Lavender Graduation proves successful in creating a fun safe space


MVC students celebrate their academic achievements at the 2nd Annual Lavender Graduation

Isai Pina, Staff Writer

Moreno Valley College is a diverse campus with several communities making up its population, one of them being the LGBTQ+ community, who on Tuesday, May 30, had the opportunity to attend their own Lavender Graduation. This year marked the second Lavender Graduation held at MVC, which first introduced the ceremony in June of 2021. Christopher Sweeten, Vice President of Student Services at MVC said, “The Lavender Graduation was cultivated to have a safe space since some students did not feel they could be their true authentic selves at the traditional commencement ceremony.”

Drag performers entertain the audience at MVC’s Second Annual Lavender Graduation ceremony

There are many factors that can prevent someone from completing their academic goals. One of those factors may be trying to find your true self and embracing your culture, religion, ethnicity, and sexuality. “In my home country, Venezuela, being queer is looked down upon, even by the law. This ceremony would not have been possible there, just as it was not possible here years ago,” said Maria Olivares Baptista, MVC student and Lavender graduate. “It fills me with hope for the future of many other students because we deserve to celebrate our identity.” 

During this year’s Lavender Graduation ceremony, Toi Thibodeaux, Assistant Director of the LGBT Resource Center at the University of California, Riverside, was the keynote speaker. Drag performers also entertained those in attendance alongside a DJ. “This was the first time the ceremony was held in-person and it DID NOT disappoint,” said Monica Hernandez, Professor of Humanities at MVC, who was in attendance.  “It was fun to cheer on the folks who were dancing as well as the invited drag performers who totally slayed with their performances.” 

All students who attended the Lavender Graduation had the opportunity to speak and give brief remarks and  acknowledgements to whoever they felt contributed to their academic achievements. Lavender graduates also received a certificate of appreciation as well as a stole that they can wear to the main commencement activities. 

This year at MVC, more than a dozen students carried on the tradition started by Dr. Ronni Sanlo and contributed to her goal of creating a space where everyone can feel comfortable. Dr. Ronni Sanlo, a Jewish Lesbian born in Miami, Florida, in 1948, was denied the opportunity to attend the graduations of her biological children because of her sexual orientation. Dr. Sanlo went on to become director of the Lesbian and Gay Men’s Programs office at the University of Michigan and instituted the first Lavender Graduation Ceremony in 1995, with three graduates. By 2001, there were over 45 Lavender Graduation Ceremonies at colleges and universities across the US. Graduating students who are part of the LGBTQ+ community are invited to take part in the celebration, which typically occurs each year a week prior to their college/university-wide commencement events.

Through this ceremony, we are reminded that our identities are not obstacles to overcome, but sources of strength and resilience. The experience of being seen and heard during a lavender graduation was transformative,” said Israel Martinez, MVC Lavender graduate. These ceremonies empower LGBTQ+ individuals, promoting self-acceptance, confidence, leadership, and contributing to a more inclusive and accepting society.”