Leila Case: GSW graduates dance toward future

Published 1:48 pm Monday, May 14, 2018

With all the pomp and circumstance allotted for such an occasion, the 2018 graduation exercises at Georgia Southwestern State University were indeed an extraordinary celebration at the Storm Dome last Friday afternoon.
The School of Nursing’s pinning ceremony earlier that day was especially meaningful for our family. It was a privilege to be with the parents, grandparents, spouses, relatives and friends that were bursting with pride for the 67 nursing school graduates who had worked so hard to get to this red-letter day.
I have many pleasant memories of my own graduation and of others in our family but I could never have accomplished what my grandchildren have — the most recent is granddaughter Caroline Leila Herndon who earned the bachelor of science degree in nursing and was presented the unique GSW Nursing School pin by Sandra Daniel, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Nursing, and Teresa Teasley, Ph.D.
Speakers gave meaningful remarks; however, Bonnie Simmons, Ph.D, RN, delivered a thought provoking, inspirational and heartfelt closing that brought tears to my eyes and I’m certain to others, too.
Simmons retires at the end of this year following 46 years in the nursing profession with 23 on the GSW Nursing School faculty. She recited the poem entitled “The Dance” and then described her own dance of nursing at a small 40-bed rural Georgia hospital in 1972.
Simmons captivated everyone speaking about the uncertainty of the dance steps for a new grad, but how the more experienced nurses moved with the steps of a graceful ballet. As time passes, a metamorphosis occurs and with the help of mentors the music becomes a symphony and the novice nurse dances with confidence, becomes proficient and specialized and is then considered an expert and teaches the new nurse.
Simmons added her own stanza saying, “As I approach the end of the recital, I may have slowed to a waltz but I remember all the steps. I will carry it with me forever. I am so proud to be a nurse. The rewards of this very moment remind me why I still do this … I’m addicted to the music. I love the dance.
“In just a few short weeks you (nursing graduates) will begin your dance of nursing. You will soon begin to hear the melody. So, when that first patient asks, ‘may I have this dance?’ start dancing and enjoy the dance,” said Simmons to a standing ovation.
What a singular moment for these bright young graduates, especially for Caroline and our entire family. Of course, we cheered and then again when she and all the graduates in mortar boards and gowns walked across the stage to be congratulated by GSW President Neal Weaver, Ph.D. and presented their diploma.
It was a joyous time as we celebrated Caroline who now begins her own “dance” into the future of her profession. Congratulations, girl. You did it with tenacity and perseverance.
Others I am aware of who graduated are Jennifer Fowler from Valdosta State University with the master’s degree in special education; Sara Beth Hardin, bachelor of science in nursing from GSW; Kyle Crew from Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, and Ashley Moates from Auburn University. Congratulations.
Other than graduation exercises last weekend, there were dance recitals at the Rylander Theatre; the Character Café brunch for children at the Lee Council House sponsored by the Junior Service League of Americus, First Friday’s May’d in Americus and the annual Kentucky Derby party hosted by Donnie and Sylvia Roland that is a fundraiser for Books of Sumter. What a delightful way to raise money for a worthy cause and they were successful, raising $2,300. The event drew more than 50 people including the organization’s board of directors: Candy Riccardi, chair, Sylvia Roland, Stephen Woodson, Steve and Jeannie Stanfield, Marilyn Coley, Kim Christmas, Hannah Ricketts, Katie Duncan, MaryLen Walker, Krystal Heath, Joyce Carreker, Michelle Andrews, Anne Isbell, Karen Gatewood, Nancy Poole, Maggie McGruther and Lynde Parker.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Leila Sisson Case lives in Americus.