BERLIN — May 19 was a day of celebration for the nursing students and faculty at White Mountains Community College.
This day not only represented the students' achievement of an associate degrees, but also more important to nursing, it was the day of the pinning ceremony.
Twenty people graduated and took part in the ceremony: Melissa Rendleman and Nicole Wrobel of North Conway; Betty Jo Heney and Tobias Orfant of Madison; Betsy Coplin of Intervale; Karen Gagnon, Karen McCosh, Jordan Neil and Joy Schoenbeck of Gorham; Dawn Chaloux of Berlin; Mark Gagne and Patricia Rincon of Milan; Lara Annett of Lancaster; Keri Boynton and Meghan Gadapee of Littleton; Katie Higgins of Bethlehem; Candace Belcher of Lisbon; Tricia Kozarakis of Dalton; Wendy Bennett of Maidstone, Vt.; and Bryen-Aimee Godin of Lowell, Vt.
The nursing pin and accompanying ceremony represent a meaningful experience for nursing students. It symbolizes the completion of educational requirements that enable them to sit for the state licensure examination and then practice nursing.
Emily MacDonald, nursing department chair, welcomed students, family, friends, faculty and staff. She reminded the nursing students of "the many reasons to be grateful in this moment. Family and friends who have supported you along your journey, patients and their families who have entrusted their care to you, your faculty who, believe it or not, have you and your patients' best interests at heart, but most of all that you have been called to this sacred profession. This ceremony represents your official initiation into the sisterhood and brotherhood of nurses. The ceremony is rich with symbolism and we touched upon many of these symbols in your first semester with us," said MacDonald.
She reminded the audience that Florence Nightingale became known as "the lady with the lamp." As a tribute to Nightingale's dedication, the lamp icon became symbolic of nursing and can be found on many school pins symbolizing "the lamp of nursing knowledge."
WMCC's nursing pin was changed from the Old Man of the Mountain to the lamp to honor this tradition.
Retiring faculty member Donna Briere was next to address the graduates.
"The way I see it, this class is first class, top shelf, upper crust, and best of the best, A-one, top notch. This class is a class of firsts. You are the first class to graduate from our newly revised curriculum. When you are out there living your dream, filled with hope, enthusiasm and maybe a bit of anxiety, your rewards will come in those quiet moments when you've been with someone and helped them get through the worst, best or most terrifying experience of their life," she said, ending, "In the words of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, "Some days are diamonds, some days are rocks, some doors are open, some roads are blocked. Sundowns are golden, then fade away, and some things are over, some things go on, and part of me you carry, part of me is gone. But you got a heart so big it could lift this town."
Student speakers, Dawn Chaloux and Jordan Neil, spoke of friendship, family, and hard work.
Chaloux spoke to each individual classmate — reflecting on something special admired about each colleague. She reminded each one of their unique qualities; like telling jokes, pharmacology expertise or A&P knowledge, acknowledged special situations, like driving for hours to school or clinical, super powers to be a mom, wife, child, student, coworker, etc, or being like a thistle; and student dedication to their education and helping others make it with laughter, optimism or encouragement.
Chaloux quoted Maya Angelou, "As a nurse we have the opportunity to heal the mind, soul, heart, and body of our patient, their families, and ourselves. They may forget your name but they will never forget how you made them feel."
Neil spoke about the journey of nursing school. He reminded his colleagues that they have worked hard, learned many things, and they made it with the support of family, friends and faculty.
He gave special thanks on behalf of the class, to Professor Briere as she retires.
"Though she certainly deserves a relaxing and happy retirement, I must mention how all future nursing students at WMCC will miss the opportunity to learn from such an amazing nurse," he said.
The candle lighting represents passing the light of knowledge from one generation of nurses to the next. All nurses were invited to stand with the nursing students to light a candle and repeat the Nurses Pledge.