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Lavender Graduation celebrates queer graduates

On Wednesday Warren Wilson College held Lavender Graduation in recognition of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer graduating students. The special event acknowledged their achievements and contributions to the College, and celebrated queer joy and queer excellence.

Fifty-four students received lavender cords to wear at Commencement.

“With over 50 percent of Warren Wilson students identifying as queer it only made sense to me to offer a Lavender Graduation, a tradition that has been held at institutions across the country since 1995,” said Jonathan Gonzales (JoGo), Director of Student Activities & Queer Life at Warren Wilson College. “There are at least 12 other NC colleges that hold Lavender Graduations, and I wanted Warren Wilson to be among those.”

The Lavender Graduation Ceremony movement was created by Dr. Ronni Sanlo, a Jewish Lesbian, who was denied the opportunity to attend the graduations of her biological children because of her sexual orientation. It was through this experience that she came to understand the pain felt by her students.

Encouraged by the Dean of Students at the University of Michigan, Dr. Sanlo designed the first Lavender Graduation Ceremony in 1995. The first Lavender Graduation began at the University of Michigan in 1995, with three graduates. By 2001, there were over 45 Lavender Graduation Ceremonies at colleges and universities nationwide. Graduating students, including undergraduates and graduates, are invited to take part in the celebration, which typically occurs each year the week prior to university-wide commencement events.

This year’s event at Warren Wilson included remarks by Dr. Amieris Lavender, the chief program officer of the YWCA of Asheville and WNC.

Graduating senior Haylee Ziegler received the Outstanding Student Leader Award. The award recognized them for their commitment to enhancing the queer student experience at Warren Wilson College.

Taelyn Reid, the Bonner Leader Program Manager, was recognized with the Advocate for Queer Excellence Award at the ceremony.

The WIDE (Wilson Inclusion, Diversity and Equity) Crew and supervisor Brianna Martin were recognized for their partnership with the Queer Resource Center.

The students gave a special recognition to Gonzales for all his contributions to the college.