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CSM Graduates Reflect on Pandemic as They Receive Hard-Earned Nursing Pins

March 21, 2022

CSM Graduates Reflect on Pandemic as They Receive Hard-Earned Nursing Pins

Thirty-eight new nurses received their nursing pins during a virtual Nursing Recognition Ceremony last month as part of the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) 2022 Winter Commencement. 

The traditional pinning ceremony symbolizes a rite of passage into the professional world of nursing and the nurse’s commitment to those they care for, said CSM Nursing Professor Robin Young. She said that the origin of the nursing pin dates back 800 years. Modern pinning ceremonies date to the 1860s, when Florence Nightingale was awarded the Red Cross of St. George. To share the honor, Nightingale presented a medal of excellence to her brightest graduates and by 1916, the practice of pinning new graduates was standard throughout the United States. 

“Our CSM Nursing Pin represents this commitment to those we care for and a graduate of our program,” Young said. “As you go forth into the world of nursing, wear your pin with pride. You worked very hard to receive this well-deserved honor.”  

The history of CSM's nursing pin begins in 1979, when the Associate Degree Nursing Program was established. The pin was redesigned in 2000 when Charles County Community College’s name was changed to CSM. 

Guest speaker Dawn Yeitrakis, vice president and chief nursing officer at MedStar Health and ‘96 CSM alumnus, looked back on her more than 22 years of experience as a nurse. She recalled times she felt full of self-doubt early in her career and told students not to forget that their pins are proof that they belong in the profession. 

“This environment that we are working in today is full of uncertainty,” she said. “When times get hard and you are wondering if you belong, you should remember that you are valuable, you have earned your place in the profession, and you are the right person for the job. You are nurses who touch lives in ways that others cannot. We are so fortunate to have you in our ranks.” 

Many speakers emphasized the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the fact that it made students' education more difficult; and it fundamentally changed their career field.  

Shannon Chesley was chosen as the class representative, and she acknowledged the challenges that she and her classmates lived through because of the pandemic – from needing to adjust to classes and clinicals on Zoom and creating relationships with teachers and classmates from afar, to dealing with health challenges and school disruptions at home. Chesley said that enduring through these challenges will ultimately make she and her classmates better nurses. 

“As nurses, we must be willing and able to have hope in a time of despair that will in turn allow us to leave a lasting imprint on others," she said. "We persevered during difficult times and have come out better because of it.” 

The students’ pins were presented by faculty pinners Morag Dahlstrom, Lauren Guy, Linda Hamel, Dawn Leukhardt, and Rose Miller. 

Acting Chair of Nursing Sara Cano closed the program by telling the students that the difficult environment of the last two years has left them well prepared for their career. 

“In the best of times nursing school is challenging, but we are not in the best of times. For two years you have been figuring out how to handle this new world that is constantly changing,” she said. “As a nurse you will be challenged to work under immense pressure. Use what you have learned to handle those challenges.” 

Nursing students who received the pin were: 

Rachell Marlene Amoui 

Morgan Lee Beavers 

Monae Alexis Bell 

Julia Victoria Berry 

Shannon LaTreece Chesley 

Colette Olena Collins 

Jessica Marye Denny 

Kassidee Jenson Dull 

Aniyah Tañe Gabriel 

Lezly Guadalupe Garcia 

Katherine Elizabeth Garilli 

Brooke Gabrielle Gatton (*Academic Achievement in Nursing Award) 

Amber Leigh Gontarek 

Audrey Dawn Gross 

Journey Lyones Gushen 

Paige McKenzie Haffer 

Julie Herbert 

Taya Nikol Jackson 

Jenny Johnson 

Markeysha Edna-Antoniya Jones 

Kristi Jo Kelly 

Shannon Kelly Lanham 

Morrighan H. LeFave 

Ki Ki Leung 

Rachell P. Lock 

Marcia Temple Lopez 

Samantha Mae Mendoza 

Emily Kate Newby 

Marlene Pruneda 

Laura Louise Richardson 

Elizabeth D. Scott 

Nanci J. Sien 

Lauren Ashley Taylor (* Achievement in Nursing award) 

Alissa Kaitlin Temple 

Ngoc Han Truong 

Nicole Chantal Valenzuela 

Kristine Williams 

Jadé C. Wilson 

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