27th Annual Pride Awards recognizes diversity


Trevon Smith (right), president of Prism and senior women, gender and sexuality major, being awarded the Howard and Mellie Eychaner Award by Molly Holmes (left), Director of the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center. (Caleb Johnson | Northern Star)

By Caleb Johnson, Lifestyle Writer

DeKALB Colorful lights shined and the sound of applause filled the air as students and faculty gathered in celebration for the 27th Annual NIU LGBTQ+ Pride Awards. 

The award ceremony takes place every year to honor the accomplishments of students and staff in service of the LGBTQ+ community. 

This occasion was especially important, as NIU was recognized with a five-star rating on the Campus Pride Index. This rating is important because it shows a school’s commitment to providing LGBTQ+ programming and services that contribute to positive experiences, learning and community.  

The main award for this program, the Howard and Mellie Eychaner Award, is granted for outstanding service to the LGBTQ+ Huskie community and having this rating shows recognition and support for the diverse population of students and staff at NIU.   

The Eychaner award is given to two recipients each year, one student and one staff member.

The student recipient was senior Trevon Smith, the president of Prism and a woman, gender and sexuality major. The staff award went to Jessica Reyman, associate dean of the graduate school. 

Smith got out of his seat and gave a hug and posed for photos with Molly Holmes, the award presenter and director of the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, while Reyman was thankful for their achievement.

“I want to say this award represents to me, not an acknowledgment of a past accomplishment, but a challenge to continue to work towards equity and inclusion,” Reyman said.

Many speakers shared how important and impactful these awards were for them. 

“As human beings, we often perceive ourselves as separate entities, but in truth we are intimately connected to everything and everyone in our lives,” said Katy Jaekel, acting director for the Center for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality. 

Holmes spoke about the significance of holding these awards for the college. 

“These events explore why NIU is such a leader in support, flexibility and celebration of our multi-talented LGBTQ+ students, staff, alumni and community members,” Holmes said. 

During the event numerous scholarships, leadership awards and recognitions were given including the Margie M. Cook Leadership Award which was won by Peregrin Capriglione, treasurer of Prism. 

Among the groups recognized were Prism, NIU’s student-run organization that promotes and supports LGBTQ+ student’s needs, and the Period Project volunteers, a group dedicated to providing period and hygiene products available in all the restrooms. 

“I’ve been president since pre-COVID, and I’ve seen Prism go through shifts and changes, and I can confidently say we’re set up for the future,” Smith said.

Also recognized during the awards was the Speakers Bureau, an educational group in which members share their LGBTQ+ and ally experiences and provide discussion forums and informational talks.