SARANAC LAKE - Nursing is one of North Country Community College's most prominent programs, and on Thursday night, friends, family and faculty packed the Sparks Athletic Complex gymnasium to honor more than 50 nursing students who will graduate Saturday.
The pinning ceremony honored the licensed practical nurse and registered nurse classes of 2012. The guest speaker, RN Jim Hewitt, works at Elizabethtown Community Hospital and is a member of NCCC's nursing faculty. He told the future nurses, who still need to pass their board exams, to take pride in their accomplishments.
Hewitt started his professional career as a journalist for USA Today. He later worked as a communications specialist for Texaco and then switched to teaching troubled youth in New York City. But he said he never felt comfortable in those professions.
Eve E. Chartier, right, a licensed practical nursing student at North Country Community College, receives her pin from NCCC nursing teacher April Davis during a ceremony Thursday night.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Morris)
"I had a friend who was a doctor say, 'Try nursing,'" Hewitt said. "He said if you don't love what you do, try something different."
Hewitt said he's been in nursing ever since.
Hewitt gave the nurses several pieces of advice as they prepare to launch their careers, but the most important thing, he said, is to always treat patients as if they are a member of your own family.
IN SATURDAY'S PRINT EDITION:
Complete lists of 2012 graduates of North Country Community College and Paul Smith's College
JoEllen Tooly was the student speaker for the LPN class, while Elizabeth Bouchard-Hall spoke on behalf of the RN class.
"Nurses: You're not good at congratulating yourselves, so let me do it for you," Bouchard-Hall said.
The closing remarks were delivered by Michael B. Shepard, director of nursing at NCCC. Shepard said the health care landscape is subject to constant change, but it's core remains the same.
"Nurses care," Shepard said. "This is what we do; it's what we've always done and what I hope we will always do. The fact that nurses do what they do because they care will never change."
Every year, graduating nursing students must raise money for their pinning ceremony, and each year, they take a portion of those funds and donate them to a worthy cause in the community.
This year, the students donated $500 to the family of Mason Stanton, a 5-year-old boy from Saranac Lake who is currently undergoing chemotherapy for Langerhans cell histiocytosis, a rare disease caused by a proliferation of abnormal cells.
Mason and his mom, Allison Zerrahn, have been traveling to Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, Vt., for treatment of a baseball-sized tumor near the top of his leg. The Saranac Lake and Lake Placid communities have been donating money and other items to help offset the cost of mounting medical bills.
Mason's grandfather, Dave Zerrahn, accepted the donation on behalf of the family. He told the Enterprise the support has been overwhelming.
"The way the community has come together to help out has been awesome," Dave said. "People can complain about the black flies or the weather, but the way people here respond to something like this, it's amazing."
Joan Law, who received her pin as a member of the RN class, said the students had been following Mason's story and decided that was where the donation should go.
Pinning ceremonies were held at NCCC's Malone and Ticonderoga campuses earlier this week. The college hosts its 45th annual commencement ceremony at 11 a.m. Saturday.