Reminding students that a support network exists outside of college is one reason that the Ballards are drawn back to the reception every year.
“Every student needs to know that parents can learn to be accepting of who they are,” says Ballard. “The Rainbow Reception is a wonderful way for students to celebrate their four years at IC and to honor those who have helped them through those years. We love hearing their stories, sharing their joy and sometimes their tears. It is a tradition that is unique and hopefully will continue long after we elders are replaced.”
Though the couple moved more than three hours away some years ago, Nancy and Rich Tobin make the journey back to Ithaca every year for the event. They have no formal ties to Ithaca College other than the Rainbow Reception, but they say they cherish the time they spend with students.
“Some years, it was just Luca and us and a few students,” recalls Rich Tobin. “Last year, I remember meeting a young man who couldn’t go home after graduation. He said his parents wanted nothing to do with him. It can feel like a big party in many ways, but if you spend time with these students, you realize what a huge deal it is for them. It’s one moment in time when they truly feel celebrated.”
Calvin Kasulke ’13 remembers the “stand-in parents” well.
“I remember being caught off guard at how touching it was to be embraced by one of these parents after receiving my rainbow cords,” says Kasulke. “I’ve never been so happy to be hugged by a stranger.”
Alumni return for the reception, and they, too, serve an important role in supporting LGBTQ graduates.
“It’s important for students to have adults who support them and who approve of them for who they are,” says Anna Lawrence ’12, who traveled from Boston for last spring’s event. “This event celebrates students for all their accomplishments, and it can feel like the whole campus is there. This is a community that is supportive of the individuals within it.”
Alumni also help assure students that their network of support holds, even after the graduation festivities are over. Devon Ritz Anderson ’12 addressed graduates at last spring’s reception, reminding them that they have a critical place in the world.
“This has been a scary time for a lot of us,” Anderson said. “People are telling us that we are asking for too much to demand respect in every space. In whatever you want to do, you deserve to enjoy and thrive in that, with every piece of your identity. “Always remember to take deep breaths, pack snacks and gum, nap as much as possible, and find your people, or that one person you can have deep conversations with. Take care of yourself!”