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In Their Own Words: Lavender Grads | Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity
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In Their Own Words: Lavender Grads

In advance of NC State’s annual Lavender Graduation, the Digest stopped by the GLBT Center in Talley Student Union to speak to a few of this year’s graduates.

Congratulations to all the graduates, and we will see you on April 24, at 7:00 p.m. in the Ballroom, Talley Student Union. All are welcome to celebrate with us.

Jessica ThomasJessica Thomas

Pronouns: they, them, theirs.

Major: Applied math with a minor in industrial systems engineering.

Involved in: Queer Media Club, AMP (All Music People).

How long have you been coming to the GLBT Center: Since freshman year.

Coming up to Lavender Graduation, how do you feel? It’s a very good feeling of pride within the community. Even though people who are in the [LGBT] community have a lower graduation rate, it’s a good sense of community that we are graduating together.

Have you attended Lavender Graduation previously, and what are you looking forward to? I went last year. There were so many tears. I’m excited to see everyone up there succeed and move on with all the wonderful things they are doing.

How do you feel the large increase in participation reflects on NC State? I feel it shows how strong we are as a community here and how strong we are as a school.

Any people or programs you want to mention? I would say Andy [DeRoin] is super awesome — the coordinator here — they are always so supportive and responsive, relating to the community — they just want to see everyone succeed.

Will you continue to have ties to the center as an alum? I am hoping to stay at grad school here. I will remain in the Raleigh area and volunteer here, if I can.

What would be your advice to younger or incoming students? Get involved with activities or groups that you think you might be interested in as soon as possible, because it helps you build ties, and that will help you become confident moving forward.

Parting words? The community that’s been built at the GLBT Center on campus is one of the most accepting communities that I have had the pleasure of being a part of.

Paige PattonPaige Patton

Pronouns: she, her, hers, they, them, theirs.

Major: Master’s program in higher education administration.

Involved in: Alternative Service Break trip to San Francisco, Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPOC) group.

How long have you been coming to the GLBT Center: Since I started two years ago.

Coming up to Lavender Graduation, how do you feel? I’m excited, especially because this will be my first Lavender Graduation. I wasn’t fully out in undergrad, so being able to share in this experience has me really excited.

How do you feel the large increase in participation reflects on NC State? I feel like we are moving in the right direction. I’m definitely excited to see everyone and hoping the number of QTPOC continue to increase as well.

Any people or programs you want to mention? Preston, and Andy as well. Andy was trip leader on the service break trip. Both have been amazing support. QTPOC was a great support in my first semester.

Will you continue to have ties to the center as an alum? I think the centers that I have been involved in were what made me feel a sense of community on campus. I want to come back and help with signature programs. I plan on staying in the area after graduation.

What would be your advice to younger or incoming students? Get connected. You are here for your education, but you also want to enjoy your time and feel a sense of belonging. Find someone or something on campus to get connected.

Parting words? Come to the center, use the centers — all the centers. Anybody and everybody is welcome!

Coleman SimpsonColeman Simpson

Pronouns: he, him, his.

Major: Double major in agricultural science and political science.

Involved in: GLBT Center’s 10th anniversary celebration, the new GLBT Center graduates group, GLBT Center workshops, GLBT Center resources and is an Oaks Leadership Scholar.

Coming up to Lavender Graduation, how do you feel? I’m really excited to: 1) just be able to graduate, and 2) to get to celebrate and enjoy the queer experience with other students. When I came to NC State, I did not know how it would play out, since I came from a rural area where there was not really space for LGBT students. I’m excited, humbled and overjoyed to celebrate with other students for a night.

How do you feel the large increase in participation reflects on NC State? I definitely think it shows that NC State as a community is creating more space for LBGT individuals to come out and celebrate and be themselves. It reflects in both sheer number of students and that the community of NC State is willing to engage and create a space for LGBT individuals.

Any people or programs you want to mention? Andy, Preston [Keith], Renee [Wells] and Lynn [Locklear-Fisher] have been great resources. I would like to say thank you and acknowledge them. I would like to acknowledge Dr. Jackie Bruce and Dr. Katie McKee — they have both been very influential and impactful on my experience and demonstrating how we can acknowledge LGBT individuals in the agriculture community. They will be at Lavender Graduation, so I am very excited to celebrate with them.

Will you continue to have ties to the center as an alum? I definitely want to engage with the center more as I go through grad school, coming at it from a different perspective. I am excited to see what new experiences I would have, engage with undergrads and help them flesh out their experience at NC State, since I had others who helped me.

What would be your advice to younger or incoming students? I would say the biggest advice is to go out and find the spaces where you’re going to be comfortable. Find your identity and find out who you are, then expand and bring in others to have the same experiences.

Emanuel CruzEmanuel Cruz

Pronouns: he, him, his.

Major: Environmental science.

Involved in: GLBT CommUnity Alliance, Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPOC), Alternative Service Break Trip to San Francisco, volunteered in the GLBT Center.

How long have you been coming to the GLBT Center: All four years.

Coming up to Lavender Graduation, how do you feel? There’s a German word for a mix of excitement and wariness, excitement because 16 years of education have led to this point; the world is my oyster. I have offers but I’m not sure which direction I’m going. But wariness of losing friends who are moving to different states and cities even though they are on their professional path and I could not be happier for them.

Have you attended Lavender Graduation previously, and what are you looking forward to? I have not attended but have had friends who attended. I’m interested in getting a [rainbow] stole and seeing my fellow queer students attending.

How do you feel the large increase in participation reflects on NC State? It shows an openness of the university and of students; a better support system in place at the university for kids to feel accepted, to come out, and that the university is a place that accepts them.

Any people or programs you want to mention? Andy has always been there since freshman year; that’s great, I would like to thank them for that. All the fellow queers I’ve met over the past four years. Seeing that there’s others has always been a great sight for me, a place where they are visible has been a great change since I’m from Sanford, North Carolina.

Will you continue to have ties to the center as an alum? I hope I do. I still have friends in the center who are undergrads. I will always have open connections to the place. I’ll be part of the alumni newsletter. I’ll keep the door open and see’s what’s going on in the center.

What would be your advice to younger or incoming students? If you have any questions, there’s always open channels to go about figuring out whatever questions you have. There are people here, a nice support system. Don’t close yourself off — there’s open arms.

Parting words? There’s a lot of opportunities at NC State and the [GLBT] Center; take advantage of them. If you want to take initiative, talk to Andy, or attend the OIED vice provost’s lunches. Find ways of doing things you never thought you could do before