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Campus organizations honor graduates before Commencement

Graduation festivities have begun at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

With the University’s main Commencement at Kenan Stadium right around the corner (Sunday, May 8) Chancellor Carol L. Folt is celebrating with the soon-to-be graduates this week at smaller graduations hosted by campus groups.

Celebrations began May 1 with the LGBTQ Center’s 11th annual Lavender Graduation, which honored sexuality studies minors, graduating LGBTQ-identified students and their allies.

“This time of year, when we celebrate the accomplishments of the students and we think about the relations with the staff and faculty members that brought them to this point, is really so special for us,” Folt said.

Folt also thanked the 18 graduates for their work in making Carolina a more inclusive campus for everyone.

“Everyone in this room has left a mark on the University,” she said.

On May 5, Folt helped honor American Indian students and students graduating with a degree in American Indian and Indigenous studies during the American Indian Center Commencement Ceremony.

“This is your day, this is your weekend,” Folt said. “It’s not an end, it’s your new beginning.  I just want to say ‘thank you,’ and wish you the best. I know you’ve learned a lot, you’ve probably taught us more.”

With 17 students recognized at the ceremony, 11 American Indian Nations are represented in the Class of 2016. During the ceremony, graduates were presented with pottery turtles created by Senora Lynch, the artist who designed the mosaic of colored bricks that form Native American symbols at the Student Union.

“This ceremony is distinctively designed to release you — in a culturally respective and appropriate manner — into the next phase of your prospective journeys and careers,” said Amy Locklear Hertel, director of the American Indian Center. “Graduates, we celebrate you, we honor you and we thank you for what you have given to us on this campus.”

Carolina’s graduating veterans, reservists, National Guard members and future commissioned officers were celebrated during the Red, White and Carolina Blue Graduation Ceremony on May 6.

“We’re so proud of you for so many reasons, but I think that the service that you all exemplify is extraordinary,” Folt said.

Held at the Great Hall of the Student Union, graduating students were presented with their Military Honor Cords either by Folt or a family member.

“Members of the military, veterans who have served and soon-to-be active-duty play an extremely important role not only in the tremendous service to the nation and to the world, but also to the life here at Carolina,” Folt said.

To honor graduates who worked to support and promote Latino communities on campus, the Carolina Latina/o Collaborative’s hosted the Éxitos graduation on May 6.

“I would like to congratulate you for all your hard work and dedication,” said Taffye Benson Clayton, associate vice chancellor for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, and chief diversity officer. “Please remember that your Carolina familia is here for you and we look forward to seeing you do great things.”

Clayton and Folt also thanked the graduates for their contributions to the campus. Through their efforts, Folt said, the community has become more inclusive.

“You had a huge influence,” Folt said. “This wonderful base community is really important. All that you’re doing and all that you are setting into place is really very special, and it has a huge way of opening the doors for people.”