UTEP Rainbow Miner Graduation celebrates LGBTQIA2S+ graduates


Graphic by Hugo Hinojosa

Victoria Rivas , Contributor

UTEP’s Student Engagement and Leadership Center (SELC) hosted its annual Rainbow Miner Graduation on May 6, an event celebrating graduating students of the LGBTQIA2S+ community. 

“We just want to celebrate our students who are reaching this milestone and who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community,” said Nicole Aguilar, SELC’s director. “It is really just being able to give them this space in which we honor them, recognize them and celebrate their great accomplishments.”  

The ceremony was inperson event hosted at UTEP’s Tomas Rivera Conference Center for graduating students, and guests or graduates who could not attend the ceremony could view the event through Zoom.  

The event started with Daisy Marquez, SELC’s leadership, inclusion, and advocacy coordinator, welcoming all graduating students and congratulating them for their achievements.  

“Allow yourselves to take a step back and remember the person that you were when you first started your college education experience. Recognize each step of work, determination, and strengths that took you to be here today,” Marquez said. We are gathered here today to celebrate you and the beautiful intersectionality of our queer community.” 

A total of 50 students were recognized during the ceremony, both virtually and in person. The students received a certificate and a cord for graduation.  

“Students who attended the event virtually can come to pick up their cord in-person so they can have it in time for graduation. We also have another cord that we distribute in our office, so if they are not able to pick it up, we are happy to mail it to them,” Aguilar said.  

Marquez expressed her gratitude for the women and gender studies courses at UTEP for educating students about the LGBTQIA+ community.  

“Classes, events, panels, and conversations around gender identity and sexuality are life-changing and lifesaving. For some, it makes them realize that they have been presenting themselves with a gender that has never felt right with them, and others realize that they don’t need to abide to gender at all,” Marquez said. “Students get to realize that there is a community to feel not just tolerated but celebrated.” 

Marquez announced during the eventthe Rainbow Miner Graduation ceremony will now be hosted during the Fall and Spring semester with the Pride Alum Network reestablished to build a community for LGBTQIA+ members and allies at UTEP. 

According to Aguilar, SELC will continue providing a safe space for LGBTQIA+ students and creating an inclusive campus by hosting workshops and discussions to educate students, faculty, and staff. 

“We are a family, and everyone is welcomed,” Aguilar said. We are working hard, every day to continue to create safe spaces and opportunities for students with different backgrounds to come together and find a home at UTEP.” 

Marquez ended the ceremony by congratulating all students and sharing a few words of wisdom. 

“Your queerness is just as valid as you move forward into your next chapter in life,” Marquez said. Remember that you are the main character in your story and that you control your destiny.” 

Victoria Rivas may be reached at [email protected]; @VicRivas_18 on Twitter.