Ruby Pierce has had a challenging year but on May 15 it all paid off.

Rankin County resident Ruby Pierce received a degree in Health Information Technology from Hinds Community College on May 15. (April Garon/Hinds Community College)

Pierce, 51, who lives near Pelahatchie in Rankin County, graduated from Hinds Community College with a degree in Health Information Technology.

She decided to get a degree after her daughter Jessica, who has degrees from Hinds in 2016 and 2017, enrolled at Hinds.

While Pierce was in classes at Hinds, her husband, Randy, who is in the Army, was deployed stateside. Then his mother’s home in Florida was destroyed in a hurricane. “Her home was declared a total loss,” Pierce said.

Rankin County resident Ruby Pierce received a degree in Health Information Technology from Hinds Community College on May 15. She is with her husband Randy and daughter Jessica. (April Garon/Hinds Community College)

But Pierce did well in the program, earning a spot in Phi Theta Kappa honor society. She hopes to use her skills to work in data collection for research in cancer, which killed both her parents.

“It’s been a challenge but I’ve really enjoyed all of my classes,” she said of the Hinds program. “It’s been something for me to focus on that was interesting. We all seemed like a little family of our own.”

She was among 153 nursing and allied health graduates on May 15. Throughout five different ceremonies spanning three days, Hinds is awarding a total of 1,706 credentials to 1,254 graduates, with some graduates receiving more than one credential.

Of the spring graduates, 260 achieved cum laude, 3.2 to 3.59 grade point average; 197 achieved magna cum laude, 3.6 to 3.99 GPA and 126 achieved summa cum laude, 4.0 grade point average.

Odarricka Ealey of Flora graduated with an Associate Degree in Nursing. She wanted to become a nurse after her grandmother died of cancer. “She had awesome nurses, and I wanted to be like them. That is what inspired me,” she said.

Davionne Brooks of Vicksburg, left, and Odarricka Ealey of Flora received an Associate Degree in Nursing from Hinds Community College on May 15. (April Garon/Hinds Community College)

Sonya Atkinson, 48, of Brandon was a teacher and small business owner before deciding to return to college and get an Associate Degree in Nursing. “I decided to do it before it was too late. For the first time, I’m excited to go to work,” said Atkinson, who has a job at Select Specialty Hospital. “Hinds has been open, wonderful and kind to nontraditional students. It’s been a great place to go to school as an older person.”

Sonya Atkinson, 48, of Brandon graduated with an Associate Degree in Nursing from Hinds Community College on May 15. (April Garon/Hinds Community College)

Dr. Libby Mahaffey, who is retiring as dean of the nursing and allied health programs after 37 years with the college, told graduates and their families that “you ought to be proud.”

But being proud of the day’s accomplishment doesn’t mean being complacent, Mahaffey emphasized.

“If the only knowledge I had to share was what I brought with me 37 years ago, I would have almost nothing to share now,” she said. “Never be content with what you know now; continue to learn and share what you learn with others. Plan to continue your education, both formally and informally. Grasp every opportunity to enhance your skills.

“You have just begun your journey into a new profession,” Mahaffey said. “You have been introduced to a role that you will play in touching the lives of the patients who will receive your care. Your knowledge about that role will continue to expand.”

Hinds President Dr. Clyde Muse told graduates and their families that “the power of education is that it drives our vision for a better life. And, while the graduates who sit upon this stage today represent a diverse set of circumstances, they are connected by their belief that a community college education is a step up to a broader opportunity to build a better life and to contribute to the communities we live in.”

As Mississippi’s largest community college, Hinds Community College is a comprehensive institution offering quality, affordable educational opportunities with academic programs of study leading to seamless university transfer and career and technical programs teaching job-ready skills. With six locations in central Mississippi, Hinds enrolls about 12,000 students each fall semester. To learn more, visit www.hindscc.edu or call 1.800.HindsCC.

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