The Cougar Chronicle

LGBTQA graduates recognized for excellence

Sierra Contreras, Design & Layout Editor

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The LGBTQA Pride Center’s Rainbow Recognition event May 8 put the spotlight on student contributions of 14 who are graduating this year.

“We recognize people who contributed to the Pride Center or the community, on and off campus,” said Robin Simmons, a peer educator at the Center. “Each recognized graduate received a rainbow sash, a cord, and certificate proving their accomplishments.”

Three seniors — Sydney Aldana, Leann Leite and Robert Carleton — received special awards.

Aldana was recipient of one of two Stonewall Catalyst for Change Award winners. She spent four years studying in the Psychology department and said she plans to become a sex therapist.

Aldana, who worked as both a peer coordinator and peer educator at the Pride Center and performed in the 2015 Coming Out Monologues, said the LGBTQA Pride Center played a positive role in her CSUSM experience.

“If they’re looking for a place to be themselves, the Pride Center provides support and love,” she said.

Aldana said she was fortunate to have a place that practiced inclusivity for minority students.

Leann Leite, the other Stonewall Catalyst for Change Award winner, was a significant contributor at the Pride Center, Simmons said. Leite also served as a peer coordinator and educator, performed in the 2016 Coming Out Monologues and worked as an advocate at the Hope and Wellness Center.

Carleton, the recipient of the Excellence in Leadership Award, worked first at the Gender Equity Center and later transfered to the LGBTQA Pride Center as a peer educator.

Each of the honored graduates, who spoke, praised the Pride Center. Communications major Jay VanderSchaaf said they recall the center as being an important place where students can be comfortable with their identites.

“I was surprised to speak tonight,” said VanderSchaaf, but their gratitude to the Pride Center gave them a lot to say.

Sun Quanjun, peer educator for the LGBTQA Pride Center and an organizer for the event, said that planning for Rainbow Recognition began in March. Family and friends accompanied graduates to the event, including 47 students.

Decor for the event, which was held in the USU ballroom, included covered tables with floral centerpieces, music and food.

“I wanted to use flowers to create the spectrum of a rainbow,” said Quanjun. “Flowers are naturally beautiful, just like sexual orientations.”

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