­­­Lavender Leaders Retreat, started in 2019, offers incoming queer and transgender students a safe space to make friends and form a community.

”Lavender Leaders Retreat is one of the most meaningful programs that our students have participated in,” said Kathleen Hobson (they/them), Director for Pride Alliance. “For many it is the first time they have been able to be in a space where they are surrounded by queer and trans people.

The program, a collaboration between Pride Alliance and Counseling and Testing Services is an overnight retreat held in the Greek Life Center with student coordinators leading many of the activities.

“Students can start to build community with their peers and see possibility models in the student coordinators and full-time staff,” Hobson said They have the freedom to try out new pronouns and chosen names and exist in a space where they don’t have to explain themselves.”

During the retreat, participants play games, eat snacks, play music, dance, and have small group discussions on mental health, dating, discrimination, and pride.

They also learn about historical leaders in the community (i.e., Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Audre Lorde, and James Baldwin) as the participants work together to present biographies on each of these powerful figures.

“Watching freshman and sophomores honor their ancestors, group project style, was moving,” said Enedelia Sauceda (she/her), Licensed Psychologist for Counseling and Testing Services.  “I never got to see that when I was in school. I even shed a tear or two.

Last year’s October retreat had 15 people attend with several people spending over a day together.

“We will continue to invest in this program that provides our students with such an impactful opportunity for exploration and joy,” said Hobson.

group photo yarn held in each participants hand