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Nursing graduates attend pinning ceremony

NATCHEZ — The Alcorn State University nursing graduates were ready to put the drama of the week behind them Thursday.

Only one thing was on the mind of the 47 total graduates — the future.

Anna Laura Orr breathed a big sigh of relief Thursday afternoon following ASU’s 32nd pinning ceremony because she could rejoin the workforce with a raise.

After six years in the workforce as a licensed practical nurse, Orr, who had children and found it difficult to return to school, decided this year was the right time to achieve her goals.

“It has always been my goal to return — I originally wanted to work a year and go back to become an R.N.,” Orr said. “But I had difficulties and said why not wait.”

With two sons, taking a year off of work to finish her degree wasn’t easy.

“I had to penny pinch,” Orr said. “And I relied a lot on help from my family — I could not have done it without my husband, who basically took on the whole workload it takes to raise a family while I went back to school.”

Orr, who was in the fast-track program, was one of only a few ASU students who scored 900 or better on the Health Education Services, Inc., exam, passing the school’s requirements.

“It was an honor to know that I was able to pass under the new regulations, but I don’t think that makes me better than any of my fellow graduates,” Orr said. “Everyone worked hard and made sacrifices because it was a very stressful test.

“We’re just blessed to have made it this far and graduated.”

The majority of the students taking the exit exam failed to meet the school’s first scoring requirement. Students, arguing the school changed the requirement mid-year, met with administrators earlier this week asking to revert to the first policy.

When administrators made no changes, at least 20 students filed a lawsuit.

Wednesday, ASU reneged its new scoring requirements for the HESI exam, which required students to score a minimum of 900.

Previously, students were obligated to make a score of 75 percent on the HESI.

While everyone received their pins, purple ribbons were given to the graduates who passed under the 900-or-better HESI policy. Graduate Wendy Winston, who already has a job in Jackson, chose not to wear her purple ribbon in support of the rest of her class.

“I don’t think it is fair to recognize the original (students) and not the others because everyone is graduating,” Winston said. “I’m just happy to have graduated and glad it is over with — two years seemed like a total of five.”

Graduate Rachel Primm, who scored an 886 on the HESI, said this week’s experience at ASU taught her a lot.

“This has strengthened me,” Primm said. “Things may not always go as they should, but if you stand tall, it can all work out.”

Primm was one of the students who passed when the school returned to its previous policy.

She said the whole episode that played out over the week has made graduation a little bittersweet.

Primm said it was not fair to change the policy when she and her classmates signed up for the old policy.

“I feel like they broke a contract with me,” Primm said. “If they had been honest, which they teach us to be as a nurse, and let me know they were contemplating this, then I could have known and taken action.”

Despite the bittersweet feeling at graduation, Primm said she was ready to take the next step in obtaining her master’s and ultimately becoming a nurse practitioner. Primm said she remains positive about her experience at Alcorn.

“I can see weaknesses that I possessed in the beginning have turned into strengths,” Primm said. “I have a lot to take with me.”

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