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Brandon L. Barich

Metropolitan State University - BA in Psychology

"I am a Colorado native born and raised in southern suburbs of Denver. I am the oldest child in my family. I grew up playing a lot of sports and have been very athletic my whole life. I came out when I was 18 years old and currently live with my partner. I am planning on going back for and pursuing my accelerated nursing degree after I graduate. "

What does graduating as a queer and/or trans person mean to you?

"It shows that even though a lot of people have told me that I wouldn't be anything because of my sexuality and how tough my path was that I’m doing what I want to do and becoming successful."

Hayley Josephine Barker

Metropolitan State University - BFA in Fine Arts with a Concentration in Painting and Sculpture
"I am graduating with a BFA in art, and hope to continue my practice throughout museums, galleries, and all creative professional opportunities."

What does graduating as a queer and/or trans person means to you?

"I think the Auraria campus provides a great space for LGBTQ students to learn and feel comfortable in. I hope the community can grow even further."

Michael Robert Brown

Community College of Denver - AA in Theatre Arts
Michael was born and raised in Centennial, Colorado and has lived here his whole life. He graduated from Eaglecrest High School in May of 2018 and went to CCD the following Fall. He wants to become an actor when he grows up and is hoping to continue his education at Western Washington University. As of right now he is going to be taking a break from school to save more money and to further focus on what he wants to do.

What does graduating as a queer and/or trans person means to you?

"Graduating as an LGBTQIA+ individual is so gratifying to me because I finally feel as if I belong and am encouraged to be who I am. I am so honored to be among other queer people graduating from this school. I hope to give people like me a voice and to let them know that you don't have to hide who you are and that the only person you can be is yourself. Love who you want and be who you want and don't let anyone take yourself away from you."

Devan Alayna Daugette

University of Colorado Denver - BA in Literature
"My name is Devan and I’m graduating with my BA in Literature as I go on to pursue my Masters in the Art of Teaching. I love the art of storytelling and enjoy books as well as films, as movies are a big passion of mine. I moved to Colorado in 2010 and my life has been better for it ever since. Colorado is where I would meet my best friends, my girlfriend, and come to learn more about who I really was in a community that was endlessly supportive; and I will always be grateful for it."

What does graduating as a queer and/or trans person means to you?

"Growing up as a student who was coming to terms with my own identity, I found solace and comfort in the people I believed I could rely on and turn to not just in my friends and loved ones, but trusted adults and teachers, too. Present-day as I pursue my own education to teach, this graduation serves as a milestone for me that speaks to the work I’ve done to get to this point and my efforts to my goal of becoming hopefully that same trusted person for students in the future."

Heysus Alejandro Escalante

Metropolitan State University - BS in Health Care Professional Services
"I have always dreamed about traveling to see the world and it is something I have been able to do so far these last couple of years such as going to London and Paris; this year my plan was to go visit Japan which has been postponed until next year. I love being able to learn about new cultures as well as try all the different types of dishes that the world has to offer. If I am not traveling, I am with friends on adventure. My future aspirations are to be able to have a career that will enable me to visit many places to help people around the world and if that isn’t possible to find a career that would fund my travels to see the world."

What does graduating as a queer and/or trans person means to you?

"Graduating as a queer person to me means is that despite all the hardship that I’ve endured it has help me to persevere and become a better stronger version of myself that cannot be defeated by following the unrealistic “norms” of heteronormative society."

Bootz Fritz

Metropolitan State University - BFA in Studio Art
Bootz is graduating with their BFA in studio art from MSU Denver. Their future aspirations include an MFA in something, probably art, and to continue to work their job at the Denver Art Museum.

What does graduating as a queer and/or trans person means to you?

"As someone who often passes as cis or straight, and was not a part of the larger queer community on campus, this question is hard for me. However, I know that my experiences and attractions are valid and that it is through the experiences that I have had that has led me to the place I am today. My graduation as a bi person helps show people that bisexuality is not a stepping stone and is a valid identity on its own."

Virginia Elizabeth Gold

Univerity of Colorado Denver - BS in Recording Arts/Music Business

"My name is Ellie! I am 24 and the first of my family to graduate from college which is something I'm really proud of. I love music and sharing the joy of it with others and I'm so grateful that I've had the opportunity to finish both of my degrees in 4 years. I hope to one day work with a major promoter booking shows or traveling with a band for FOH and living life to its fullest!"

