Alberto Silva Fernandez
Each spring semester, UTEP’s Student Engagement & Leadership Center (SELC) hosts Rainbow Miner Graduation to acknowledge the accomplishments of LGBTQIA2S+ students and see them onto the following stages of their lives. This year is the first time that SELC has hosted an event for fall graduates.
Rainbow Miner Graduation is an event where LGBTQIA2S+ students share their hopes and dreams while being officially recognized for their leadership and successes.
The ceremony was held 6-7 p.m. Nov. 19 at the UTEP’s Tomas Rivera Conference Center.
Each participant was given two passes to invite their loved ones and watch them receive a special rainbow cord that graduates can wear at the Fall commencement ceremony.
According to SELC officials, students were encouraged to wear “dressed to impress” attire on the ceremony day.
This event is not in place of traditional graduation, but instead is meant to augment and enhance the graduation experience.
The Rainbow Miner Graduation included addresses from UTEP faculty, a cording ceremony, and food to share with their friends, family and well-wishers.
“Acknowledging such diversity within the LGBTQ community is as important as recognizing sexual orientation and gender diversity in UTEP,” said Mariana Gonzalez, a biological sciences major at UTEP.
SELC also gave graduates a personalized certificate to celebrate their achievements. .
In El Paso, resources such as The Purple Pages of El Paso and The Borderland Rainbow Center are available to connect LGBTQ individuals and families across the El Paso del Norte region.
UTEP students can also band together to advance LGBTQ+ equality and pride through campus organizations such as The Queer Student Alliance.
The Queer Student Alliance at UTEP is a social and educational student organization that provides a safe and supportive environment.
Crystal Vasquez, a criminal justice major at UTEP, also expressed her opinion about the significance of the event.
“Lack of support can discourage anyone from their goals, and I think that this (graduation) is a great way to inspire the LGBTQ community by knowing they have the institutional support,” Vasquez said.
SELC created the Rainbow Miner Initiative in response to the increasing need for LGBTQ+ visibility on campus currently under the Inclusion & Advocacy program to create an environment at UTEP that embraces individual differences, sustains inclusion, and cultivates a campus that is free from bias.
In 2016, the speaker of Rainbow Miner Graduation was UTEP Creative Writing professor Benjamin Alire Sáenz who remarked on embracing inclusion.
“Be yourselves and never underestimate who loves you. Never,” said Saenz. “Remember, you are loved, and you will be loved.”
For information about the first-ever Fall Rainbow Miner Graduation, visit https://minetracker.utep.edu/event/7330300 or contact Daisy P. Marquez, leadership, inclusion, and advocacy coordinator of the student engagement and leadership center at [email protected].
Eduardo A. Flores is a contributor and may be reached at [email protected]