Celebrating in the time of COVID-19

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BENNINGTON — The sounds of honking car horns filled the air in the parking lot of the Vermont Technical College building on Union Street on Sunday.

It wasn't the usual pomp and circumstance, but 19 nurses graduating with their associate degrees were feted in a unique way with a drive-in pinning ceremony.

"We felt it was imperative that our students be honored in some way," said VTC Southwest Region Director Carolyn Stannard-Carlo. "I was researching different things and thought of a drive-in type of ceremony. It's a way for all these nurses to be honored for all their effort and hard work they put into their nursing degree and they get their moment on stage when their name is announced."

One-by-one, in alphabetical order, graduates would have their names read, then slowly make a loop around the parking lot as their fellow graduates and their families honked their car horns to cheer on each one. Using a long stick, one of the faculty would give them a lanyard and a pin and congratulate them for their accomplishment.

All while following Vermont Gov. Phil Scott's order on social distancing.

"We started working on these ceremonies [the first ceremony took place in Middlebury on Saturday] about two weeks ago," Stannard-Carlo said. "We're abiding by the state and the governor's recommendation, we're cleaning everything with Clorox wipes and the students have been asked to stay in their cars. We've put a lot of time and energy into this."

The COVID-19 pandemic made a difficult part of the curriculum even more so. When the students would normally be training on site, the nurses had to switch to remote learning in the middle of March.

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"It's new, unchartered water for nursing schools, but they quickly adapted and embraced remote learning and virtual simulation successfully," Stannard-Carlo said. "They are ready for pandemic care work. The Vermont board of nurses has put in to place a temporary license, so they'll be ready on the front line of this pandemic."

Members of the faculty spoke, including Inge Smith-Luce, Josephine Kruse and Sara Tator, along with clinical instructor Adrienne Gigliotti.

"We're ecstatic to have something," Stannard-Carlo said. "We're also hoping to have a commencement at homecoming in September, but to be honored after that final exam week is a great experience."

Jodie Waldron, the student representative for the class, had her brother and son with her for the graduation ceremony.

"It was incredible and I'm more than honored to be here," said Waldron, who lives in Cambridge, N.Y. "We were all wondering what was going to happen, were we going to be able to have our families here, would everyone be able to watch? It was nice to see what they did."

2020 VTC Bennington graduates

Laura Amatruto,          Vayola Nicolas, Robin Avis,                    Rachel Perry-Hannam, Alyssa Chereshkoff,          Megan Peters, Judith Delphia,                    Seline Skoug, Tanya Dorsey, Makayla Sonnet, Amy Harrington,               Kayla Tooley, Nina Hrychvich,                    Jodie Waldron, Meghan Jutras,                    Mandy West, Joanna MacDonald,          Natasha Wicks, Amanda McNeil


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