NTC graduates first RNs

By Shondiin Silversmith
Navajo Times

CHURCH ROCK, N.M., Dec. 20, 2012

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(Times Photo - Shondiin Silversmith)

Navajo Technical College Graduate Cheryl James (left) holds a photo of her late father Jackson James, while posing with her mother Aurela James. Cheryl said she wouldn't have been able to complete the program without the support of her family.

All the late nights, long classes and stressful homework finally paid off for the first batch of students to graduate from Navajo Technical College's new nursing program.

Many of the students, and faculty members said it wasn't an easy journey because on top of the workload, many spent the past two years wondering if the program was even strong enough to stay in existence.

But needless to say, the program continued and 13 students received their nursing degrees during a ceremony at Red Rock Park on Monday, Dec. 17.

Nursing Instructor Kathy Head addressed the students during the ceremony.

"This program is very special," she said. "It was born in need to bring nursing to the rural community, and to bring education to those who want it. They persevered over many, many trials."

For one student, graduation meant paving the way for future nurses.

"I feel proud because even through all the rough times we had, we paved the way for all the classes after us," said Sheilandria Kaye, 23, from Low Mountain, Ariz. "If we can do it anyone can do it."

Added Kaye of her reason for pursuing nursing, "I really care about the people I work for and I really want them to get better."

Kaye said she plans on working for the Indian Health Service.

"I have the ability to understand the Navajo language, so I want to stay here," she noted.

"I am so excited because we set an example to everyone after us," said Pearleen Tom, 40, from Coyote Canyon N.M, who was able to complete her studies despite her full-time job, being a single mother and taking classes full-time. "It's doable."

Cheryl James said she wouldn't have had her education any other way because it was whole new experience at NTC: "NTC treats you like a person; they really do care about your education."

James said that nursing wasn't her first choice for a career, but "it was my dad's last dying wish to complete it and today I completed it. I learned how to live from this program.

"I am very proud of her I knew she could do it even though most of the time she said she couldn't," said Crystal James, Cheryl James's sister.

James said she is looking forward to working toward her bachelor's in nursing and she hopes that one day she'll be able to give back to NTC by becoming a teacher there. "I want to return the favor."

"It's been a long road and I'm glad I'm finally done," said Vicky Anderson of Smith Lake, N.M.

Anderson said she's been in the health field for 17 years as an EMT, emergency room technician and nursing assistant. When she got the opportunity to go back to school she took it. She looks forward to being able to go back to work full-time.

"I'm very honored and I know I had to overcome a lot of challenges," said graduate Cheryl Y. Wilson.

Wilson said her biggest challenge was leaving her family in Wichita, Wis. while she lived in the dorms on campus to complete her degree, but "knowing I graduated from a tribal college makes everything worth it."

Wilson is originally from Lupton, Ariz., but now resides in Wichita with her family.

"I look forward to the challenges of being a nurse and serving my people," said Wilson. "I've always wanted to be a nurse because I've always been talented in it by taking care of people. I want to make a difference."

At the end of their pinning ceremony, each graduate had to take the "Nightingale Pledge," a pledge they take as a new nurse, and a promise they make to the practice of medicine.

"If these students didn't have the qualities to be a good nurse when they started they sure do now," said nursing instructor Shawnadine Becenti, holding back tears. "It has been a long journey."

"In life, we want to make a difference because she made a difference in our lives, and I hope this shows a little bit of that," said graduate Adrian Yazzie about the Pendleton blanket they presented to their instructor as a gift.

NTC School of Nursing graduates included: Adrian Yazzie, Deidra Castillo, Rayes Armstrong, Cheryl James, LeeAnn Goodluck, Cheryl Y. Wilson, Michelle Plimpton, Mark Houghton, Crystal Lee, Pearleen Tom, Sheilandria Kaye, Rozanna Jones and Vicky L. Anderson.

Information: www.navajotech.edu.

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