May 21, 2004- In an event full of symbolism and emotion, four women accepted nurses' pins as part of a traditional ceremony marking their entrance into the world of nursing.
Judy Christian, Ivelisse Colon, Mary Jane Katowa and Kenice Pemberton wound their way through the crowd of friends and family members who, despite the rain, came out to share the graduates' achievements. Janzie Allamcher, assistant professor at the University of the Virgin Islands, explained that the graduates were weaving through the crowd in remembrance of the twists and turns they encountered during their quest to be nurses.
The nurses will join their classmates in the regular graduation ceremonies at the University of the Virgin Islands on Sunday, May 23. Thursday's ceremony was a special separate rites of passage that every nurse passes through upon completion of their required courses.
Joan Marsh, a registered nurse, UVI assistant professor and chair of the division of nursing education, told the graduates "wear this pin with pride throughout your nursing career." The pin is embossed with the UVI symbol, a palm tree, and an outline of the Virgin Islands and is edged in blue. The new nurses selected a significant person from their lives to attach the pin to her garment. Christian, Colon and Pemberton gave the honor to their mothers, and Katowa, who hails from Zambia, in South Central Africa, chose Mary Jane Provotost, a close family friend. Katowa has been living with the Provotost family during her four years of nursing school.
After the pinning, the nurses took part in the traditional act of "sharing the light." They were handed lamps that represent both the Lamp of Knowledge and the lanterns carried by Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, when she made nightly rounds to tend to wounded soldiers. A faculty member lit each of the new recruits lamp, signifying the passing of knowledge and skills that are fundamental to nursing.
Guest Speaker, Pauline Saddler, a registered nurse, told the group "treat all your patients well, use kind words and a gentle touch, nursing is all about the art of caring." She cautioned the graduates to be "humble, patient, skilled and well informed."
The new nurses gathered together and recited the "Nurses Pledge" as the final ceremonial act of the night. In this modified Hippocratic oath, nurses pledge to "devote myself to the welfare of my patients, family and my community."
Family pride was evident on the faces of the families in attendance. Valentia Fuentas, Colon's mother, surrounded by her family, said she is "very, very proud" of her daughter. Fuentas other daughter, Gladys is also a graduate of the UVI nursing program. Gladys has worked at Health Central in Orlando for the past 5 years. Janice Bovell, mother of Pemberton, was all smiles, "I'm happy for her," Bovell said. Mary Jane Provotost and her namesake Mary Jane Katowa, could hardly contain their emotion. Provotost has known Katowa's parents since before she was born, after meeting them on a visit to Africa over 30 years ago. "I talked to her mom yesterday, she was sorry she could not be here," she said. Clarita Taylor, mother of Christian, said she "has mixed feelings. Joy, joy and happy times."
Publisher's note : Like the St. Croix Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice… click here.