By Justin Metcalf, Staff Writer —
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga held its second annual Lavender Graduation (Lav Grad) ceremony which honors LGBTQIA graduating seniors.
The event began at 7:30 p.m. on April 3 and was held in the Chickamauga Room of the UC. Lav Grad was put together by Spectrum, UTC’s LGBTQIA organization, and the Center for Women and Gender Equity. Free pronoun pins and pride stickers were provided for free at the door, and assorted finger foods, desserts and drinks were also provided.
“It means a lot to have this ceremony,” said Dylan Keiser, an executive board member of Spectrum. “It feels good to know that I’m truly a part of this campus and the university.”
At 8 p.m., Allison Cansler, primary victim advocate and one of the assistant directors at the Center for Women and Gender Equity, opened the ceremony by thanking the attendees and graduates. She then introduced Lauren Ouwerkerk, an assistant director at the Center for Women and Gender Equity, who gave a tearful Keynote speech.
During this speech, the Prism Award was given to Sara Peters, the director of the Center for Women and Gender Equity, for her work with the LGBTQIA community. The awards evaluates the honoree based on their connection, significant contributions, lasting impact of their contributions and leadership in the queer community.
“When I started asking people who should receive this award,” said Ouwerkerk, “there was no doubt in anyone’s mind who it should go to.”
The graduation ceremony honored two students, Kayla Harris and Samantha Lorinc. Harris obtained a dual degree in Women’s Studies and Political Science. Lorinc obtained a degree in Criminal Justice. The two students received commemorative plaques and flowers along with their own Lav Grad cords.
“I’m here to support my friend Sam and have fun with my community,” said Skylann Allen, a freshman Nursing major and Spectrum member.
After the graduation ceremony, Spectrum leaders discussed the accomplishments of their organization for this year which included growing membership, the Coming Out Cookout and spreading awareness for queer issues.
Attendees then headed to the rainbow balloon wall where they put on accessories like unicorn headbands and rainbow boas and posed for pictures with their community members.