SAN DIEGO -- To celebrate the accomplishments of LGBT and supportive graduating students at San Diego State University (SDSU), the school held the second annual "Lavender Graduation" celebration Monday.
Nearly 100 family, friends and loved ones packed into SDSU's Scripps Cottage to cheer on the 30 students who participated in the ceremony, which was organized by a small group of faculty and staff members.
The event was created in 2010 by Esther Rothblum, SDSU professor of women's studies, who wanted to create a way to honor the unique challenges that LGBT students face in academia and provide a space for them to celebrate their achievements in a supportive environment. Rothblum also serves as the advisor to SDSU's LGBT Studies Minor program.
While the event was targeted at students who self-identify as LGBT, any student that is supportive of the LGBT community was welcome to be a part of the ceremony and at least two students spoke about being "allies" to the community.
During the ceremony, each student was called by name and invited to the stage to accept a certificate, lavender lei and a rainbow honor cord, which will they will be able to wear at SDSU's official commencement ceremonies later this month. Students were then given the opportunity to say a few words to the crowd.
Some students thanked their families, friends and loved ones, and others spoke of overcoming challenges while getting through school.
Tiffany Ross, who will graduate with a degree in psychology and a minor in counseling and social change, spoke about the difficulties she faced after coming out to her parents.
"I came out at the end of high school and my parents were not supportive - they actually kicked me out," Ross said in a tearful speech. "I had to learn to do a lot of things on my own, including figuring out how to get through college."
Ross then noted that things changed for her.
"I would like to say that [my parents] have made a complete 180. They absolutely adore my partner now and they are ecstatic, waiting for me to propose so they can welcome her as their daughter in law. I am so grateful to now have that support," she said.
The Lavender Graduation committee also presented an award to SDSU President Stephen L. Weber, who will retire July 5 after 15 years of service to the university. Weber was honored for his years of support to the campus LGBT community.
Dr. Aaron Bruce, the university's chief diversity officer, accepted the award on Weber's behalf.
Bruce praised the campus LGBT community for the strides that have been made over the years, but reminded the crowd that it will be important for the LGBT community to remain engaged as SDSU transitions to a new leader.
"It is going to be important, more than ever before, that this community come together to make sure our voices are heard," Bruce said. "I'll still be working in the President's Office but will need your help to continue the momentum that was established over the last 15 years under President Weber's leadership."
Other awards were presented to Paul Wong, College of Arts & Letters dean, and Dr. Edith Benkov, associate vice president of faculty affairs, their continued support of the LGBT community on campus.
Following the ceremony graduates and guests were invited to a cake reception and took photos.
SDSU will hold official graduation ceremonies May 20-22 in the Viejas Arena.
For more information about LGBT initiatives at SDSU, click HERE.