Nursing grads walk in two graduation ceremonies
Release date: Dec. 14, 2012
MAYHEW – A new graduation ceremony at East Mississippi Community College allowed a handful of students the chance to double-dip this week.
The traditional pinning ceremony for the Associate Degree Nursing program took place Thursday night at the Golden Triangle campus. On Friday, EMCC inaugurated its first-ever December graduation for summer and fall 2012 graduates of the Golden Triangle and Columbus Air Force Base campuses.
Twenty-eight ADN grads received their nursing pins on Thursday. Each had the option to walk again Friday night in honor of receiving their degrees. Trained to be extra thorough, ADN grads Jennifer Sullivan and Kayla Stafford, both of Columbus, decided to walk across the stage twice.
“I’ll go for my bachelor’s eventually but that will be an online course so they’ll mail me that degree. This will be my only chance to walk for graduation,” said Stafford.
In the past, EMCC has held graduations only in May. But the spring graduation outgrew the auditorium, and something had to be done to accommodate the ever-growing audience.
“The Lyceum on the Golden Triangle campus can only seat 900. And we found that when we got to around 200 participating graduates, we were close to standing-room-only with family and friends,” said Dr. Paul Miller, vice president of the Golden Triangle campus.
“Four or five years ago we split the spring ceremony in two, one for associate of arts recipients and one for career-technical degree recipients. Now we had to split it again, and the fall ceremony is already almost as big as the spring ceremonies.”
Miller said many of the older, non-traditional graduates who completed their degrees in the summer and fall semesters were so adamant about participating in the ceremony they would return to campus months later and frequently would be joined by larger groups of supporting family and friends.
Jennifer Sullivan is one of those non-traditional students.
Still in her mid-20s, Sullivan has waited years for the chance to graduate. She completed EMCC’s EMT-Paramedic program in 2006 and spent three weeks working in the field before deciding her heart was in nursing.
“EMT work is so quick. I felt like I needed to do something that involved direct patient care, to get to know them and understand their conditions,” she said.
Sullivan was accepted to EMCC’s Practical Nursing program but gave birth to her daughter, Remmy, just two weeks before the start of the semester. While taking a hiatus to care for her daughter, she learned about the ADN program and decided to go for her degree.
“I want to work in the emergency room and trauma care and also as a flight nurse on emergency helicopters, so I really need to be a registered nurse,” she said.
Sullivan had a stop-start along the way, starting in one ADN class before a personal issue forced a break in her studies, so she is soaking up all the glory of finally graduating.
“This won’t be my last degree. I want to earn a doctorate and be a nursing instructor one day. But EMCC has the best nursing program in the state. All the instructors have pushed us to be the best, too, and stepped up to make sure I came back. So this means a lot to me,” she said.
Kayla Stafford heard the call to be a nurse early in life. She was diagnosed at the age of 12 with Type 1 diabetes, and learned first-hand how important nurses are in the lives of their patients.
“The nurses care more about your feelings and how you cope with your condition. Doctors are more about controlling your numbers and preventing complications. I still call my old nurses all the time,” she said.
Stafford plans to start out doing general nursing at a hospital. But she hopes to one day be certified as a diabetes educator, a designation which requires 100 hours of care for diabetic patients.
One of her goals is erasing the stereotype that all diabetics arrived at their condition due to lack of good nutrition.
“Again, it was nurses who first explained to me that it wasn’t my fault, that I was born with a gene. And they helped me realize I don’t have a disability, even though I have to control and account for everything I eat,” she said.
ADN graduate Jennifer Sullivan of Columbus stands with her daughter Remmy, mother Debra Sullivan and father Ray Sullivan.
ADN graduate Kayla Stafford of Columbus stands with her mother, Karen Stafford, and father, Ron Stafford.