PEARL – Amanda Perez of Florence compares the last two years of studying radiologic technology at Hinds Community College to running a race.
“Finishing today is the end of that race. I finally sit down and breathe,” said Perez, 30, who received her associate degree on May 10.
Perez, married and the mother of three children ages 6, 7 and 10, is among the 1,319 Hinds graduates receiving a credential over five ceremonies spanning three days. She’s the first person on both her side of the family and her husband’s to receive a college degree.
Her “sitting down” time is brief. On the day after graduation, she planned to be at St. Dominic Hospital for a job that she had been working as a student radiologic technician.
Hinds President Dr. Clyde Muse, in his remarks to about 130 nursing and allied health graduates at a 2 p.m. ceremony May 10 at the Muse Center on the Rankin Campus, recognized that there are many students like Perez.
“We understand that most students have family and job obligations that require some flexibility in their program. We strive to offer unlimited options that will meet the needs of our students,” he said.
“When we started our journey in 1917, 117 students enrolled – each one with the desire to achieve a better life,” Muse said. “Some things do not change; I suspect if we polled each graduate on this stage, nearly all would say they went to college to make things better – for themselves and for their families.”
Phyllis Polk Johnson, executive director of the Mississippi Board of Nursing, was the speaker for the nursing and allied health ceremony.
“From an educational standpoint, I would like to assure you that Hinds Community College has readied you for your future careers and further educational pursuits. However, I want you to know that what you will face in the actual world of being a health care professional will be challenging,” she said.
Johnson had two pieces of advice for graduates: “Remember to always possess a willingness to learn. Never forget your training has prepared you,” she said.
“At every age and stage of your life and your professional career, be ready to learn something new and be ready to learn a new something. You will live and work in a world filled with fast-paced changes which will require you to learn and never stop learning,” Johnson said. “Those who chose to not learn will be left behind and phased-out of this current job market.”
She also reminded them that “Hinds Community College has prepared you … You have been prepared to be competent, caring healthcare professionals. You must see your training as an investment in your future. Your future is bright and it begins now. The workforce awaits.”
Perez and her classmates are ready to capitalize on the opportunity. Two years ago, “my youngest was going to school and I wanted to do something. I couldn’t sit at home. Getting to help people is what I enjoy,” she said.
She attended a recruiting event at Jackson Campus-Nursing/Allied Health Center. “I just decided then that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to do it for my kids. They were at the right ages for them to watch and learn from their mom,” she said.
Perez gives a lot of credit to husband Juan, who works in construction. “He has pulled all the weight I couldn’t pull when I was in school. I worked two jobs at St. Dominic’s and Trust Care in Brandon,” she said. “I wouldn’t have been able to take those opportunities if he hadn’t been able to step up and do what had to be done.”
Perez considered nursing, but she’s convinced she settled on the right career field for her. “With x-ray you’re getting to take images, and doctors are looking at your images to diagnose people. Ultimately if you don’t take a good image, you’re not giving them the best care,” Perez said. “I get to be a part of their diagnosis AND I get to help them. I get to be the kind face when they’re in the hospital. It’s the best of both worlds.”
Cassidy Still, 21, of Brandon received an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) and plans to take a few more classes at Hinds before she applies to the University of Mississippi School of Nursing to work on a bachelor’s degree.
She was influenced by her mother who owns a day care center to find a profession that will enable her to help people. She knew that early childhood education wasn’t for her but nursing did appeal to her. She said the best part of her Hinds education was participating in clinicals with the oversight of her Hinds instructors.
“Actually getting to put what you learned in class into practice and interacting with people and taking care of them was awesome,” she said.
Ultimately she wants to be a nurse educator. “I want to inspire people. I have instructors this semester who made me fall in love with nursing. I want to do that for somebody some day,” said Still, who was selected by her instructors to receive the Outstanding Student Award for Associate Degree Nursing.
Hinds Community College has five graduation ceremonies spanning May 10, 11 and 13. Over the five ceremonies, Hinds is awarding 1,839 degrees and certificates to 1,319 people, with some people receiving multiple credentials in academic, career or technical programs. This is the largest number of credentials Hinds has ever awarded for one graduation season.
Over the academic year including summer 2017 and fall 2017 ceremonies, the college will have awarded more than 3,900 credentials, a 12 percent increase over last year and an 85 percent increase over five years ago.
Of the 1,319 spring graduates, 265 achieved cum laude, 3.2 to 3.59 grade point average; 204 achieved magna cum laude, 3.6 to 3.99 GPA and 137 achieved summa cum laude, 4.0 grade point average. Nearly 900 are expected to participate in one of the five ceremonies.
Speakers for Friday ceremonies at the Muse Center on the Rankin Campus are
Mike Morgan, president of the Hinds County Board of Supervisors, at 8 a.m. May 11; state Sen. Josh Harkins, of Flowood, at 11 a.m. and Dr. Andrea Mayfield, executive director of the Mississippi Community College Board, at 3 p.m.
Tom Joyner, a nationally syndicated radio and television show host, will speak to graduates at the Utica Campus during a ceremony 2 p.m. Sunday, May 13.
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 enrolled nearly 12,000 credit students in fall 2016. To learn more, visit www.hindscc.edu or call 1.800.HindsCC.