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Lavender graduation celebrates community, accomplishment

Apr 26, 2024
A group picture of people wearing lavender stoles with rainbows
More pictures from Lavender Graduation and Prism Fest here.

KOKOMO, Ind. — When Kolby Louks enrolled at Indiana University Kokomo, he knew almost nobody. Maggie Kincade worried about where she would find like-minded friends.

Both found their community at the campus’s LGBTQ+ Center.

As they prepare to graduate in May, that community gathered around them, along with nine other graduating students, to celebrate their accomplishments, at the campus’s first ever Lavender Graduation ceremony.

“It’s a big step for inclusivity, especially for queer students,” Kincade said. “It shows to the queer community we’re making progress on campus and in the community.”

Louks said LGBTQ+ students weren’t supported at his high school. After he met people at the Center, he realized he was an ally. To him, the ceremony provides “representation of us to showcase us, so future individual know they can step up and be part of the community. It’s really awesome.”

Students, faculty, and staff gathered in Kresge Auditorium for the ceremony, which included purple stoles with rainbow stripes for those graduating, and pins for underclass students.

The ceremony was a labor of love for senior Alex Smith, who planned it.

“This has been my passion since freshman year,” she said. “It’s near and dear to my heart. My goal was to create a safe environment. This is a testament that we have a community, and there are people who care about us.”

Benjamin Leichty, director of the LGBTQ+ Center and of Alumni Relations, said Lavender Graduation provides “a dedicated space to recognize the unique journey of LGBTQ+ students,” and demonstrates the university community’s commitment to honor and uplift every individual, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“It is a moment of pride, empowerment, and solidarity as we commemorate not only academic accomplishments, but also the strength and courage it takes to thrive in a world that often presents challenges and barriers,” he said. “Together, we acknowledge the achievements of our graduates, but we also acknowledge the collective effort it takes to create a campus culture where every individual feels valued and respected.

“Today, we reaffirm our commitment to fostering an environment where diversity is celebrated, and where everyone can thrive and succeed.”

Leichty also congratulated the graduates for enriching the campus with their contributions.

“Your achievements serve as inspiration for future generations of LGBTQ+ individuals who will walk these halls with pride and purpose,” he said.

Amanda Bradley, student life specialist, presented student awards, including:

Lavender Student Leadership Award: Alex Smith

Rising Lavender Leadership Award: Jonah Ruckman

Lavender Allyship Award: Kolby Louks

Lavender Award: Myah Halter, Maggie Kincade

Leichty presented staff and faculty awards, including:

Lavender Faculty Excellence Award: Stephanie Medley-Rath, associate professor of sociology

Lavender Adjunct Faculty Excellence Award: Brandi Keith, adjunct professor of sociology

Lavender Staff Excellence Award: Julie Dick, custodian

Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.

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