They sat 10 feet apart in their black graduation gowns. It’s usually a symbol of students who are ready for the real world. However, the 2020 San Diego State nursing graduates carried a lot of experience into the ceremony.
“I honestly didn’t think I was going to get the opportunity to have a pinning ceremony, to have an actual graduation,” said Marcela Chappelle.
Only about 100 nursing graduates and two faculty members attended the ceremony in the courtyard of the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union. A handful of parents snuck in to watch from the second-floor terraces. This was the students’ reward after more than a year of paying their dues a lot earlier than expected.
“Because of the state of emergency we were in, I got to do things that I would have never been able to do if we weren’t in such a state,” said Chappelle. “I was a surge tech. So, I helped during the COVID-19 surge.”
That surge derailed Chappelle’s college life and thrust all of the nursing students into active duty.
“There was so much up in the air. A lot of things unknown with COVID,” said the 21-year-old. “It was a lot at sometimes. It was very hard sometimes. I was watching so many people die and watching all the horrors that came with it.”
Chappelle and her classmates embraced their mission far earlier than expected. Chappelle worked in Sharp and Kaiser hospitals. She administered COVID-19 tests and vaccines. The newly minted nurse did all that months before graduation.
“A lot more opportunities opened up for me that I never thought I’d have the opportunity to do,” she said.
Chappelle will begin her career as a registered nurse at Sharp Coronado this summer.
This year’s pinning ceremony was the first one on campus since 2019. Last year’s nursing class had their ceremony canceled because of the pandemic.