‘The beginning of something incredible’: Vice mayor speaks at Lavender Graduation for LGBTQ+ students


Amy Huang

Sunnyvale Vice Mayor and Political Science instructor Alysa Cisneros attending Lavender Grad as a Keynote Speaker.

Jerry Chen, Reporter

Sunnyvale vice mayor Alysa Cisneros attended keynote speaker during the Women, Gender and Sexuality Center’s fifth annual Lavender Graduation, a ceremony dedicated to celebrating LGBTQ+ and queer-identifing graduating students, on June 14 at De Anza College. 

Cisneros was named the first Latina and first open LGBTQ+ member of Sunnyvale City Council in 2020. As a former De Anza student and current professor, she spoke of her passion for education and political involvement in the local community. She said it was a pleasure being back on campus and continuing to celebrate this tradition for the LGBTQ+ community.

Speaking back to when she was first attending De Anza in 2011, Cisneros said how she didn’t think she would be able to enroll in college with difficult circumstances and achieve something she was passionate about.

“Well, I’m complicated,” Cisneros said. “This community is complicated and people are complicated. People can understand complicated things because we experienced it all.”

After college, she was able to continue doing work in the South Bay Area as a community organizer and public policy analyst. For her proudest achievement in education policy, Cisneros helped pass a piece of legislation in California that allowed foster youth and homeless students to access financial aid until they were 26 years old. She also discussed her response when her queer ideas were opposed by a consultant during one of her campaigns.

Cisneros said that, like her, everyone has their own complicated story and experience where they would be able to show their identities. She remarked that De Anza prepares students well in leadership and how they would be like her to cheer others up in the future.

Nika Nia, 20, mathematics and political science major, is the scholarship winner of the LGBTQ+ Leadership and Service award.

“Use that as your motivation,” Cisneros said. “You’re gonna lift up the next person like you, and I’m going to tell you, it feels amazing.”

Nika Nia, 20, mathematics and political science major transferring to Amherst College, was invited to the celebration as the scholarship winner of the LGBTQ+ leadership and service award. She said she felt confident after hearing about Cisneros’s experiences with success.

“It’s important to believe in yourself,” Nia said. “If you want to achieve something, then that’s for you to add a little of that effort and go for it.”

At the end of the speech, Cisneros encouraged students that the ceremony would not only mark the end of their De Anza journey, but it would also be “the beginning of something really incredible.”

After hearing Cisneros’s speech, Roseanne Giannini Quinn, an English professor and  interim faculty coordinator of the Women, Gender and Sexuality Center, said that she wants De Anza to be home to LGBTQ+ students where they can thrive in both education and leadership.

“We don’t call De Anza a family for nothing,” Quinn said. “I think across the intersectional identities, it is very important to emphasize that we can be part of who you are as chosen families while you’re here and beyond.”

Amanda Zachman, 19, psychology major received an honorable mention for the LGBTQ+ student leadership and service award during the ceremony. They are politically involved as the co-president and co-founder of the LGBTQ+ alliance student club, and said Cisneros’ speech had made them feel hopeful as an alumni of the same institution as her. 

“Her speech makes me feel more connected to the community,” Zachman said. “I realize that we don’t just stop here and we go beyond that.”

Sara Sangari, 20, political science major transferring to University of California, San Diego, said it’s important for people to be in the right community to feel safe and grow in finding their true identities. She has been part of the Women, Gender and Sexuality’s Center as an advisory council since September 2021.

From left to right, Khari Crawford, Danny Johnson, Amanda Zachman, Kestia Durant (top), Samo Bhatt (bottom). (Amy Huang)

“It’s really nice to hear from an adult in a higher position of leadership and it’s motivating because that’s where I want to be in the future,” Sangari said.

Alicia Mullens, an instructor in the faculty of meteorology, said that through lavender grad, she wants to tell students that there are people to always support them even in their lowest place.

“It’s an honor to show our students that they’re not alone,” Mullens said. “They’re loved and they’re well done.”