During two separate ceremonies, 116 graduates of our Adult Practical Nursing program were recently celebrated for their accomplishments and desire to help others.
“You chose to come here and take care of the ill and sick in spite of the pandemic,” said Paula Negri, principal of our Health Careers Center. “For that, you should be proud.”
Dressed in white nursing clothing, the graduates closed a chapter on their lives and rewrote their own history. The successful completion of the 10-month full-time class or the 18-month part-time adult practical nursing class allows them to now take the national certification exam and become an LPN, opening doors into the licensed healthcare workforce, which has been facing a national shortage due to the aging baby boom generation.
As evidence of that shortage, representatives of area health care facilities waited outside of the ceremonies and recruited graduates as they entered and exited the events.
“We laughed, we studied, we supported each other”
Throughout the graduations, speaker after speaker praised the graduates for overcoming their circumstances—as well as an international pandemic—and completing the rigorous course while working full-time and raising families.
“Juggling jobs, children, school work and life is not easy,” Laura Robinson, valedictorian of the part-time program told her fellow graduates. “The passion you have shown to not only be a nurse, but to help one another is unmatched.”
Graduate Tenneil Thompson had a similar message for his full-time program classmates.
“We have had a long and stressful journey during which we have endured trials and tribulations and yet here we stand. We laughed, we studied and supported each other and made lasting friendships,” he said.
Guest speaker and 2008 program graduate Erica Cancer told the students at both ceremonies to revel in the moment, but also to remember that dedication during the hard times that inevitably lie ahead.
“Always remember to nurse from your heart and care with your brain and be kind,” said Cancer, who went on to pursue her registered nursing certification and is now enrolled in a masters of nursing program.
Prepared with skills to enter a new chapter of life
The graduates said they were prepared to enter a new chapter of their lives.
“I am so excited,” said Milan Clark, a 27-year-old from Schenectady. “I am going to school for my Registered Nursing certification (RN) and I plan to start my prerequisites right away.”
Former truck driver YuQuan Oliver was also among the graduates. He chose medicine for his career change as a way to help others and provide for his family.
“I like to help other people and put others first,” said the 31-year-old from Albany. “Now that I am graduated, I can now make a life, make money and take care of my family and help others.”
A shared desire to help others
The graduates hail from communities as far afield as Highland, Ulster County, Otego, Otsego County, Niskayuna, Albany and Cohoes, and include those changing careers as well as those finding the right career for them after high school.
Despite their diversity of background and training, graduates all have a similar desire—to help others.
“For me, I always liked helping people. I taught history and social studies in Guyana for 13 years and when I came to the U.S., I wanted to help people, but it would take too long to become a teacher. So I went the healthcare route,” said Bevaley Stewart of Albany.
“I was a cook in the military for 14 years and a preschool teacher in Florida for 10 years. I was drawn to nursing because I have a passion for helping others and this program has affirmed that for me,” said Davetta Simmons, of Schenectady.
Student awards, honors and recognition
Following is a list of the awards presented at the Adult Practical Nursing program ceremony:
Full-time Program Award Recipients
- Highest Academic Average: Shahinda Ghaly, Highland Falls, Ulster County
- Perfect Attendance: Dominica Morales, Albany
- Academic Honors: Hailey Egan, Albany, Shahinda Ghaly, Janelle Maloney, Schenectady, Sharon Nantongo, Albany, and Maranda Randall, Schenectady. (This award is presented to students who complete the program with a 96 average or better.)
- Student Advisory: Hailey Egan, Albany, Dominelle Jennings, Schenectady, Ladajah McQueen, Slingerlands, Kimberly Ryan, Albany, Dashell Rollins, Schenectady, Malasia Saunders, Cohoes, and Sandra Veirs, Ballston Spa. (This award is presented to students who volunteered on a panel to assist their classmates and provide feedback on the program to the administration.)
- Dotty King Outstanding Achievement in Practical Nursing Professional and Academic Growth: Janell Johnson, Schenectady. (This award is presented to a student who demonstrated professional and academic growth in all aspects of nursing theory in the practical nursing program.)
- Lois Bergman Excellence in Clinical Practice Award: Anna Torres, Albany. (This award is presented to a student who applies theory to professional practice and demonstrates consistent, clinical performance in caring for patients.)
- General Excellence and Leadership Award: Shahinda Ghaly. (This award is presented to a student with high academic standing and who consistently has a positive attitude, well-developed leadership skills in dealing with fellow students and staff and demonstrates a high degree of professionalism.)
Part-time Program Award Recipients
- Highest Academic Average: Laura Robinson, Philmont.
- Academic Honor: Stephanie Jackson, Albany, Yolanda Peynado, Albany and Laura Robinson, Philmont.
- Student Advisory: Shanique Cargill, Troy, Kelly Portanova, Wynantskill and Davetta Simmons, Schenectady
- Dotty King Outstanding Achievement in Practical Nursing Professional and Academic Growth: Latasha Moody, Troy.
- Lois Bergman Excellence in Clinical Practice Award: Tiffany Jendreski, Schenectady.
- General Excellence and Leadership Award: Stephanie Jackson, Albany.