It’s graduation season – a dream come true for students and a momentous occasion for families, faculty and staff and everyone who have supported them throughout their academic journey.
On April 28, the Virginia Beach School of Practical Nursing (VBSPN) held its 59th commencement in front of beaming family members. Among the attendees were also Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence, Senior Executive Director of High Schools Dr. Walter Brower Jr., School Board Chair Trenace Riggs, School Board members Beverly Anderson and Michael Callan as well as other steadfast supporters of the VBSPN program. They gathered at the Kellam High School’s auditorium to celebrate this special day.
“We are here to celebrate the culmination of your hard work, dedication and efforts,” said Spence. “Remember the lessons that you learned in your time with us, remember the importance of empathy, the value of teamwork, and the power of a lifelong education.”
Crystal O’Neill, a former nursing instructor, delivered the commencement address to the 11 graduates. “Be proud on the inside and humble on the outside,” she said. “Continue to challenge yourself like you have for the past 18 months.”
This accredited program is under VBCPS Technical and Career Education Center’s umbrella. After graduation students can apply to the Board of Nursing and take the NCLEX – PN exam. If they pass the exam, they may practice as licensed practical nurses, according to Rosa Abbott, director of VBSPN program.
“Every student who has been through the program in the past 10 years has passed the NCLEX – PN exam, and most students have job offers before graduating,” Abbott said.
Elizabeth Wesley, as well as a few other VBSPN students, praised the instructors, the director of the program and staff. She called the nursing program “Virginia Beach’s secret jewel.”
Cheznie Searcy, class president, spoke on behalf of the graduates.
This journey began at different moments in their lives when “each heard the calling to be a part of something greater” and meaningful. Some registered while still in high school – others were adult students balancing school, work, and life commitments.
For Cheznie, this calling was ignited by the inspiration of seeing her father pursue his dreams as a paramedic, and it was further fueled when she aided in the care of her late great-grandmother. For others, this was a desire to help those who needed help and make a difference, such as Elizabeth, who saw the nurse shortage during COVID and wanted to do more. For many, this was a dream that has been passed down through generations and is the source of familial pride and celebration. Shayla Cole is a prime example. She grew up in a family of nurses and was encouraged to follow in their footsteps.
These students completed over 1,500 hours in the program including 500 clinical hours in four area hospitals, three doctors offices and in various units such as labor and delivery, psychiatric, and med-surgical units specializing in neurology, cardiology, oncology, pediatric primary care clinics, and long-term care facilities.
It was a challenging experience that required hard work, a willingness to be taught, an excitement to learn, and a passion for caring for patients. Brandon Burkhead found the journey particularly challenging due to the sheer number of medicines he had to learn, along with their side effects.
“Though the beginnings of our journeys may differ, we will forever share the experience of being molded into nurses together at the VBSPN,” Cheznie said.
During the celebration, two students received special recognition for their achievements: The Professional Growth Award was given to Aaliyah Gholston and the Highest Academic Achievement Award went to Brittany Caswell. The Perfect Attendance Award was presented to Jasmina Floranza, Drew Styron, and Claire Villagomez for completing 934 hours without missing a single day of class.
The ceremony came to a close after all the graduates took the Nightingale Pledge, which is often recited during nursing graduation ceremonies, and then walked off the stage with their lit candles.
“What we do – makes a difference,” Cheznie added. “It’s up to us to decide what kind of difference we want that to be. I am so excited to see where each of our journeys take us next.”
Since the onset of the VBSPN program, 875 students have graduated. The program is open to high school seniors and adults. It was ranked No. 1 LPN in Virginia by NursingProcess.org for the last two years. To read more about the program, visit the Practical Nursing page.
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So proud of our Virginia Beach School of Practical Nursing (VBSPN) 2023 graduates.