Elizabeth Montiel-Alvarado, Campus Carrier staff writer
Last Thursday, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion hosted a Rites of Passage Ceremony for the graduating seniors. As a means of honoring BIPOC graduating seniors and their heritage, the students received representative graduation stoles.
“We want to cultivate a culture that shows support and alliance to that, to try to make sure that the students are equipped and that they understand the importance of holding their dignity to themselves and making sure that there is respect that is continued to be tied as they move forward,” Ei Noe, programming coordinator for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Office of Student Involvement, said.
The distribution of these stoles was not possible in previous years by berry. Instead, students and directors themselves bought and distributed the stoles among each other. Now, as this was the first year this ceremony was hosted, making sure students felt appreciated and accomplished was one of the main concerns for this event.
“I hope that each senior that was able to participate really had a moment to reflect on their four years or whatever that looked like because I know everybody comes from many different paths and experiences, were able to come together for this night to be able to recognize and honor how much of their culture and dignity they hold when they walk across that stage on graduation,” Noe said.
Since a culture of belonging is a target and a vision for the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, it was integrated into all aspects of the ceremony to enhance what the ceremony hoped to symbolize.
“I hope that this meeting conveyed to the students that all parts of them are important, that wherever they go that they are always going to be representing themselves but also the people that come behind them and in front of them.” Rebekah Rowe, president of the Berry African American Alumni Chapter said.
The ceremony also featured a few students dedicating their stoles to their guardians. Rather than the students accepting the stole themselves, the guardians would accept it and then pass it on to the students. For many, this symbolized the influence their families have had on them, as well as their motivation to get to where they are today.
“I want this to be a symbol of community, no one is truly self-made, there is always somebody in the background whether that is a friend, family member, or somebody that inspires you to get where you are,” Rowe said.
As Berry continues to grow in terms of diversity and acceptance, many people also feel more comfortable and prouder with who they are. As a result of the inclusion of this ceremony, we can expect more positive growth and change to occur over the next few years.
“Being able to see the amount of growth that has come in the six years that I have been here has been truly phenomenal and being able to see that within the community not just students but even faculty and staff has been motivating for me to know that we are moving in that direction,” Noe said.
This ceremony also served to provide hope and motivation for other BIPOC students who may be struggling, feeling unrepresented or without a community.
“To the upcoming students, if I could say something to them, I would say just keep pushing forward, you will find your community, you will find your niche,” Rowe said.