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On Monday, June 12, exactly one year after the mass shooting of Pulse Nightclub, Valencia’s Osceola Campus held a remembrance ceremony. Peace, love and hope were the center of the event.
Along with a message about love and diversity from campus president, Dr. Kathleen Plinske, Ayla Polanco, 19 and Kailyn Portalatin, 16, from Student Development prepared a dance celebrating and honoring the lives of the ones lost a year ago. The idea for the dance came to Polanco in a dream. Once she told Portalatin about it they said, “Let’s do it!”
Both wore all white, symbolizing peace; at the end of their performance colorful powder was thrown on them as they embraced.
When asked what the color represented Polanco stated, “The color came in because you can’t be afraid to show who you are in the inside and the outside. So it’s to stand up for gay pride, to resemble the fact that even though it was a tragedy that happened a year ago, the LGBT community has come a long way.”
Maria Guisandes, 20, another Valencia College student said the purpose of the event is to remember the victims with something as happy as a dance. “The ceremony was to honor those victims, and after the tragedy we must honor their lives as well, so the dance, I think it was the perfect way to celebrate their lives and their joys,” Guisandes explained.
During the ceremony, the addition of the peace pole to Osceola Campus was revealed, along with seven pillars representing the seven students that Valencia College lost, accompanied by a garden of 49 flowers representing all the lives lost this time last year. The peace pole states, “May peace prevail on Earth,” serving as a reminder of the hope for world peace.
After the atrocity that occurred last year, instead of the community allowing themselves to be filled with hate, it grew compassion and love. Michelle Perez, 18, from student development talked about the community a year after the tragedy.
“I feel like especially Valencia, and not only Valencia, but Orlando in general, definitely has come together as a community to not only, you know mourn about it, but also remember and feel together.”
Daniela Garcia, 20, agreed. “Yeah, I feel like they [the community] have not only focused so much on the negative, but have turned to the bright side and tried to have new hope and new motivation.”
Justin Singh, 19, mentioned how the LGBTQ+ community has also changed in the past year. “I feel that even with that community, like from last year to now, they’ve grown as a community. They’ve not only been able to unify each other, but they’ve also been able to come out more and speak about how they feel and their transition from that moment, then to now.”