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Recognition Ceremony Honors Lander’s Nursing Graduates

Lander University awarded pins to honor its 50 candidates for the bachelor’s degree in nursing. Photo by Laura Wood

When Lander University celebrated the achievements of its graduates during the School of Nursing’s recognition ceremony, few could have known that one of those being honored almost abandoned her dreams.

Isabella Jones, of Lancaster, enrolled at Lander to join the women’s soccer team and seek a bachelor’s degree in nursing. As an athlete and a student in the Honors College, Jones was excelling in many areas of college life. 

But after her mother was hospitalized with COVID-19 during Jones’ sophomore year at Lander, she returned home to be with her. During that time, “I still attended class online, submitted assignments, and completed scheduled exams online,” said Jones, who was determined to keep up with her academic schedule while being with her mother. 

After several weeks of care in the hospital’s ICU, Jones’ mother passed away. “The last thing I wanted to do was to come back to Lander and finish my classes, but I knew that that was what my mama would have wanted me to do,” Jones said, crediting the Lander community for helping her through the difficult days that she faced. 

“All of my teammates and friends prayed for me, sent my family flowers, and even attended her funeral,” she said. “I realized that God sent me to Lander for a reason. He gave me the best support system I could ever ask for. After going through this loss, I felt as though my calling was to work in critical care to care for patients and families who were going through similar situations as my mama.” 

Jones completed her mother’s dream and will be a nurse in the cardiac intensive care unit at Self Regional Healthcare. Her persistence to continue the academic demands of her nursing education led Jones to receive the William Preston School of Nursing “Faculty Award of Excellence,” given to the student who demonstrates the greatest promise of making significant contributions to the profession of nursing. She also received the Self Regional Healthcare Award and he “Nursing Athletic Award,” presented to a graduating senior who has played on a sports team and has shown academic excellence, integrity, sportsmanship and athletic prowess.

Persevernce to reaching shared goals was the message of nursing graduate Dashiona Todd, of Greenville, who gave “Greetings from Class,” during the Recognition Ceremony, which included the awarding of pins to graduates. She said the day was “a tremendous achievement” in the lives of her peers and praised their hard work, sacrifices and unwavering commitment in their nursing degree program.

Todd’s sense of humor in describing the rigors of the nursing program brought smiles and laughter from the audience throughout her talk. “Nothing in life could have prepared us for this beast that is nursing school,” she said.

She praised the demands from faculty to not only teach them “book knowledge,” but also taught students “how to be advocates for those in our care.”

And as they prepared to embark on the next phase of their lives, Todd said, “We are celebrating our first big people jobs.”

She continued, “Wherever we will go, they will be happy to have us. I am proud of all of you. We did it.”

Among the honors awarded during the ceremony were: Kenaja Burnside, of Laurens, Clinical Excellence Award; Alexis Pickell, of Greenwood, Professional Nursing Award; Stevaunie Worden, of Anderson, Professional Development Award; Emily Jarrell, of Hampton, Neuman Award; Leslie Horne McKesson, of Greenwood, R.N. to B.S.N. Award, and Alexandra Nicole Saathoff, of Columbia, the Mickey McDowell Award.

The School of Nursing also recognized five R.N. to B.S.N. graduates who earned associate degrees in nursing before pursuing their bachelor’s degrees in Lander’s online program. They included Katherine Major Fallaw, Leslie Horne McKesson and Ashley Denise Salerno, all of Greenwood; Jacqueline Diana-Michelle Rose, of Seneca, and Peytan Riegel Smith, of Laurens.