HANCEVILLE, Ala. – Celebrating more than 200 students who faced unexpected challenges as they completed their studies, the Wallace State Department of Nursing Education held two virtual pinning ceremonies Thursday for graduates of the program.
Program Chair Deborah “Pepper” Hoover noted their first unexpected challenge was a cyber-attack at the beginning of the spring semester. At the time, she said, they thought that would be the most unusual challenge they would face.
“Of course, the cyber-attack did not really impact the curriculum as much as the outbreak of COVID-19 in February,” Hoover said. “These students continued studying online and completed clinical objectives to demonstrate that COVID would not impact their dreams.” Of both the May and August cohorts, Hoover said they would go down in the archives of WSCC as the most successful cohorts who persevered in the face of these unprecedented series of events.
Wallace State President Dr. Vicki Karolewics congratulated the students and faculty for their accomplishments.
“You have achieved a significant milestone in this journey through your career and the rest of your life,” Karolewics added. “And you really have done an amazing job. I’m so proud of you.”
Quoting 18th century cleric John Wesley, Karolewics encouraged the new nurses to give 100 percent to the care of others.
“When you are practicing the art of medicine and healing, ‘do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can,’” she said. “If you do all those things, you will surely have a brilliant career.”
Those thoughts fell in line with the message of Sandra Wakeley’s invocation to the May class, who pointed out that while they all have differences, they must do what they can to help others.
“We must pledge our best to help one another and to defend the rights of all,” said Wakeley, of Gardendale. “What divides us is not so much our differences, but the degree of commitment we have to care for and strengthen our neighbors and communities. We are gathered today, a class divisible by many categories, standing united with the shared believe that we must treat our fellow human beings with respect and dignity.”
Traditional elements of the ceremony continued, with each student inviting a family member or friend to pin them, and each student lit a candle and took the Nightingale Pledge. Awards were also presented.
From the May class, Emily Dickerson of Rogersville, was presented the Nursing Program Award. She maintained an A in very nursing course and received glowing reports in her clinical evaluations.
Dr. Carl Davis, who has a doctorate in music education and was a high school music teacher for more than 25 years, was recognized as the 2020 Presidential Award for Health Excellence winner.
Davis, of Leggtown, was among three recipients of the Nightingale Award, an award given by nursing faculty and in recognition of the students’ commitment to excellence is scholarship and dedication to compassion and exemplary patient care. Other winners in the May class were Julia Kelley of Guntersville and Kimberly Tucker of Arab.
Of Davis, his nominators said, “He is an informal leader of the class who strives to shape professionalism in the group. He is always looking for an opportunity to be helpful whether it involves an agency recruitment luncheon or general calming influence on his classmates. He pays close attention to detail and practices with integrity.”
“She has a positive attitude about everything,” Kelley’s nominators noted. “No matter what, give her about five minutes and she could identify a silver lining to any problem. She is a hardworking student with a great work ethic. While working as an LPN, managing a family, and studying, she volunteered for recruiting efforts, community health projects, and more.”
Hoover said Tucker redefines perseverance. “She had been a paramedic for eight years before beginning her journey through nursing school,” Hoover said. “She said her largest obstacle was learning how to balance completing assignments, studying, attending class, simulations and clinicals while working 24 hour shifts every third day and being a wife and mother. There were many weeks where there were no days off.”
Other nominees for the Nightingale Award from the May class were Ty Brown, Salim Chacon, Emily Dickerson, Brent Harris, Kristen Lake and Taylor Nash.
In his address to his classmates, May class president Zach Dutton of Empire said, “No matter where you go from here, go forth with confidence and honesty and compassion for others. You have already proven that you have what it takes to be successful, now go and put it to good use. Do your part to make a difference in these uncertain times, for this is what we were called to do.”
From the August cohort, class president Kassydi Spurgeon was recognized as the Association of Nursing Students Award winner, and Meleah Sharit was recognized as the President’s Cup nominee. Spurgeon was also chosen as one of three Nightingale Award winners, along with Brody Bates and Erika Clark.
Bates, of Cullman, was described as unique for having served in the military, a paramedic and a mobility student in Nursing. “He has valued service to his country and has decided to add nursing to his skillset,” Hoover said. “He said he has a heart for service to the veterans of this country and will pursue an opportunity to work with this group of persons with unique healthcare needs.”
Clark, of Athens, served as president of the Association of Nursing Students and was described as an energetic student who “often motivated others with her great attitude and humor.
“As a student leader, she was a great of example of what you can accomplish when it seems impossible,” Hoover added. “As a single mother of four she worked full-time until January and as ANS president since August of 2019 she has continued to be actively involved with recruiting, planning for future events and fundraising for student leadership development.”
Spurgeon, of Gadsden, is known for her courage and determination, Hoover said.
“She said her acceptance letter from Wallace State changed her life forever,” Hoover said. “She said, for me, this was a letter letting me know that I am enough. I will not be a statistic. I will have DNP behind my name and my babies will be able to say their mommy did it. She has been through tremendous challenges and has served her class well.”
Other nominees for the Nightingale Award from the August class were Aubrey Baker of Huntsville, Julia Hill of Cleveland, Meleah Sharit of Remlap, and Amanda Garner and Jenna Hudson, Skylin Satterwhite, all of Cullman.
In her address to her class, Spurgeon expressed her thanks to the family, friends and faculty who supported them.
“To our family and friends, and to the faculty that stuck with us throughout this journey, thank you,” she said. “For listening to our complaints, for lifting us up when we felt defeated, for wiping every tear and just being a listening ear.
“Class of 2020, we did it,” Spurgeon added. “We came, we made the best of friends, we beat adversity, we cried, and we failed, and we conquered. I don’t know where this journey will take us, but I thank God for allowing me to go on this temporary journey with you.”
Hoover expressed her appreciation and best wishes to the newest members of the healthcare field.
“In this unprecedented time of heartache and pandemic and challenges, you are our heroes and we so wish you well in your journey and in your career,” she said.
The WSCC Department of Nursing Education is a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education as recognized by the National League for Nursing.
The program is accepting applications through Sept. 1 for Spring 2021 entry for Associate Degree Nursing and UAB/WSCC Nursing Joint Enrollment candidates. They will accept applications for candidates for reinstatement or as transfers from other nursing programs from Oct. 15 to Nov. 15. Visit www.wallacestate.edu/nursing for more information.
Registration for the fall semester is underway, with classes beginning Aug. 17. For more information, visit www.wallacestate.edu or call 256-352-8000.