PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire Community College honored the first graduates of its January nursing program on Thursday evening in a pinning ceremony held in the college's Boland Theatre.
The ceremony marked the work of the 19 graduates over the past two years. It took a week longer than usual after being postponed because of a snow storm last week.
"Tonight students celebrate their hard work in a nursing tradition dating back to the 1800s. It is the faculty's favorite time as they watched as their students have grown over the years," said Dean of Nursing Lori Moon.
"Tonight is very important and each one of you worked hard to be seen on the stage. So take a deep breath and enjoy the moment. This nursing pinning ceremony isn't just a tradition. It's a rite of passage. A sacred ceremony that honors and celebrates nursing students and their hard work and dedication."
Completing the nursing program is not an easy feat, as it should be, she said, because it is preparing students for a career that can be hard, stressful, and sometimes frustrating.
But a nursing career is also rewarding and humbling, and Moon said she could not imagine not being a nurse.
Students had selected Thomas Carey, a professor emeritus in the Allied Health program, to give the keynote speech. Carey said working in the medical field can at times be emotional. These future nurses will run into sad situations so it is important to laugh when the time calls for it, he said.
Sharing stories from his career, Carey offered the graduates some advice — be kind, patient and compassionate, and take their nursing exam right away.
"Finally, go make a difference in people's lives. And I know you will," he said.
The audience erupted into cheers as each student walked across the stage to be pinned by a nurse who had inspired or mentored them.
BCC has for years held its associate's degree pinning ceremony in the spring; this pinning was the inaugural for a new January cohort, who began in the spring semester and graduated in the fall. The new program was introduced last January for 25 students after the fall cohort of 56 was filled.
"You are the inaugural class for the January associate's degree in nursing cohort, the first," said college President Ellen Kennedy. "Worthy of celebration, worthy of praise."
Graduate Brittany Duma, in closing remarks, recalled the hard work of getting through the program and how they still had to grapple with jobs, family and finding time for themselves.
"It was tough, but we did it. We should all be extremely proud of ourselves," she said. She encouraged her classmates to remember the first time they made difference in a patient's life and that when they get down to remember all the work they put into their education.
"Take a deep breath. And remember we know way more than we can ever give ourselves credit for."