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The last class - Part 1 of 3
ATEC graduates final practical nursing class
Nursing Wed pic
19 students graduated from ATECs Practical Nursing program on May 24. ATEC held a traditional nursing commencement exercise that included all white-uniforms, a pinning and a candle lighting ceremony. ATEC has had the nursing program since the school opened in 1968. - photo by Miciah Bennett

Nineteen practical nursing students at the Applied Technology Education Campus (ATEC) received their nursing pins, participated in a candle lighting ceremony and said the Practical Nurse’s Pledge after they earned their diplomas last May 24. 

These 19 students, ranging from ages 18 to 49, compose ATEC’s last graduating class of the practical nursing students.

Last year, a broad-based committee recommended that ATEC immediately transition away from the practical nursing adult education program in order to better serve high school students in the Kershaw County School District (KCSD). The transition, making this the last year of the nursing program, helped to serve an additional 67 high school students this year. ATEC will now partner with Central Carolina Technical College (CCTC) to refer interested students.

In an interview ahead of the May 24 ceremony, ATEC Director Chet Horton said the practical nursing program has served a need in Kershaw County from its inception to now. Hoton said the program has provided nurses throughout Kershaw County and surrounding areas.

Crystal May, the ceremony’s elected speaker, discussed the growth the 19 women experienced as they completed Phase II of the nursing program. May said she asked the nursing faculty for some guidance on her speech and they told her not spend her time thanking them.

“Thank you. Thank you for believing in yourself, deciding you needed a change, not giving up and allowing yourself to better yourself,” May said to her fellow graduates. “This is not the end of our journey, it’s just the beginning.”

As each student walked onto the stage -- wearing traditional all-white uniforms and caps -- to receive her diploma, Nursing Director Sharon Clyburn pinned each student. Each nursing school has a pin and a cap. ATEC has had the same pin since 1965 when the what is now KershawHealth directed the program. Each student was given a small candle representing the passing of a torch, and they together they recited the Practical Nurse’s Pledge.

Laura Marshall, a phase II instructor, has been with ATEC for three years. In general, she said, ATEC’s staff and students are hardworking, helpful and have done very well.

“We have a 100 percent pass rate on the State Board of Nursing exam,” she said. “They are well prepared.”

Marshall will teach Health Science at ATEC next year.

ATEC’s program runs on the KCDC schedule, making it practical for adults who wanted a career change. Nursing Coordinator Sharon Clyburn has been with ATEC for 35 years. She said the two-year program has given students enough experience to go work immediately after graduation or work while they further their education.

Nurse Renee Blackwell said she got interested in becoming a nurse after taking care of her grandparents. She has a family of nurses who are currently working at KershawHealth. Blackwell has experience in private- hospice care and was a stay-at-home mom.

“We’ve gotten more experience here than anywhere else. We leave knowing that we have the skills,” Blackwell said, adding that she wants to get to the master’s level of nursing.

Ashley Gurley said she plans on becoming a RN after she takes some time to work in the field. She said the upside of ATEC’s program is the one-on-one attention.

Shameka Wood, 32, said she is sad the program is closing.

“It provided great personnel to the community,” Wood said. 

Her mother and sister previously graduated from ATEC’s practical nursing program. A single mother of three, Wood said the program’s schedule made it easy attending classes.

Pamela Powell, a former addictions counselor, was very supportive of her graduating class.

“We all made it. We set out and committed to make it, and we made it,” said Powell, who also has a family history with nursing.

Clyburn, who is set to retire, said the 2012 class is special because it is the last class. She said she’s been blesses with students who want to be and are dedicated to the program.

“My job has been a pie job,” Clyburn said. “I love it. I get the best of education health care and nursing. Students come out of this program taking excellent care of patients.”

Among those receiving awards and scholarships are:

• Leslie Bedford received the Extra-Effort Award.

• Pamela Powell and Dawn Bradley received an award for Perfect Attendance.

• Nicole Bingham, Michelle Williams, Jauckline Harrell, Dawn Bradley and Candace Anderson were recognized for having the highest grade point averages.

• Candace Anderson received $140 KershawHealth Auxiliary scholarship; Kenya Bennett, Shameka Wood, Kayla Patterson and Renee Blackwell received $235 KershawHealth Auxiliary scholarships.

• Pamela Powell, leslie Bedford and Joana Norbrega won $300 HOSA scholarships.

ATEC’s Practical Nursing Class of 2012 includes: Candace Hayes Anderson, Leslie Ann Pack Bedford, Kenya Natasia Bennett, Shawna Nicole Bingham, Renee Kennington Blackwell, Charlene Dawn Bradley, Schavona Nicole Glover, Ashley Peebles Gurley, Jauckline Monique Harrell, Crystal Noel may, Joana Nadine Nobrega, Kayla Lionerica Patterson, Pamela Adams Powell, Courtney Marie Simonsen, Brandy Elizabeth Tollison, Tara Holden Truesdale, Robin Michelle Villereal, Michelle Newman Williams, Shameka Denelle Wood.

(Coming Friday: the history of ATEC’s practical nursing program.)