Ogeechee Technical College held a pinning ceremony for their 18 Practical Nursing graduates on December 9 in the Joseph E. Kennedy Auditorium in Statesboro. The graduates ranged from recent high school grads, multitasking mothers, and those taking a “leap of faith” later in their life to follow a dream. These different personalities are united in hard work, dedication, and a love for helping others. Allyson Byrd, Cecilia Pullen, Christeena Meade, and Jennifer Brown are joined by more than that–they are Emanuel County natives.
Allyson “Ally” Byrd, 29, was born and raised in Swainsboro. She is a single mother to three children. After graduating from Swainsboro High in 2010, she attended Georgia State University for one year for journalism. However, she found that school wasn’t her priority at that time and moved back home in 2012.
Over the past decade, Byrd has held a multitude of jobs: as an employee of Six Flags, as internet tech support, and even as a daycare teacher. Finding her dream career and success in school was trial and error for Byrd. She explains that this journey was difficult at times.
“Depression, anxiety, and feelings of low self-worth have set in deep at times. I oftentimes doubted my ability to ever complete something and give my kids the life they deserve. I feel beyond overjoyed and blessed to have finished the LPN program at Ogeechee Tech. I feel as if I’m just opening the door to a new life.”
To Byrd, being a nurse means that she can dedicate herself to something that has always come naturally to her: helping others. Her older sisters are also in the medical field, so she also feels as though she is carrying on a family tradition. Because she had already completed her pre-requisite courses during a previous stint in higher education, the Ogeechee Tech nursing program took Byrd one very stressful year to complete. She is excited about her new career and finds comfort in the favorable job outlook of nursing.
“I have always wanted to go above and beyond to assist others however I can. Nursing is a job that allows you to truly give of yourself to better the lives of others. I honestly can’t wait to say that I’m truly aiding in saving lives.”
Byrd hopes to get a job in home health in order to be more accommodating for her children’s lives. She eventually would like to start and lead her own home healthcare company. She couldn’t have followed this dream without the support of her family and friends, saying, “I have had an amazing tribe of help throughout this journey including my parents, sisters, nieces, nephews, my son’s nana, and my wonderful supportive friends and classmates.”
Jennifer Brown is a Twin City native and Emanuel County Institute graduate. Prior to her education at Ogeechee Tech, Brown attended Southeastern Technical College, where she obtained her certification as a certified nurse assistant, or CNA. Brown credits her children as her motivation to go back to school and further her education to provide them a better life and opportunities.
To Brown, being a nurse is not simply a job. Besides working a job with a great job outlook and helping fill spots in a national nurse shortage, Brown feels nursing is about human outreach.
“I have a passion for helping people,” she said. “One of my favorite quotes is, ’They may forget your name but they will never forget how you made them feel’ by Maya Angelou. It is not how much you do, but how much love you put into doing.”
Brown couldn’t imagine herself in any other career and puts love and energy into every patient interaction. The year she spent in Ogeechee Tech’s nursing program was worth the effort, but Brown admits it was intense and demanding. She praises the nursing instructors at OTC for pushing and caring for the students, which eased her journey through the program.
“I’ve shed a few tears along the way but that’s okay because I never gave up, I kept it moving. It’s hard but achievable. The nursing instructors at Ogeechee Technical College are amazing. They actually care and were available 24/7 throughout the program.”
Brown continues, “If you want it bad enough and are willing to do what it takes to successfully finish, you can do it. I couldn’t do it without help along the way. My support system is & always will be ‘the bomb,’ and I am very grateful for them.”
Brown hopes to further her education and obtain her RN degree in the future, but until then she will continue to help people as a licensed practicing nurse.
Cecelia “CeCe” Pullen has been furthering her education in nursing for the past six years. The Swainsboro native started school in 2017 to pursue her nursing degree again and obtained her CNA in 2018, CMA in 2020, and now her LPN in 2021. Pullen is married and has a 19-year-old in the medical field as well, who is pursuing her radiological technologist diploma.
Pullen worked in accounting since 2001 and, prior to that, as a medical registration receptionist. She started working at Emanuel Medical Center when she was 16 as a registration clerk in the ER. Her interactions with the nurses there inspired her to pursue nursing after graduation.
“I love helping others and I couldn’t see wanting to do anything else,” she explained. “However, life, as it does, got in the way, and I ended up dropping out and getting my accounting degree and worked in accounting for many many years.”
Despite decades-long setbacks, Pullen’s interest was sparked again after she met her aunt’s hospice nurses.
Pullen found out the day classes began that she had been accepted as a student. The hectic process of getting supplies, books, and paperwork with a few hours notice prepped Pullen for the chaotic semester ahead. She accepted a position as a CNA at Emanuel Medical Center, where she received love and support from the other nurses. They made themselves available for teaching skills that cannot be taught in a classroom.
To Pullen, being a nurse means she is able to help someone who is in need.
“When you are sick, it feels like everything that can go wrong will go wrong, and I want to be the person who is there to help someone get back on their feet after being sick and to help get them well.”
The nursing program is only one year long after core classes, but Pullen jokes, saying, “For me, with all my starting and dropping, it took me many many years—25 to be exact! Finishing the nursing program is all I have ever wanted.”
She says her biggest and best supporters and helpers have been her husband, daughter, sister, and parents.
“When I thought I couldn’t do, it they were there to say I could. They pushed me when I didn’t think I had the strength to go anymore. My daughter help me study for hours. My husband would listen to me recite information over and over to him to memorize it. My sister would listen to my complaints and doubts and let me fuss, then tell me to dry it up and push forward. My parents would tell me how much they believed in me and supported me. My most important supporter was God.”
She plans to continue to work as an LPN in Emanuel County.
Christeena Meade is from Stillmore and is a David Emanuel graduate. She is married with two children. She feels her nursing degree is giving her a second chance at her career. She previously worked in the Ogeechee Tech pharmacy as an assistant, and it felt natural to return there for her degree.
Meade is proud of her future career and has always loved being a caretaker. She values relationships more than anything, saying, “I think doing for others gives meaning to life. I am doing for others what they can’t do for themselves.”
As for support, Meade is thankful for her husband, who picked up slack at home which allowed her to excel in the program. She also thanks the instructors at the college, specifically Jackie Howard.
“Jackie was great,” Meade said. “She encouraged us and kept our spirits up. She made us feel like we were not alone.”
The pinning ceremony was exciting for Meade as she had a long journey to achieve this goal. She studied and attended nursing classes during the week and worked at East Georgia Regional Pharmacy when she wasn’t at school.
“It was a long year with no day off. I’m looking forward to enjoying the holidays with some down time for my family now.”
Meade is currently working for a home health agency in Augusta and plans to work in a hospital in the near future for some more hands-on learning. She ultimately hopes to work with hospice which has always been her passion.
These four women may be new LPNs, but they have always been caretakers who have spread love through acts of service. As they continue their nursing career in the workplace, keep these nurses in your thoughts and prayers. They are the backbone of our community, and their journey may lead them to care for you or a loved one in the future.