The Practical Nursing graduates

The Practical Nursing graduates

AVON PARK, Fla. – Aug. 5, 2021 – South Florida State College (SFSC) graduated 22 Practical Nursing (PN) program students in a traditional pinning ceremony on Monday, Aug. 2 in the Alan Jay Wildstein Center for the Performing Arts on the Highlands Campus at SFSC in Avon Park.

The graduates are Isabella Adams, Cassie Bazils, Felicia Bieber, Joe Byers, Zobeida Cram, Ray Nino Gerard Espidol, Mesha Estivene, Brooke Fones, Lorie Karls, Ashley Lehman, Shanice Lewis, Patricia Lopez, Taylor Painter, Na’Talya Perry, Stephanie Quezada, Peyton Roberts, Kacie Romero, Liliana Sanchez, Chantel Stevens, Diana Tello, Daniella Vazquez, and Tiffany Volny.

“You pushed through 1,350 hours of lecture, group work, lab, and clinical,” said Mary von Merveldt, director of nursing education, when addressing the graduates. “Your brain grew, your heart grew, and your wings started to spread. Each challenge made you stronger. You’ve grown into a nurse, a beautiful butterfly ready to soar and share your radiant colors with your patients, your community, and your world. You’ve worked hard. You’ve earned this—your pinning ceremony. The pinning ceremony honors our graduates’ accomplishments and welcomes them into the profession of nursing.”

Each year, PN graduates award the Golden Duck to someone who has served as a mentor to the students in the program. The D.U.C.K. acronym represents the foundational elements of the mentoring arrangement: Developing, Understanding, Compassion, and Knowledge.

During the ceremony, Class Vice President Ashley Lehman presented the 2021 Golden Duck Award to Candra Polk, SFSC Nursing instructor. “It is my honor to present this award to someone who spent many early mornings, countless hours educating, and a ridiculous amount of time trying to keep us all in a row,” Lehman said. “We could not have made it to this point in our nursing education without all of your hard work and encouragement. We will carry what you have taught us for the rest of our lives.”

In her farewell address to fellow graduates, Class President Felicia Bieber said, “As we conclude this chapter of our lives, I would describe this as a time of resilience. In the midst of COVID-19, we embarked on this journey in the heath care field. There were many obstacles and last-minute changes, but we overcame and adjusted. The PN program challenged us mentally, emotionally, and physically. We succeeded together and failed together. With resilience, we came together to push through and carry each other to the finish line.

“I want to thank our instructors for the knowledge and skills they have taught us, and we will treasure them beyond our nursing journey. Thank you for pushing us, challenging us, and teaching us the value of being a good nurse. Thank you for holding us to the highest standards. Thank you for seeing us reach our full potential. I am proud to be a part of the PN class of 2021 and will cherish these months together. I hope each of you stay resilient in your careers as nurses and in your personal lives.”

The practice of pinning new graduates has been a nursing school tradition in the United States since 1916 and, symbolically, welcomes each graduate into the nursing profession. The pin is worn prominently on a nurse’s uniform throughout their career. One story of the ceremony’s beginning goes back to 1883, when Queen Victoria awarded Florence Nightingale the Royal Red Cross on St. George’s Day for her service to the sick and injured during the Crimean War. In turn, Nightingale later extended the honor to her outstanding nursing students by presenting them with a medal of excellence.

Graduates of the 11-month career certificate PN program become licensed practical nurses by passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) exam. SFSC nursing graduates are usually fully employed in nursing within a few months of graduation.

SFSC offers an Associate in Science degree in Nursing program for students interested in becoming registered nurses: a two-year Generic-RN program, a two-year Evening/Weekend RN program, and a one-year Transition-LPN to RN program. The College also offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. For program entry requirements, consult the SFSC College Catalog online at, call 863-784-7225, or email