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The LGBTQ Pride Center will hold its 14th annual Lavender Graduation, a ceremony honoring students identifying with the LGBTQ community this spring. 

Lavender Graduation started at the University of Michigan in 1995 and spread to universities across the country. NC State started holding its own Lavender Graduation in 2008. According to the Human Rights Campaign, lavender holds significance as a symbol of pride within the LGBTQ community. It is a combination of pink and black, which were historically used to discriminate against gays and lesbians but have since been taken back. 

Dr. Charla Blumell, the director of the LGBTQ Pride Center, said the ceremony is a way to celebrate students. 

“It's a way for us at the Pride Center, as well as the campus community, faculty, staff and other students to just congratulate and cheer on our LGBTQ+ students who have [graduated],” Blumell said. “We really just want to show them how proud we are, and how excited we are for whatever they're going to do next, and it's just a beautiful tradition and a wonderful way for us to honor our students.”

Grace Szigethy, a fourth-year studying psychology and women’s gender and sexuality studies, is an intern at the LGBTQ Pride Center. Szigethy is walking in Lavender Graduation and helping plan the event along with other employees at the center. She said the ceremony represents intersectional individuality. 

“I think it's a great opportunity for the campus to honor all of the different intersectional identities that we have here,” Szigethy said. “I think typical graduation ceremonies are much more focused on the community and the collective as a whole when Lav Grad has a beautiful way of honoring each individual as they are.”

During Lavender Graduation, the center gives away three awards: the Stafford Leadership Award, Reiman Student Advocacy Award and the Spitz Community Advocacy Award. Blumell said she’s excited to recognize students for their hard work as part of the community. 

“I’m just excited about the recipients who are going to receive those, because it's just like icing on the cake,” Blumell said. “You're graduating, you're with your friends, you get to see other staff members and faculty and receive something else to take with you as a part of your experience. I think that'll be beautiful.”

Blumell said Lavender Graduation comes at a special time this year as the LGBTQ Pride Center celebrated its name change and 15th anniversary in January. 

“This is going to be, not only part of that 15 year celebration, but this will be the first class that gets to celebrate in conjunction with us being the LGBTQ Pride Center, and that's awesome,” Blumell said. 

Szigethy said this will also be the first year Lavender Graduation is back in full swing after having to plan around COVID-19 the past few years. 

“It's kind of the first year we're back to normal since COVID,” Szigethy said. “We've been able to enjoy a lot of the big programs and events that we had freshman year on campus like Packapalooza, so I think this year it's gonna be like Lav Grad’s return to campus.”

Szigethy and Blumell said Lavender Graduation is open to everybody, including students not affiliated with the LGBTQ Pride Center or who graduated in the fall or summer. 

“I think people don't realize how inclusive and open to everybody it is,” Szigethy said. “One thing we do, because we can only have Lav Grad in the spring, any summer or fall graduates within the past year are welcome to join and walk in Lav Grad. … It's not like a college graduation ceremony because it's hosted by the Pride Center. We can be a lot more flexible and help you in that sense.” 

Blumell said she is proud of the students graduating and is excited to cheer them on. 

“I think, just for me, this is an amazing achievement,” Blumell said. “Graduating from college at any level is an achievement that a student can be proud of, and I think it is a huge deal for us to celebrate each other when these huge milestones happen. We as a community have had a lot of loss. In this last year at NC State we've had some obstacles, folks have been experiencing a lot of pain in different ways. And it's beautiful when we get to kind of come together for something celebratory.” 

Lavender Graduation will be held April 19 at 6 p.m. in Talley Student Union’s Coastal Ballroom. Szigethy said any students interested in walking in Lavender Graduation next year, or who are curious about it, can stop by the center or send them an email for more information. 

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