SMC graduates 17 new nurses

DOWAGIAC — Southwestern Michigan College Dec. 17 welcomed 17 new nurses to America’s largest health-care profession with more than 3.8 million registered nurses nationwide. The federal government projects that more than 200,000 new RN positions will be created each year through 2026.

December’s Class of 2020 received associate degrees in nursing in a masked, socially-distanced, walk-through afternoon ceremony in the lobby of the School of Nursing and Health Services building on SMC’s Dowagiac campus.

There were no seats and no audience unless you count cars creeping along outside in front of the glassed hall to catch a glimpse, though the proceedings were recorded so remarks can be edited into a video for viewing later.

The class joins the ranks of 3,136 SMC nursing graduates.

Graduates include: Jamie Adams, of Decatur; Allison Brossman, of Vandalia; Adrian Coryell, of Elkhart; Alexander Davis, of Benton Harbor; Stephanie Fletter, of Marcellus; McKennan Getz, of Wakarusa; Cara Johnson, of Mishawaka; Heavin King, of Constantine; Ashley Kyles, of Hartford; Molly Madaras ,of Kalamazoo; Lauren Mitchell, of South Bend; Nicole Reidenbach, of Niles; Vianca Rodrigues, of South Bend; Angela Sackett, of Berrien Center;  Jennifer Stewart, of Jones; Gabrielle Tavolacci, of Coloma; and Jordan Tighe, of Edwardsburg.

Dean Dr. Melissa Kennedy presented a Lamp of Knowledge to Adrian Coryell for the peer-selected Florence Nightingale Award, which embodies selflessness, compassion, thoughtfulness, team play, dependability, generosity and humility. Kennedy said he always went above and beyond for his classmates, encouraging them the whole journey.

Coryell reflected upon submitting his final examination that “from this day forward I would no longer be a student nurse, but would enter the world of professional nursing — an exciting time to be sure. Of course, the last few months have been odd and atypical with the whole pandemic, but hey, what can you do? Despite the challenges these strange times brought about, I want to thank the faculty on doing a fantastic job adapting. Without their guidance, we could not be here today giving these awkward speeches.”

Coryell invited classmates to look him up “if you need some awesome dad jokes.”

Faculty members Dr. Debra Green, Department Chair; Jodi Tidey, MSN, RN; Rona Goodrich, MSN, RN; Amber Villwock, MSN, RN; Stacey Dwyer, MSN, RN; Annette Nacci, MSN, RN; Yolanda Roche, MSN, RN; and Janan Hollerbach, MSN, RN, presented graduates their pins.

“Now it’s time to get to work because there are a lot of tired nurses who need our help — and we’re ready,” said Cara Johnson, for whom the occasion marked multiple milestones.

“I knew in my mind someday I was going to be a nurse,” Johnson said. “In fact, not only was I going to be a nurse, I was going to be one before I turned 40. It was a personal goal I kept in the back of my mind as I continued onward with my first career. A decade later, at 39 years and seven months old, I’ve finally completed my goal.

“Not only did I finish with a few months to spare, but I did it in time to share the accomplishment with my 90-year-old grandmother. Now she knows the legacy will continue, as she was a nurse for 45 years, and I’m the third generation in the family to become one.

“As I leave here for the last time, I walk away confident in my choice, proud of my commitment and excited to start this next journey,” Jennifer Stewart said.

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