ROCK SPRINGS – The Mustangs from the Class of 2021 who are starting their careers as nurses come with extra experience and confidence. The pinning ceremony conducted Saturday at the college featured a celebration of their extraordinary accomplishments that will serve them in the years to come.

They were charged with and met expectations above and beyond the typical nursing school demands, according to student Britney Alvarez. She offered sincere thanks to everyone who helped her and her cohorts, including fellow students, family, friends and instructors. She gave extra credit to her classmates, saying that without each other, she wouldn’t be on the graduate stage.

Dr. Kim Dale, president of the college, said, “This year was different."

She acknowledged that the nursing students have basically fought in a war with daily battles, overwhelming circumstances, and ongoing uncertainty. Dale said they demonstrated their Western grit in ways no one has before – all to ensure the safety of the public.

COVID is still here, she said, but so are the tested warriors who will defend their community.

The college president recognized the contributions of family members who supported the students’ efforts and said, “We all know they will pay it forward.” Dale also expressed her awe of the teaching staff in the nursing associate degree (ADN) program for caring so deeply about preparing students for their careers.

She thanked students for trusting the college with their education and charged them to continue its traditions.

“Please stay safe, take time to celebrate, and carry on the Western spirit of caring, kindness, grit and determination as you care for your patients,” Dale said.

Guest speaker Amy Wiig, who serves as a nurse in Sweetwater County School District No. 1, offered greetings to the graduates.

“Welcome to the sisterhood and brotherhood of nursing,” she said.

She said now, more than ever, nurses are needed. Having sat in their seats decades earlier, she had some nursing lessons to pass on. They included: things will not go as planned; follow the nurse mentor you want to be; all experience can be learned from; find ways to bridge the gaps in care; and you will see firsthand how life is truly a gift.

Wiig also had some words for the nurses’ families and asked them to show patience and consideration.

“Yes, we are a nurse, but no, we don't always want to look at your rash,” she said.

She told the Mustang graduates that they’re coming into the most trusted profession, and that they should take the high expectations seriously.

“Each one of you can and will make a difference in the life of others,” Wiig said.

Shelbi Streiff gave the closing speech. She expressed her excitement at soon being able to put away the designation of "student nurse" and the associated white scrub tops for the title of ADN graduate and soon-to-be-registered nurses.

She reviewed the hardships and challenges they’d faced while progressing through the nursing program and questioned, “Why go through all this?” Streiff’s answer is that nursing is a noble profession that gives practitioners opportunities to offer care and encouragement in times of need.

She quoted Maya Angelou, who said, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

No matter the reason people entered the program – a family member required care and became a source of inspiration, they care about all the gross things about the human body, or they want to wear pajamas to work every day – Streiff said over hundreds of clinicals hours they’ve grown into nurses.

“We've really grown in ways that we would have never imagined, and now, more than ever, we are prepared for the extraordinary destinies that lie before us,” Streiff said.

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