said she found graduating to be nice experience, especially seeing the diversity within her community and the accomplishments everyone has made within their desired fields.

Forrest Fruscalzo said for her, the graduation was bittersweet.

“I got this tassel that’s a rainbow tassel and I’m not going to be able to put it on my cap because my parents are going to be here for my graduation and I’m pretty sure they will disown me if I did,” said Forrest Fruscalzo. “Being able to have a separate graduation that just represents me and my friends the community that supported me throughout it makes it so that I can celebrate that part of myself without having to out myself.”

Many of the stories shared during the graduation showed the difficulties the LGBTQ community goes through on a daily basis.

“The whole ceremony is kind of bittersweet, because there is all this happiness, peppiness and self love but the reason why all of that is happening and the reason for the whole history of it is because like this segregation from the rest of the community,” said Forrest Fruscalzo. “It’s like happy on one hand and kind of bitter on the other because all the stories always had something where somebody wasn’t accepting of them so it’s nice to have acceptance.”

All the graduates were called on stage and recognized for their accomplishments while receiving a lavender stole and a rainbow tassel.

There were several messages that could be taken from the Lavender Graduation ceremony. Simons says if the graduates do not take anything away from the ceremony, he hopes they take away two things.

“You can do anything that you want to do,” said Simons. “And be proud of who you are.”