Cougar Pride Center’s annual march ‘Pride in Progress’ promotes unity, acceptance

Students and LGBTQ+ supporters in rainbow attire. Students and LGBTQ+ allies march for the Cougar Pride Center’s annual march. (Dylan Eubank)

The Cougar Pride Center held its fourth annual pride march in downtown Provo on Saturday, April 27. The march began at the Historic Courthouse and ended at Memorial Park.

The Cougar Pride Center is a non-profit and LGBTQ+ affiliated organization that was founded in 2021. This theme for this year’s event was “Pride In Progress.”

According to the center’s website, the purpose of the pride march was to bring awareness to their cause and mission, which is to “empower queer BYU students, celebrate progress, and advocate for change through collaborative activism.”

At the event there were numerous speeches given in front of the Provo Historic Courthouse, advocating for the LGBTQ+ cause. 

Julia Sasine, former president of the Cougar Pride Center, spoke at the event and said “Today in this unlikely haven, we illuminate the path for the future with unyielding courage and contagious joy. Today and together, let us celebrate, unite and advocate for a better tomorrow.”

After hearing from the speakers, students marched down Center Street. More than 200 participants cheered as multiple passing cars honked in support. 

BYU alumnus Mike Mcleroy participated in the march and commented on his time at BYU. He said being gay “was something you didn’t actively show there at that time.”

Mike Mcleroy, a participant in the Pride march and a BYU alumnus. Students and LGBTQ+ allies march for the Cougar Pride Center’s annual march. (Dylan Eubank)

Although many students and alumni such as Mcleroy feel that there has been some major progress in recent years, others feel there is still headway to be made.

“It takes courage,” Mcleroy said. “Any individual coming out can be the spark for someone else to come out — for someone else to know that it’s okay to be themselves. So I’d say be yourself.”

After the march, participants were able to relax and enjoy the spring weather at the music festival held in Memorial Park. Multiple booths from organizations such as the RaYnbow Collective and the Utah Pride Center were set up in support of the event.

“Events like this are super important,” Gracee Purcell, president of the RaYnbow Collective, said. “Maybe people don’t realize that, but these are some of the only safe spaces in Provo and we’re here creating them. And it’s really exciting for BYU students to come and be themselves.”

Members of the LGBTQ+ community were also excited to learn that the Cougar Pride Center officially received non-profit status in January 2024.

“Super excited for them. It was about time,” Purcell said. “RaYnbow collective is a non-profit so we were super happy to see they also got their status.”

Although only being around for a few years, the Cougar Pride Center has managed to equip many BYU students with LGBTQ+ friendly resources and safe spaces. The center has resources ranging from social events to safe housing. Safe housing is provided through the Safe Housing Project which aims to help LGBTQ+ students find housing that will promote their success and well-being while at BYU.

David Shill, the executive director of the Cougar Pride Center said that some of his close personal friends have been helped by the resources provided by the center. 

David Shill, Executive Director of the Cougar Pride Center. Students and LGBTQ+ allies march for the Cougar Pride Center’s annual march. (Dylan Eubank)

“We’ve helped almost 400 people,” Shill said. “Over the last three years or so, 400 people have put in a response and we’ve matched them with safe housing.”

Shill also said he was optimistic about the future.

“The whole idea is that pride is in progress,” Shill said. “We haven’t arrived and also, we have come a long way. What I’d like to see in the future is more collaboration with BYU and queer groups. I’d love for more people to be able to know about all of the resources that are out there for them.”

Students and those interested in resources provided by the Cougar Pride Center can find more information here.

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