Dressed in the signature starched, white uniforms of their new profession, more than 60 graduates of the Lee College nursing program celebrated their achievements Friday night at a special pinning ceremony in the Sports Arena.
“This ceremony recognizes the tremendous accomplishment that each one of you students has made,” college Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown said during a brief welcome at the start of the annual event. “Tonight is your night, and also a night for the family and friends who are here supporting you. Move forward, do what you know how to do, and represent Lee College well.”
From the musical selections to speeches by beloved faculty Roy Barefield and Sharon Hellmann, the evening was filled with personal touches that reflected the strong bond between the class of 2014 and their instructors. Special awards were presented to graduate Ebony Monroe, who demonstrated the highest level of clinical excellence throughout the 2-year Associate Degree of Nursing program; graduate Margaret Grow, who maintained a 4.0 GPA; and adjunct instructor Rhonda Dyer, a U.S. Navy veteran and Army Reserve officer who will be deployed this year.
Then, one by one, faculty members called each graduate to the center stage, where nursing program director Tracy Allen and instructor Lennette Beagnyam affixed the coveted metal pin to their chests signifying their successful participation in the Lee College program.
“Nursing means many things, but most of all, it means caring,” said Allen, who herself graduated from the Lee College nursing program some 20 years ago. “Great nurses impact people’s lives every minute, every hour of every day. Their nursing pins will become one of their most prized possessions.”
At the close of the ceremony, graduates lined up in two rows to receive the light of knowledge from their instructors, passing the live flame from one ceramic lamp to the next. Facing their loved ones, they recited the Florence Nightingale Pledge, an oath named for the founder of modern nursing and taken by all professional nurses.
“It’s been pretty emotional, but we made it. We got through it,” said Jason Perez, whose journey to an associate’s degree in nursing was 15 years in the making. “This is the second greatest accomplishment in my life; the first was marrying my beautiful wife. It means the world to me. It’s a whole new future for my family.”
Graduate Ngozi Enwere, a native of Nigeria, drove more than 100 miles every day to attend her nursing classes at Lee College. Her heart had been set on a career in nursing for many years, so when the opportunity arose she seized it quickly.
“I’m really very delighted, and I thank God for everything. Without Him, I never would have made it this far,” Enwere said. “I’ve been challenged and even wondered at times what I got myself into, but now I understand why: our instructors want us to be the best nurses we can be. In the end, it’s all been worth it.”