The 23 graduates chose personal mentors to apply their pin to the shirts. See more photos here.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — It required 10 months, 945 hours of classes, 540 clinical experience hours but now 23 graduates of McCann Technical School's Practical Nursing Program are ready for their licensing.
The school pinned the largest class in school history on Wednesday.
"I feel like I am sending my children off. And I'm going to miss them so much," said Program Coordinator Susan Watson said with tears in her eyes at the ceremony.
Watson said the students have gone through a lot to get to that point and not just with the rigors of the coursework — and being a graduate of the program, she knows how tough it is.
But many of the graduates were balancing raising children or working while they went through the program, she said.
"I'm sure it was not always easy. The program demands a lot of devotion. But they are all here tonight," she said.
Superintendent James Brosnan said the families who supported the students during those 10 months deserve credit as well.
Giving the graduation address, Elizabeth Kassel, director of nursing at Berkshire Community College, said learning the tools needed for the profession is difficult and teachers don't make it easy.
"We see you as the future of nursing. We did expect perfection in nursing school. But now we want you to be human, compassionate and gentle. In the interactions with our loved ones and the loved ones of others," she said.
Kassel has been teaching nursing for 29 of her 40 years in the profession and said there has been tremendous changes in the field. But while it changes, the nurses can keep up with it because "nursing isn't what you do. It is who you are."
Just last summer, Kassel was teaching a class at the University of Massachusetts and her students were working with an elderly patient who refused to eat. The students later heard the woman singing showtunes. When Kassel returned to the room, she found her students singing with the woman while feeding her the first bites of food she had taken since being admitted to the hospital.
"I couldn't have been prouder to have been a nurse, teaching others, who took the time to really care about this patient. Nursing has been so much better than I envisioned it when I entered 40 years ago," she said.
She asked the students to love the profession like she does and to "keep learning and keep loving the profession."
After Kassel's encouragement, the student each had a mentor — a friend or family member — attach the nursing pin to each of their shirts and School Committee Chairman Thomas Mahar awarded them their certificates. And before leaving the school, they took the nurses' pledge.