On Tuesday Nov. 24 U of L’s LGBT Center gathered in the Red Barn for an Alternative Thanksgiving. The LGBT Alumni Network hosted the event, and Humana’s LGBT Resource Group donated home cooked items like turkey and dressing, among the buffet of Thanksgiving food. Other volunteers included university faculty and staff, and people from Feast on Equality committee.

“A lot of LGBT students either can’t go home, their not welcomed home, or going home means going back in the closet… To pretend to be someone their not. The main focus is on them and their experience,” said Brian Buford, director of the LGBT Center at U of L .

The Red Barn was packed with students and families who filled their plates, and chatted happily under the warm, disco-like lights. About an hour into the event, Buford stepped up on stage to introduce their long standing ceremony of recognition within the U of L LGBT community. Graduating seniors were presented with rainbow chords to proudly wear with their robes this December, and former student now LGBT alumni, Katy Garrison presented the “Katy Garrison LGBT Student Leadership” award to this year’s winner to LGBT ambassador Ana Ruiz.

Ruiz helped transformed “Cardinals Celebrating Culturas,” or now more recognizably Latin American and Hispanic Student Organization (LAHSO). Ruiz also volunteers at DuPont Manual High School, where she is passionate about helping latino and hispanic students craft leadership and networking skills for their futures.

When speaking on her experience with the U of L LGBT Center, she commented, “I like to say the LGBT Center saves lives. There’s students out there who get kicked out of their home, their parents won’t talk to them – it’s horrible. But when they come into the intersection, they have a place where they can feel at home. They feel safe and they feel loved. My parents didn’t kick me out, they didn’t do anything like that. It (LGBT Center) didn’t necessarily save my life, but it most definitely changed my life.”

Ruiz said that she is most thankful for her family, and the opportunities the LGBT Center has given her during her college career.