Amid Cheers and Tears, MCCC Nursing Grads Complete First Step in Their Career Journeys at Pinning Ceremony

'There's something very special about the friends you make in nursing school,' says Valedictorian Racheal Ivins

West Windsor, N.J. – On May 18, the Mercer County Community College (MCCC) Nursing program had plenty of reasons to celebrate – 30 in fact. The college held its May Pinning Ceremony for 30 graduates before an audience of family, friends, faculty and administrators. They acknowledged the solemnity – and joy – of the moment. Presiding over the ceremony was Elizabeth Mizerek, Director of Nursing Education.

MCCC’s Acting President, Barbara Basel, welcomed the graduates. “You endured hardships, you overcame obstacles, and you made sacrifices – all in order to enter a profession dedicated to helping others,” she said, adding that the Covid-19 pandemic made their journey even harder. “More than ever, we are counting on you.”

Also delivering congratulatory remarks was Dr. Robert Schreyer, Vice President for Academic Affairs. “You all knew that this program would be demanding academically, clinically – and emotionally. What you did not anticipate was a global pandemic. You did whatever it took to serve the community – frankly, the world. You are part of an elite group of professionals as you enter this field,” he said.

Schreyer noted the special role of the nursing faculty. “With this faculty and this curriculum, including the simulation labs they have developed, you are prepared.” He reminded students that MCCC will always be there for them and noted the many alumni who work with Mercer students in the clinical setting or join the faculty to teach the next generation of nurses.

Nine graduates were inducted into Epsilon Rho, MCCC’s chapter of Alpha Delta Nu, the national nursing honor society established by the Organization for Associate Degree Nursing. Dr. Lisa Dunn, who serves as the group's faculty advisor, presented graduates with honors cords to be worn at Commencement. Inductees from the May Class of 2022 are Juliana Born, Swapna Kanaparthi, Maressa Teresky, Britanie Hernandez, Louisa Scozzaro, Alaina Washington, Racheal Ivins, Crystal Stitley, and Breanna Wood. 

Britanie Hernandez, who served as vice president for the chapter, explained their service project. “We collected donations for Womanspace, where individuals and families impacted by domestic or sexual violence can turn for help,” she said, noting that all members of the chapter participated as a group.

Valedictorian Racheal Ivins addressed her classmates with a message that touched on the trials and triumphs of their experience. “It all feels worth it. I knew I wanted a career in healthcare but wasn’t sure if nursing was for me. I took a chance and dove in headfirst,” she said. “I did not know how much I would fall in love with being a nurse. Nurses assume many different titles: teacher, advocate, life saver, or even just a listening ear. We assume whatever role our patients need from us. Some days I felt unstoppable; others, I felt like quitting, but I pushed through.”

Ivins thanked her professors “for introducing us to the world of nursing and guiding us every step of the way.” She also expressed gratitude to her fellow students. “There’s something very special about the friends you make in nursing school. I will be forever grateful that nursing school brought us together and fortunate to go through these experiences with you by my side.”

One by one, Mizerek invited the 30 graduates to come up on stage to receive their nursing pins. According to Mizerek, the pinning tradition dates back to the London nursing school founded by Florence Nightingale, where badges were awarded to recognize an educated person prepared to serve the health care needs of the community. “Over time, that badge evolved into a pin. Each school has developed its own distinctive pin,” she said.

A much anticipated portion of the ceremony was the announcement of students who went above and beyond in various ways. Faculty member Florence Lee presented awards to Margaret Kelly (Clinical Excellence Award); Swapna Kanaparthi (Professionalism Award); Racheal Ivins (Academic Excellence Award); Crystal Stitley (Caring Award); Franklin Hytegha (Teamwork Award); and Juliana Born (Perseverance Award).

Reflecting another longstanding tradition attributed to Florence Nightingale, students participated in a lamp lighting ceremony signifying enlightenment and knowledge. “The Mercer community has nurtured that spark to a steady flame. That flame represents your passion and commitment to the nursing profession," Mizerek said, as she led graduates in reciting the Nightingale Pledge.

Mizerek concluded the ceremony by noting that the A.S. degree is graduates’ first step. “Then comes the NCLEX national nursing exam, then a job, then continuing for your bachelor’s degree with one of our nursing school partners. The connections you forge here will stay with you for a lifetime. We're so honored to call you colleagues.”

MCCC congratulates the Class of May 2022: Mallory Bandola, Juliana Born, Alexis Chacon, Anne Charles, Ornella Chery, Alleah Codilla, Anne Deboskey, Alexis Demola, Funmilayo Fadairo, Anne Lisa Forestin, Ayonnah Garcia, William Gilbertson, Randall Grois, Britanie Hernandez, Franklin Hytegha, Racheal Ivins, Katerin Jaquez-Nunez, Swapna Kanaparthi, Margaret Kelly, Emily MacFarland, Kerianne Nosari, Victoria Porchetta, Suzanne Royse, Louisa Scozzaro, Crystal Stitley, Maressa Teresky, Giana Tirado, Alaina Washington, Meghan Weber, and Breanna Wood.


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The Nursing Pinning ceremony had everything -- tears, cheers and just plain joy. Thirty grads participate in the lamp lighting ceremony.



Racheal Ivins, left, was the class valedictorian; Britanie Hernandez represented the nine graduates inducted into Alpha Delta Nu, the national nursing honor society.



From left, graduates who received special awards included Swapna Kanaparthi, Crystal Stitley, Franklin Hytegha, Juliana Barnes, Racheal Ivins, and Margaret Kelly.



The graduates participated in a lamp lighting ceremony and recited the Nightingale Pledge.



Graduates watched a photo slide show of their time in the MCCC Nursing program.