HARLINGEN — Alyssa Hernandez is excited about graduation.
She has worked hard these past few months for her bachelor of science in nursing from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
She saw the fruits of her labor Saturday during an online virtual commencement ceremony.
Universities and public schools have been holding graduations in virtual time according to social distancing guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“As a nurse, I understand the COVID situation and I agree with the virtual graduation,” she said.
A statement from UTRGV said 3,559 graduates earned their degrees virtually on Saturday.
The university arranged celebratory speeches, and graduates heard their names called as their photos appeared on the screen.
There were 166 students who graduated from the UTRGV School of Nursing.
“They will emerge as the leaders in this new reality, and there is no better time to be a nurse,” said Dr. Sharon Radzyminski, dean of the UTRGV School of Nursing, before the ceremony.
“Nurses have always been there for the patient, and our graduates will rise to the occasion,” she said. “I salute the graduates and their embrace of what nursing stands for.”
The students appreciated the university’s efforts to make their graduation safe, even if with some disagreement.
“It doesn’t make up for a real ceremony,” said Justin De Leon, 25, who will also receive his nursing degree.
“There were creative ideas the school came up with to follow the social distance guidelines,” he said. “I appreciate them doing that.”
He’s already been working at Valley Baptist Medical Center for about a month.
“I was already working as a nursing tech,” he said. “I am happy that I get to start doing what I have been working at for the past two years.”
Hernandez also has a job. She works as a nursing consultant for a nonprofit and oversees the South Texas area.
“A BSN usually takes four years but because I already have a bachelor’s degree in biology and my RN degree, it only took eight months,” said Hernandez, 30.
“I want to further my academic career,” she said. “I just got accepted to four universities for a master’s family nursing program.”
Hernandez became acquainted with nursing while she and her twin were being treated for liver tumors at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
“One of my main nurses was amazing, the way she calmed me down and talked to me,” Hernandez said. “You could tell nursing is her passion, and that is when I knew what I wanted to do — to help people. So, I decided to go back to college to become a nurse.”