HANCEVILLE, Ala. – The Wallace State Community College Department of Nursing Education recognized almost 100 students on Thursday, May 9, during a pinning ceremony that also recognized award winners.
“We will celebrate this group’s accomplishments, which are many, and witness the passing of the light as these individuals symbolically enter the profession of nursing,” said Deborah “Pepper” Hoover, chair of the department.
Hoover spotlighted some of the accomplishments of the students in the Class of 2019, many of which took place within two weeks in April. One group of students earned a gold medal in the Alabama SkillsUSA competition, qualifying for them to compete at the national SkillsUSA conference. A faculty member presented a poster depicting teaching strategies used for this particular class at a national nursing educators conference in Georgia. Another group of students were on an international service learning project in Kenya.
“This class has taken Wallace to another level to fully operationalize our vision in Nursing in becoming an internationally recognized center of excellence in nursing education,” said Hoover.
While some students and faculty were traveling, most remained on campus providing support to those who were away and continuing the department’s efforts to enhance learning at a level not seen in the new concept curriculum except at Wallace State. Proof of their success is found in the standardized test scores that are unprecedented, Hoover said.
Hoover also reported that more than 70 percent of the graduates already accepted jobs and several have plans to pursue advanced degrees. One student, Michelle Kreps, was admitted to the Capstone School of Nursing for Fall 2019 BSN Bama Latino project even before she started her final semester at Wallace State.
Dr. Vicki Karolewics congratulated the graduates and expressed her appreciation to their families. “I want to thank you and express our gratitude for you sharing your loved ones with us,” she said. “You gave us a diamond in the rough and tonight we’re returning to you a precious gemstone that we have invested our hearts and our hands in, helping them become the very best nurses that they can become.”
Class vice president Nichole Stoddard, who went on to win the Excellence in Health Award at the 2019 Commencement exercises, thanked the faculty for their support and encouragement.
“They have experienced our best and our worst moments,” she said. “Through the tears, the smiles and the joy, they have picked us up. Despite everything, they ensured that we received the knowledge and the skills to be the best nurses and most compassionate to our patients. For that I would like to extend our gratitude and a heartfelt thank you.”
Class president Ashley McClintock spoke for her classmates as they celebrated their achievements. McClintock was one of the six students and two faculty who were chosen to participate in the international learning service project.
“So many lives, including our own, were changed because of your commitment to the global health initiative and your own desire to change the world,” McClintock said, thanking Dr. Karolewics, Hoover and the Wallace State faculty for the opportunity to go to Kenya. “The people of Kenya are the sweetest and most welcoming people I’ve ever met. I knew that going to Africa, I would see poverty and know how fortunate we are here, but I could have never prepared myself for how my heart would break.”
She recalled the story of a mother and her 13-year-old daughter who came to the clinic to find out why the child was so ill. After an examination, they were told the child’s heart was enlarged and she would need all four valves replaced to survive. The damage to her heart was caused by an infection that started with a case of strep throat.
“I tell you this story because we’re all familiar with strep throat,” McClintock said. “We know the signs and symptoms and we know when to go to the doctor. For us, it’s as easy as getting in the car, driving a few minutes down the road to get the dreaded swab test of our throat and a prescription and in a few days, we feel better. For them, getting strep throat can be deadly.
“Steve James and Kenya Relief are doing so much to prevent these kinds of stories in Kenya and to provide affordable health care to the community,” she added and encouraged the audience to go on a medical mission trip, no matter how near or far. “I will never regret giving up two weeks of my life to go and find a part of me that was missing.”
Awards were presented at the conclusion of the pinning ceremony, with the Nightingale Awards as the highlight. The award is given to students who show commitment to excellence in scholarship and dedication to compassion and exemplary patient care. Winners of the award were Ashley McClintock of Cullman, Travis Putman of Warrior and Nicole Stoddard of Hartselle. Other nominees for the award were Melinda Fulford of Eva, Jesse Hailey of Altoona, Michelle Kreps of Cullman, Samantha Schneirla of Alabaster, Kari Silas of Birmingham, Shelby Trammell of Logan, and Erin Wise of Hanceville.