Wallace State Nursing holds 1st of 2 pinning ceremonies for Class of 2024

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UAB/Wallace State Nursing Joint Enrollment graduate Skylar Sloan of Dora is pinned by Wallace State Community College Nursing Instructor Amy Burtram during the Wallace State Nursing May 2024 pinning ceremony held May 9, 2024, at Traditions Bank Arena inside the Tom Drake Coliseum at Wallace State Community College. Sloan also served her class as vice-president. (WSCC)

HANCEVILLE, Ala. — Wallace State Community College’s Department of Nursing Education recognized more than 75 graduates at the first of two pinning ceremonies for the class of 2024. Both the May and August ceremonies celebrate new nurses graduating from the program that has twice been designated as a Center of Excellence by the National League for Nursing.

Wallace State Community College President Dr. Vicki Karolewics welcomed Nursing graduates and their families to Tom Drake Coliseum, congratulating students on their upcoming nursing careers.

“Here is your future, Wallace State Nurses. Welcome to it and congratulations,” said Karolewics.

Chair of the Department of Nursing Education Deborah “Pepper” Hoover praised Nursing graduates on their dedication to academics and expressed her gratitude for their decision to attend Wallace State.

“Graduates, you selected nursing at Wallace State at a very uncertain time in healthcare,” said Hoover. “When you applied for admission in the fall of 2022, the pandemic had created a scary world. However, we were so happy that you selected Wallace State for your nursing education and have continued to allow us to be part of your nursing journey.”

“These unique individuals have worked very hard to earn this degree,” Hoover added. “Creating a culture of possibility to empower students to realize their dreams, developing strong healthcare partnerships to facilitate employment options and achieving the vision of academic excellence are some of the goals of the nursing department.

Speaking on behalf of her classmates, class president Iesha McElrath of Fort Payne reminisced with her peers while expressing her excitement for joining the nursing field.

“Today marks the culmination of years of hard work, dedication and sacrifice. Each of you has shown immense courage and perseverance to reach this point. I commend you for choosing a path of compassion and life-changing service. A career that demands not only knowledge and skill, but also empathy and heart,” said McElrath. “We have learned not just the science of medicine through nursing, but also the art of caring and the art of being present in moments of vulnerability, grief and joy. Today is not just about looking back, it is also about looking forward with hope and determination. The world needs us now more than ever.”

Members of the May 2024 UAB/Wallace State Nursing Joint Enrollment cohort pose for a photo before the pinning ceremony on May 9, 2024, at Traditions Bank Arena inside the Tom Drake Coliseum at Wallace State Community College.

Apprenticeship, Joint Enrollment cohorts recognized

The May pinning ceremony marked the first cohort of nursing apprenticeship students to graduate from Wallace State. The apprenticeship initiative began at Wallace State in Spring 2023 and is coordinated by Christina Holmes, director of career services and work-based learning. The program partners with area employers, providing Wallace State Nursing students with the opportunity for on-the-job experience alongside standard classroom instruction. Apprentices work under the guidance of mentors that ensure they are mastering skills and will enter the nursing workforce in a role at their apprenticeship facility. Graduates in the apprenticeship cohort include Sarah Borden of Haleyville, Diamond Horton of Gadsden, Heather Ivey of Union Grove, Devin Kirk of Cullman and Ryleigh Patterson of Hartselle.   

Among the almost 80 graduates at the pinning ceremony, eight graduated with an associate degree from Wallace State and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) as part of the UAB/WSCC Joint Enrollment program. This year, Wallace State celebrated the sixth cohort of graduates to complete the program and earn two degrees. Members of the joint enrollment cohort include Melissa Dillon of Birmingham, Chloe Dover of Hanceville, Ashley Haga of Arab, Lydia Kelso of Cullman, Chibueze Meremetoh of New York City, Devin Murphree of Hanceville, Skylar Sloan of Dora and Brady Helms of Pearl, Mississippi.

Wallace State Nursing Nightingale Awards were presented to Brady Helms, left, of Pearl, Mississippi; Benjamin Bianchi, center, of Trussville; and Zachary Gables, right, of Sterrett, during the May Nursing Pinning Ceremony held in Traditions Bank Arena of Tom Drake Coliseum.

Nightingale Award Winners recognized

Three students were recognized as Nightingale Award Winners from the May 2024 pinning class. Zachary Gables of Sterrett, Benjamin Bianchi of Trussville and Brady Helms of Pearl, Mississippi each received the award, which is given in recognition of a student’s commitment to excellence in scholarship and dedication to exemplary patient care.

Gables, a licensed paramedic and firefighter, is known for being “compassionate, a quick learner, a good critical thinker and someone who practices with integrity.” He shared that even though nursing school was difficult, he had grown in his medical knowledge and his role as a father and husband.   

Bianchi is described as having excellent bedside manner and is “an eager learner and a selfless helper who cares with compassion, respect and authenticity for his patients.” Bianchi also served his class as a representative.

Helms, a competitive runner on the Wallace State Cross Country team, is noted as having “brought a light to every room he entered, along with the hum of music.” One faculty member remarked that Helms displayed the best work ethic and compassion they had experienced in a student and that he “always wanted to learn and do more.” Helms was recognized by UAB as a Nightingale Award winner during the UAB Senior Recognition Ceremony and was also awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Health Science during Wallace State’s 2024 Spring Commencement Ceremony.

Other nominees for the Nightingale Award include Chase Dupree of Baileyton, Levi Garner of Cullman, Thomas Marshall Horton III of Kimberly, Atyah Jones of Courtland, Lydia Kelso of Cullman, Christopher Martinez-Tello of Guntersville, Chibueze Meremetoh of New York City, Sara Morgan of Sumiton, Obi Chinenyenwa of Hoover, Ryleigh Patterson of Hartselle, Brandi Seelbinder of Gardendale and Rachel Vincent of Hanceville.

Following the pinning ceremony, Nursing graduates left the Traditions Bank Arena at Tom Drake Coliseum dancing down the aisle, many carrying signs decorated with the names of medical facilities where they will be working.

The pinning ceremony for the August cohort will be held at 5 p.m., on Thursday, Aug. 1, in Traditions Bank Arena at Tom Drake Coliseum.  

Applications for Spring 2025 Open July 1 

The Wallace State Department of Nursing Education offers a traditional option through which students can earn a practical nursing certificate after completing three semesters and an associated in applied science after completing the fifth semester. It also offers the UAB/WSCC and Athens State University (ATSU)/WSCC Joint Enrollment options, allowing students to concurrently complete associate and bachelor’s degrees through Wallace State and the partnering institution. Both the traditional and joint enrollment pathways have mobility options for certified health care professionals wishing to pursue a career in nursing.

The Wallace State Nursing program will accept applications July 1 through Oct. 1 for the Spring 2025 semester for the traditional associate degree in nursing, practical nursing degree and Joint Enrollment program options with UAB and ATSU.

For more information about the Wallace State Nursing program, visit www.wallacestate.edu/nursing, call 256-352-8199 or email nursingapplicant@wallacestate.edu.