‘Special Night’: Vocational nursing graduates celebrated

BY Amanda Sotelo

Family and friends gathered at the Texas State Technical College Cultural Arts Center recently to honor and celebrate their loved ones’ success during the annual TSTC Vocational Nursing Pinning Ceremony.

“This is a special night full of tradition,” said Nicki Cone, TSTC vice president of Instructional Support. “I commend these students for choosing the profession of caring for others. And on behalf of the TSTC administration, we want to thank these students for everything they do and will do.”

The Vocational Nursing Pinning Ceremony is held twice a year during the fall and summer semesters and is described by TSTC Vocational Nursing Program Director Adriana Hinojosa-Vassberg as the rite of passage into the profession.

“Tonight we passed the light of knowledge to our graduate nurses,” said Hinojosa-Vassberg. “And we capped them and pinned them, which symbolizes the helmet and shield they need as they enter into a battle of fighting illness and caring for patients.”

This semester 16 graduate nurses were presented with their pins and caps. These same students will also graduate from TSTC later this month during the college’s commencement ceremony.

“We have endured and conquered the challenges of this program and of life,” said class valedictorian Sylvia Espinosa during her address. “Nursing is like riding a bike — except the bike and everything around you is on fire.”

Espinosa ended her speech with a huge thank you to her instructor, classmates, and friends and family.

“There’s a special bond that this class shares,” she said. “Along with the support from instructors and my family, this is what helped me get through nursing school.”

Salutatorian Miranda Rodriguez shared the same sentiment.

“We can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Rodriguez. “But all of this was only achievable because of the support from my classmates, instructors and especially my family. This is as much your celebration as it is ours.”

For many, however, the light at the end of the tunnel is really a new beginning. When TSTC’s registered nursing program begins in the fall, some of the students will be returning to earn an associate degree in nursing, a path that is all too familiar to guest speaker, registered nurse and TSTC alumna Sarah Rodriguez.

“Welcome to the fellowship of nurses. We are an elite association who have and will dedicate our lives to others,” Rodriguez told the graduates. “But it’s also the time to become lifelong learners. Don’t let the momentum stop. Celebrate your achievement tonight, but expand your knowledge beginning tomorrow.”

Rodriguez is from the TSTC vocational nursing class of 2012. She received her bachelor’s degree in nursing in 2014 and currently is working on her master’s degree to become a nurse practitioner. She is employed with Knapp Medical Center in Weslaco.

The capping and pinning ceremony also included a candle lighting ceremony, the reading of the nursing Nightingale Pledge, a presentation of Vocational Nursing Club officer awards, and special recognitions for the class’ top students.

“I’m so proud of my students, and I’m honored to be celebrating them tonight,” said Hinojosa-Vassberg. “This is a challenging career, but they have all worked very hard to get to where they are today.”

For more information on TSTC’s Vocational and Registered Nursing programs, visit tstc.edu.