Stuyvesant Spectrum Hosts Chosen Family Holiday Dinner

Stuyvesant Spectrum hosted its first Chosen Family holiday dinner, with speeches given by Principal Yu and former teacher K.M. DiColandrea that focused on self-acceptance and hope in the LGBTQ+ community.

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Stuyvesant Spectrum, a club dedicated to creating a safe space for LGBTQ+ students and allies, hosted its first Chosen Family holiday dinner on December 22 in the cafeteria. Approximately 50 people were in attendance.

As suggested by its name, the goal of the dinner was to celebrate the chosen or found families of Spectrum members. “This is the first time we [held] a Spectrum dinner. It was called the Chosen Family dinner because many people aren’t safe to be out at home or with their families,” Spectrum cabinet member Margaret Mikhalevsky said. “[...] For a lot of queer people, the holidays are a really stressful time, especially if their families aren’t accepting or [if] they were outed. Or people can have a hostile environment where they have to hide who they are. So we just wanted to have a holiday celebration for everyone and their chosen families.”

This spirit of the dinner allowed Spectrum members to cultivate community bonds beyond their biological families. “I liked the idea behind it, the whole thing about having a chosen family […] I love the idea of tradition, and I’m really into it, but I’ve never been able to participate in it because of my family,” junior Pepsi H. said.

At the dinner, speeches were given by Principal Yu and former teacher K.M. DiColandrea. DiColandrea’s speech discussed self-acceptance and hope in the LGBTQ+ community, especially for those with families or relatives who may not be accepting of their identities. “I think DiCo[landrea]’s speech was especially wonderful […] It hit home for the LGBTQ+ students going through hard times and I think it was very impactful for us to hear from a queer person who’s been through similar things as we have and come out happy on the other side,” Mikhalevsky said.

Many attendees agreed that DiColandrea’s speech particularly resonated with them. “DiCo[landrea] was so, so good. I genuinely was crying by the end of his speech. […] He was telling his own story, and how at some point we would be in [a better] place, even if it's not now,” H. said.

The dinner primarily used catering services, but various Spectrum members contributed to the assortment as well. The guidance office also assisted Spectrum in organizing the dinner and bringing in food. “The guidance counselors, all of them, really helped us out a lot. Some even brought in food, [and] some helped us set up on the day of the event,” Mikhalevsky said. “Some of us brought in our own food, some of the guidance counselors brought in food, and the rest was catering.”

Mikhalevsky empathizes that Spectrum sought to foster a welcoming environment that encouraged all sorts of people to attend. “It was just a really nice event for a lot of people, even if they’re not able to be as active in the club,” Mikhalesky said. “It’s […] an event to show what Spectrum is all about. […] Some alumni from Spectrum past showed up, and some teachers as well.”

Though turnout was higher than expected, Mikhalevsky hopes to increase advertising to raise more awareness for future events. “I would [have liked to] advertise it more and advertise it earlier,” Mikhalevsky said. “Some people weren’t aware that it was going on,” she said.

While the dinner was initially supposed to be held in the teachers’ cafeteria, the event was moved to the lunchroom due to a scheduling conflict. However, this turned out to be beneficial for organizers in light of the fact that turnout was higher than expected. “We were supposed to have the dinner in the teachers’ cafeteria, which is much smaller. We would’ve had way less capacity and we wouldn’t [have] been able to make it as big as it was, so I’m really happy that [space] ended up freeing up,” Mikhalevsky said.

Overall, reception to the event was positive, with many Spectrum members expressing that the dinner fostered a sense of unity among them. “It was pretty successful. The food was quite good, [and] we had a good time just talking together,” sophomore Nina Skiba said. “It was a nice environment.”

Moving forward, Mikhalevsky and other Spectrum members hope to make the Chosen Family holiday dinner an annual celebration. “This is a really nice event to show what Spectrum is all about,” they said. “I think it went really well. The food was great, the guidance office was amazing, everyone was happy with the catering, [and] people showed up.”