Government Maplewood Schools / Kids South Orange

1st Maplewood-South Orange Lavender Graduation Celebrates LGBTQ Students

In partnership with SOMA Action LGBTQ Committee and CHS Spectrum Club, the Township of Maplewood hosted the 1st SOMA Lavender Graduation celebration on Tuesday during the Maplewood Township Committee meeting.

SOMA Lavender Graduation, June 18, 2019

“We want to celebrate and honor the hard work and successes of our LGBTQI+ Youth during Pride Month which honors the history and recognizes the many contributions of LGBTQI+ persons in our society,” said Township of Maplewood Committee Member Dean Dafis before the ceremony.

Town Hall was decked out in rainbow regalia for this very special and festive occasion. LGBTQI+ and allied high school senior students received a certificate and either rainbow honor cords or a rainbow tassel.

The following CHS seniors participated: Clem Huetz, Lily Hummel, Danielle Samake, Franca Rosenblatt, Olive Fretts Howard and Kayla Bobb.

The event is the first known Lavender Graduation ceremony co-hosted by a township with a public school district and student group in New Jersey. Lavender Graduation is an annual ceremony conducted in many schools and communities to honor lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and allied students, and to acknowledge their achievements and contributions in school and community.

“I have been wanting to bring Lavender Graduation to SOMA -in support of our students to be a symbol of hope, courage, acceptance and diversity during Pride Month,” South Orange-Maplewood BOE member Shannon Cuttle told Village Green. “I am so proud of all our courageous student leaders. This was a joint effort along with Committeeman Dean Dafis and with support of CHS Spectrum Club Advisor Beth Johnson. Truly bringing our towns, schools and community together.”

BOE President Annemarie Maini spoke at the ceremony, commending the students as a wonderful example to the LGBTQ and the wider community.

Also at the ceremony, Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, Assemblyman John McKeon and Senator Richard Codey presented a Proclamation from the State of New Jersey celebrating and acknowledging the accomplishments and contributions of  Cuttle and Dafis to the state of New Jersey, including being recognized as 2019 Essex County Pride Award recipients. 

Founded in 1995 at the University of Michigan by Roni Sanlo, Lavender Graduations are typically held before a formal graduation commencement at colleges and universities across the country. Over the last few years, some Gay-Straight Alliances and LGBTQ community centers have incorporated the ceremony for high school students, Cuttle said.

The event gets its name from the early historic significance that the color lavender played within the LGBTQ community during the late 1800’s and into the 1950’s and 1960’s the color was significant as a representation, color symbol of the LGBTQ community. The rainbow flag was created by artist and activist Gilbert Baker in 1978 and became the modern symbol of the LGBTQ movement.

Enjoy our photo gallery; photos credit Joy Yagid.

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