Celebratory Multicultural, Lavender graduations foster sense of belonging

As a way of recognizing international, Hispanic, African American, and LGBTQ and ally seniors, Heidelberg recently held special ceremonies for these graduating students and their families and friends in advance of Commencement later this month.

Aaron Nelson, who is in his first year as Director of Diversity, Equity and Belonging, coordinated the events.

The tradition of these special ceremonies began several years ago, and Aaron was happy to continue them and even expand on them with some new elements this year.

“All of our students have been on an individual journey that they have shared together,” Aaron said. The graduations are designed to “celebrate the students’ journey to the finish line.”

Ultimately, Aaron hopes events such as this will foster closer interpersonal relationships related to diversity across campus. 

“We want our all of our students to feel a real sense of belonging on campus,” he said.

Multicultural Graduation

In addition to celebrating student achievements, the graduation ceremony this year also highlighted staff and faculty members who have gone above and beyond to support and uplift multicultural students. 

Aaron explained that each of the students invited individuals from Heidelberg who have encouraged them on their journey to attend the ceremony. The students presented each of the individuals who positively impacted their time at Heidelberg with a flower, symbolizing their appreciation and friendship.

Graduating seniors Alyssa Martin, representing Black Student Union, and Saefelislam Forgani, representing World Student Union, offered remarks about their Heidelberg experiences. WSU and BSU were co-sponsors for the ceremony.

During the ceremony, the students also received the cords and stoles that they will wear with their Commencement regalia.

Lavender Graduation

Lavender Graduation is a celebration and recognition of the unique contributions and achievements of the LGBTQ and ally graduating seniors. The ceremony was created in 1995 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.

Heidelberg has been holding a Lavender Graduation for the past several years. For the first time, the event was open to the entire campus community. 

The Lavender Graduation is typically a lively celebration with social tone. As with the Multicultural Graduation, students received cords representative of where they currently are in their journey. 

Berg Allies -- an all-inclusive group that brings together LGBTQ and straight students to support each other, provide a safe place to socialize and create a platform to fight for racial, gender, LGBTQ, and economic justice – co-sponsored the Lavender Graduation.

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