What does graduating as a queer and/or trans person means to you?

"Being queer, I grew up being bullied and facing homophobia since I lived in Kentucky, which is a part of the Bible Belt. Despite all of the hardships I've faced, I am so proud to be out and in an industry that is, for the most part, accepting and loving. I hope that my story can serve as inspiration to others that you can reach your goals and dreams. I'm graduating not only for myself but for my late fiancé who was a trans man. He only ever wanted to see me fulfill my dreams and do what I loved and I wouldn't have made it without his love and support."

Jessica Pamela Goldberg

University of Colorado Denver - BS in Psychology
"I've been a student at CU Denver for 3 years and have loved all of the amazing people I've met. Being involved in GSA had brought me lifelong friends and validated my identity. I now understand how crucial quality friendships are and how much love I can give in turn. I am starting nursing school this summer and can't wait to help others the way the auraria community helped me. Being a queer nurse will give the ability to relate with more people, sharing in their experience and being an advocate for their care."

What does graduating as a queer and/or trans person means to you?

"Being queer is just one part of my identity but it is one that influences every other part. Being able to graduate and be out completely is something that means a lot to me. I recognize the privilege I have in being out and accepted and do not take this for granted. Others may not be as fortunate and I sincerely think that our campus needs to do everything in its power to support these people with their identities and their educational aspirations."

Sophia Lumina Hernandez

Metropolitan State University - BS in Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies
"When I came out to my parents, they didn’t take it well and almost kicked me out. Since then, they pretend it never happened, but it means that i’m not safe to be myself at home. My future aspirations are to simply live as my true self, spreading love and kindness to those who deserve it!"

What does graduating as a queer and/or trans person means to you?

"Graduating as a queer trans woman means leaving the comfort and safety that I’m used to, it means leaving those that I consider family. But it also means that I’m ready to show what I’ve learned, and who I can be."

Peter Hornbein

University of Colorado Denver - PhD in Education with a Concentration in Urban Ecologies
"I have been working with high school GSAs since about 1995; my research focuses on the intersection of race and LGBT+ identity and how whiteness impacts K-12 policy and how this impacts LGBT+ students. I will continue to carry out my research as I teach at the high school level."

What does graduating as a queer and/or trans person means to you?

"I suppose it doesn't really mean that much, other than, at my age - 66 - we can continue to grow and learn. I also hope that I am an example to my students."

Colton Lee

Metropolitan State University - Double Major IDP; BA in Philosophy and Americanist Studies
"The LGBTQ Student Resource Center is one of the only places that I have felt truly safe in certain identities of mine, and for them I am incredibly grateful. I intend to travel and volunteer in public services such as disaster relief."

What does graduating as a queer and/or trans person means to you?

"I hope that LGBTQ students of the Auraria campus continue to have a growing and thriving community in which they can be safe, and flourish."

Aileen Alvarado Marquez

Metropolitan State University - BS in Human Services and Counseling with a Concentration in Mental Health
"I am a first-generation DACA-mented graduate majoring in Human Services and Counseling. I hope to continue my education with a masters in social work or clinical counseling. I want to work with marginalized communities of color towards de-stigmatizing mental health and creating a safer space for us all."

What does graduating as a queer and/or trans person means to you?

"It means the world to me. My college years were the time where I really owned up to different identities I hold, with the help of my other amazing queer friends obvi. College is a confusing time for so many people and it's important to take intersectional identities into account. That's what I love about the support a lot of the offices at MSU Denver provide, like GITA and the LGBTQ+ Center. I have lots of hope for the future, more gender-neutral bathrooms, more spaces that celebrate student identities, a bigger normalization of pronouns. This isn't just a gay or trans issue this is a human rights issue and if we come together to support those that have been constantly othered by society, we may learn a little from them."

Desirae Justine Martinefski

Metropolitan State University - Master's of Social Work

"I grew up in Denver, and I’m the first in my family to get a traditional college degree and the first to go as far as a Master’s degree. I have three kids and in my spare time, I most enjoy going out to engage in some fun adventure with them. After almost 9 years, we’ve finally made it to the finish line!" 

