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Nearly 40 students participate in SDSU's Lavender Graduation ceremony | VIDEO

SAN DIEGO -- The fourth annual Lavender Graduation ceremony was held at San Diego State University (SDSU) on Wednesday and nearly 40 students participated. The event is organized each year to recognize the contributions of graduating students who identify as LGBT or allies of the community.

This year's event included a presentation of special awards which were presented to Women's Studies Professor Susan Cayleff, chair of the campus Safe Zones program; Dr. Mary Kelly, director of LGBT Resource and Program Development for SDSU's College of Arts and Letters; and Dwayne Crenshaw, a notable SDSU alumnus.

Douglas Bigham, Ph.D. was selected as "Most Influential Faculty" for the LGBT Studies Department and received recognition at the event.

After a performance by SDSU's "Vocal Vixens," the graduates were called up one by one to receive a certificate and rainbow honor cord, and were each given the opportunity to make remarks to the crowd. Students spoke about things ranging from life challenges, to plans after graduation, to why having LGBT services and programs on campus was important to them.

The large auditorium that the event was held in was standing room only, filled with friends, loved ones and family members of the graduates.

Graduates were a mix of both undergraduates and master's degree candidates.

SDSU's formal commencement ceremonies will take place May 17-19 in the Viejas Arena on campus.

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Photo credit: Rick Cervantes

In past years participating graduates paid a small administrative fee to take part in the ceremony but that was waived this year due to generous donations from Robert DeKoven and Michael Growe.

San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com