SMC graduates 21-member nursing class

Published 2:06 pm Friday, December 15, 2023

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DOWAGIAC — Southwestern Michigan College Dec. 13 welcomed 21 new nurses to America’s largest health care profession with almost 5.2 million registered nurses (RNs) nationwide.

The fall class received associate degrees in nursing in a pinning ceremony in the theatre of the Dale A. Lyons Building on the Dowagiac campus. The class joins the ranks of 3,206 SMC nursing graduates.

President Dr. Joe Odenwald told graduates, “Our nurse-pinning ceremony is one of my favorite events of the year for a couple of reasons. One, both my grandmothers were nurses. One passed away. One is 96. Both were hard-working, loving and nurturing people that I was glad to have in my life.

“My grandma who’s 96 spent 20-plus years as a public health nurse at the time they were giving out the polio vaccine. Pretty much everyone in the (Louisiana) parish knew my grandma because of that.

“Second,” Odenwald said, “We often say, carefully, that this is probably our flagship program when you think about SMC. Here’s why:  We are all going to need a nurse at some point in life, whether we’re coming into this world or going out of it.

“When my wife was getting ready to give birth to our son five years ago this week, Laura was doing fine, I wasn’t so good. The thing that calmed me down was the fact that all of the nurses were SMC graduates.”

Nursing is “such a critical profession,” Odenwald said. “As you graduate and go out into the workforce, you will represent us as a college. The care you give and the skill you have will represent us in ways that we can’t even quantify. I also thank family members who have been so supportive of this group.”

Dean Dr. Melissa Kennedy of the School of Nursing and Health Services shared a poem that “touched my heart”:

Nurses have a unique perspective in understanding how precious life is/This perspective is a gift/Always remember that you are making a difference every day in someone’s life, no matter how big or small/You will give your patients the ability to live their lives to the fullest/You will be a light in their lives during the darkness/You will be their hope and their guide/Comfort them when they have pain and when they have sorrow/This is a great privilege you will have/Please don’t take it lightly/Believe in yourself, always/And your ability to make an impact and to create change/I know each one of you will make a difference and do great things/And we will be here, cheering for you along the way/Grateful you have chosen to be our next generation of nurses.

Graduates include: Caterin Avila-Vilchis, Niles; Maribelle Castro, Elkhart; Destinee Coleman, Berrien Springs; Abbey Filippo, St. Joseph; Marshall Grathwohl, Niles; Stacey Griffin, Elkhart; Rachel Haughee, South Bend; Ashley Hmurovich, Dowagiac; Taylor Kieszkowski, Marcellus; Brianna Kolberg, Lawrence; Deanja Lee-Woods, Three Rivers; Paula Luyeho, Berrien Springs; Benjamin McCrorey, Niles; Christopher Nelson, Niles; Cristiane Niculaescu, Niles; Emma Pachay, Marcellus; Kezia Randriamiandriray Ramahefarison, Berrien Springs; Timothy Rochefort, Berrien Springs; Alondra Rodriguez Puentes, South Bend; Ross Vaickus, Decatur; and Stephanie Wares, Dowagiac.

Christopher Nelson was presented a Lamp of Knowledge by Dr. Kennedy in recognition of the peer-selected Florence Nightingale Award embodying selflessness, compassion, thoughtfulness, team play, dependability, generosity and humility.

Faculty in attendance included Chair Rona Goodrich, Stacey Dwyer, Haley Smith, Yolanda Roche, Hazel Lim, Catherine Chandler, Jenna Rickett, Lisa Pulling and Courtney Williams.