What does graduating as a queer and/or trans person means to you?

"To me, graduating as an open queer means that I’ve finally accomplished the goal I’ve been working on for so long. I didn’t come out until I was 23 and at that time, I didn’t think I would ever make it to the place I’m in now. I thought I would be alone and eventually drop out. Graduating now has shown me that I’m not only able to be authentic, but that my authentic self truly is good enough."

Kathy Pang

University of Colorado Denver - Masters in Public Health with a Concentration in Global Environmental and Occupational Health
"As a Korean-American, I've always had difficulty expressing my full self. To this day, only a few people know but I am hoping to make a statement with a stole (even though it doesn't seem like much to a lot of people), it would be quite symbolic to me and to show my family. I still have friends who do not 'believe' me and it's an interesting space to navigate.
I dream of the United States not profiting off of human suffering. Health care should be accessible to everyone regardless of what they look like, what language they speak at home, socio-economic status. The reason I decided to pursue environmental health is because typically, those who are most conscious and are the lowest carbon/pollution emitters are at a disproportionate impact of environmental harm, including the LGBTQIA+ community and all those who intersect. Everyone has a role to play to create a safe environment for everyone. "

What are your future hopes for changes for LGBTQ students in higher education?

"I hope that LGBTQIA resources and community can expand to the CU Anschutz campus as that voice is not very present on this medical campus."

Desiree Paz

University of Colorado Denver - BA in Geography Environmental Science

"My name is Desiree Paz and I am a Colorado native and a mother. I have been a nurse for several years and am changing careers to pursue a dream. I am currently a Senior at the University of Colorado studying as a Geography/Environmental Science Education major with a minor in Educational Studies and a Noyce Scholar. I will be completing my undergraduate studies and will enter the Graduate Teacher Education Program in Fall 2020. In my free time, I love to do Native American beading, draw, paint, travel, hike, fish, camp, watch the Broncos, and spend time with family. My partner Kim, is my rock and I could not have done any of this without her wonderful support! I want to honor her because she was there every step of the way, she earned this with me!

My goal is to share my passion for science with high school students, but my intention is to plant seeds of conscience and concern for our physical world and our society within the next generation of adults. The outcome I hope to achieve, is to create a moral sense about how we treat our planet as well as how we treat each other, while learning the great wonders of science. Overall, my hope is to create a common goal in the hearts and minds of young people, to leave this world in a better state than we found it.”

What does graduating as a queer and/or trans person means to you?

"This accomplishment is extra special because of the many barriers a person in my positionality must face to succeed have been overcome and I have proven to myself and my fellow cohorts that it can be done! Never stop trying!"


Louie Loren Pinkerton

Metropolitan State University - BS in Human Services and Counseling with a Concentration in Mental Health Counseling
"I am a helper (future) professional where I work with individuals and their mental health. I believe in community work and relying on those with lived experience to have autonomy and control over their resources. I have a long career ahead of me. I'm thinking of pursuing a dual graduate degree in Masters of Social Work and a Masters of Public Health Administration. Ultimately, I want to work with the people living with HIV, the LGBTQIA community, as well as ballroom communities to identify how networks of support can provide education and prevent further transmission of HIV."

What does graduating as a queer and/or trans person means to you?

"I am so proud that I get to graduate with the name that I chose and that I don't have to see my dead name on the most expensive piece of paper that I worked hard to earn. I earned this degree, not the person my biological family wants me to be. I've been out and open about my identities during my time at the Auraria Campus because I feel safe to be my authentic self. I demand to be seen and heard and have my hard work recognized in the way it ought to be: as a genderqueer and bisexual learner."

Hilary Rayburn

Metropolitan State University - BS in Social Work
"Hello! I am a single/widowed, special needs parent to my superhero, 10-yr-old daughter who has Dravet Syndrome. She was my inspiration to complete my degree in Social Work. I wanted to be able to support her financially as well as make a difference in the world. Being her mom has taught me so many valuable lessons about life, mental health, and social services that I wanted to take that knowledge and help others. I am going on to get my MSW soon and plan to become an LCSW. The two main populations I hope to support and serve are transgender youth and their families/support networks and special needs families. I am an older student (will be 45 by graduation), and this degree accomplishment has been a loooong time coming for me with many starts and stops along the way. I am SO proud of myself for making it happen despite the incredibly daunting obstacles we face together in our daily life. Don't ever give up on your goals. You CAN do it!!! Life will rarely look the way we expect it to, but it can be beautiful and rewarding nonetheless."

