A new crop of nurses are entering the medical field and they are ready to face any challenge ahead after having to complete all of their training during the COVID-19 pandemic. Northeastern Junior College recognized 14 graduates Thursday evening at its Associate Degree Pinning Ceremony.
The ceremony started with an invocation by graduate Kaitlyn Houghton and a welcome from Julie Brower, director of the nursing program, followed by remarks by guest speaker Jody Kind, director of client services at Northeast Colorado Health Department. She congratulated the graduates for accomplishing such a remarkable thing, noting that nursing continues to be one of the hardest degrees to obtain, as well as one of the most respected professions.
“As a new nursing graduate, you have accomplished something that no one else has done. You have blazed a new trail in nursing. You are part of a class of students that completed their entire training through a pandemic,” Kind said. “You have been met with adversity every step of the way. So now it’s time to celebrate.”
She went on to share some important things she learned and was reminded of through COVID, telling the graduates to have no regrets, become educated, do your research, listen to your feelings and make your own decisions.
“Far too many people left us unexpectedly in the past two years, lives have been changed forever. It’s important to recognize that life is precious,” Kind said. “Open your heart to others. Accept people for who they are and their ability to be who they can be.”
She also told the graduates not to hold judgment over others and to take responsibility for themselves, and ended with a poem, “The Soul Journey” by Tahlia Hunter.
Next, Class President Lindsey Nestor gave her address, recalling the struggles the graduates have dealt with literally from day one, when their first week of classes in 2020 got cancelled due to COVID.
“Right off the bat, our class learned all about the term ‘flexibility.’ When nursing school finally stared, all 18 of us got to know each other with masks on, sitting six feet apart from one another. As our first year continued, classes and clinicals were frequently canceled, but unfortunately, the studying and homework were not,” Nestor said. “We even had classes online via WebEx, believe it or not, and that was challenging. We learned to live our lives day by day and adapt to whatever curveball life decided to throw at us.”
By the end of the first year, 15 classmates remained. Hardship came while friends did not continue on but other friendships grew stronger.
As the group’s final year of nursing school began, new faces joined their nursing family and 20 of them sat in a classroom almost shoulder to shoulder. It was a huge change. But, 14 of them, “the last survivors,” made it through and were able to celebrate their success at graduation.
“To say these people are flexible is an understatement. I whole heartedly believe that NJC has produced the most resilient and dedicated nurses that you will ever have the pleasure of being acquainted with,” Nestor said.
In the next few years, most of the graduates will continue on to participate in the RN, BSN, MSN programs, become travel nurses, nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists and many other career path as as well.
“As you continue to write your pages in your own book, carry with you our class quote by Adlaia Stevenson ‘when you leave here, don’t forget why you care,’” Nestor told her fellow graduates.
Following her remarks, Kelsey Dillinger, associate professor of nursing, recognized the scholarship recipients who include: Nicole Jimenez, Kaitlyn Houghton, Jessica Teter, Shenette Morandarte, Andrea McCallum and Taylor Boerner.
Dillinger thanked Bob and Norma Plank for all of their support of the program, helping to secure numerous scholarships for students.
Later, two special awards were presented.
The Highest Academic Average Award, presented by the Sterling Rotary Club, went to Kaitlyn Houghton and Kaylee Shell.
Andrea McCallun was honored with the coveted Best Bedside Nurse Award, presented by the Sterling Lions Club. This award is very special as the recipient is chosen by the nursing faculty who work with the students in the clinical setting. This individual is awarded for demonstrating the best patient care and compassion while being trained as a nurse.
Nursing faculty then spoke about the history of the pinning ceremony and the importance of nurses.
“Nurses make a difference in the lives of patients and the health of their communities, but becoming a nurse takes a lot of hard work, as the individuals being honored here tonight can attest to. Nursing students need to acquire cutting-edge knowledge and advanced-practice skills to be effective on the front lines of patient care,” they said.
Then it was time for the graduates to walk across the stage and receive their nursing pin. Each was pinned by one of their family members and after receiving their certificate, as they walked off stage they were gifted with a New Testament from the Ladies Auxiliary of the Gideons.
The Class of 2022 includes: Eve Corenne Alexander of Ft. Collins, Taylor Brianne Boerner of Haxtun, Gabrielle Nicole Cone of Sterling, Emily Alyse Fleckenstein of Sterling, Mandy Leigh Goble of Otis, Kaitlyn Rose Houghton of Sterling, Nicole Jimenez of Mountainair, N.M., Andrea Lynn McCallum of Holyoke, Joseph Glenn Miles of Oklahoma City, Okla., Shenette Abegail O. Morandarte of Denver, Lindsey Jean Nestor of Ft. Morgan, Kaylee Allison Schell of Buena Vista, Kayla Marie Soto of Akron and Jessica Kristine Teter of Byers.