Rita Schenkelberg

The Central Oregon Pride festival was at Drake Park on Saturday, June 25, and this year’s participants not only celebrated, they remembered.

Rita Schenkelberg, a student in the counseling graduate program at OSU-Cascades, has volunteered for Pride events for a number of years and was excited to be a part of Central Oregon Pride this year.

She said before the Orlando mass shooting on June 12, the Central Oregon Pride committee was caught up in typical festival-planning frenzy. After Orlando, they came back to the heart of Pride – to celebrate, to honor, and to unite against discrimination and violence toward the LGBTQ community.

Rita is starting her second year in the master of counseling program. She worked at a residential treatment center for children in Colorado before coming to Bend to attend OSU-Cascades. Rita is interning this year at the Kids Intervention and Diagnostic Service (KIDS) Center — a multi-agency, nonprofit facility dedicated to the prevention, evaluation and treatment of child abuse in Central Oregon.

Rita SchenkelbergFor Rita, the master of counseling program has been life-changing. She has an undergraduate degree in counseling psychology from Colorado Mesa University but the master’s program broadened her perception on what counseling is and who counselors can be.

"I love the challenging conversations you have in a graduate classroom," said Rita. "I think that's where the learning really happens."

At the Pride festival, Rita led the community art project – a ten-foot canvas mural created at the festival that will go on rotation at local businesses as a visual representation of community unity.

Along with the art project, Pride festival-goers enjoyed live music and food carts, attended workshops, and checked out more than 100 booths. There was also a memorial for the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting and on-site counseling was available.

“For me, it’s all about love, kindness and support,” said Rita.

OSU-Cascades is a sponsor of Central Oregon Pride. Details about the festival can be found on the Central Oregon Pride website and Facebook page.