What does graduating as a queer and/or trans person means to you?

I am thankful for the LGBTQ Student Resource Center at MSU. Just knowing there is a safe space out there for my community to connect and find resources is very comforting, and seeing those emails in my inbox regularly makes me feel less alone in the world. I never thought I would graduate with the distinction of being LGBTQ (I've had a long coming out process even to myself), but I am proud to do so. Living authentically is more important than ever.

Madison Rose

University of Colorado Denver - BA in Psychology
"I came out in my freshman year, and my life went from black and white to full color afterwards. I am so grateful for the experiences and the beautiful people I have met throughout my academic journey.
During my time in college, I established three non-profits to help combat gun violence in the United States. With my organizations, I have had the privilege to be a lead organizer in the March for Our Lives in Denver, as well as gubernatorial debates, town halls, and voter registration rallies. Now I am finishing my last semester with an honors research project on ways to prevent gun violence in our country. My future aspirations include attending law school and shaping policy that could help our community. "

What does graduating as a queer and/or trans person means to you?

I feel blessed to be in an era, as well as a location, that is mostly accepting of my identity. Graduating, not only out of the closet but being celebrated for who I am is a tremendous gift. I hope to continue that celebration and positivity outside of my college life."

Tali Worthington

Metropolitan State University - BA in Political Science; Sociology

"I do hope to help marginalized communities in the future either. I will probably end up running for office, but I hope to be a part of campaigns for diverse candidates that care about marginalized groups."

What are your thoughts on how LGBTQ students in higher education fare on the Auraria campus and what are your hopes for future changes?

"I think that the Auraria campus has done many things right in trying to be a welcoming campus. I would like to see even more all-gender bathrooms in the future. GITA is a wonderful space that feels very welcoming, and I know I enjoyed having access to that space while I attended MSU."

Siet Wright

Metropolitan State University - IDP in Leadership Communication with a Concentration in Water Studies and Environmental Law

"As a queer suburbanite mom/ high-school drop-out; it means everything to me to be a college grad! I couldn’t be more proud to be graduating! 

I want to help craft the legislation in the future that protects our water, land and air for the next generation. That’s possible here."

What does graduating as a queer and/or trans person means to you?

"LGBTQ students in Auraria are a source of pride here! It brings me so much joy to be part of this inclusive community!"

Finley Jay Baker

Metropolitan State University - BFA in Art

Alexis Kay Bills

University of Colorado Denver - BA in Criminal Justice

Sena Bayani Bryant

Community College of Denver - Associates in Applied Science of Graphic Design

Abby Lee Chadwick

Community College of Denver - Associates in English

Summer Ashley De Herrera

Metropolitan State University - BA in Elementary Education with a Concentration in Cultural and Linguistic Diversity, Minor in Human Services

Morghan Weber Dill

Metropolitan State University - Master's of Social Work

Madison Kathryn Fischer

Metropolitan State University - BA in Elementary Education

Medina Abdela Hussen

Community College of Denver - Human Services

Hannah Lynne Johnston

Metropolitan State University - Masters in Social Work

Katie Nicole Kimbrel

Metropolitan State University - BA in English with a Concentration in Secondary Education

Jessica Jean Marie Larkins

Uses Any/All Pronouns
Community College of Denver - Associate of Art

Jenae Ashley Dominique Murray

Metropolitan State University - BS in Human Services with a Concentration in Mental Health Counseling

Pablo Chavira Nieto

Metropolitan State University - BA in Modern Languages with a Concentration in Spanish and K-12 Education

Christina Michelle Paul

Metropolitan State University - BA in English with a Concentration in Writing

Molly McKenzie Quinn

Metropolitan State University - Bachelor of Fine Arts with a Concentration in Painting and Ceramics

Nicole Rae Thurmes

Metropolitan State University - MA in Elementary Education with a Concentration in Mathematics

Celeste Marie Utke

Metropolitan State University - BFA in Fine Arts with a Concentration in Drawing

Esmeralda Villalpando

Metropolitan State University - BA in Physical Education

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