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The Aiken Technical College Associate in Applied Science in nursing spring 2019 graduates hold their candles and read the Florence Nightingale Pledge on Monday afternoon during their Pinning Ceremony. They are among more than 400 ATC students who will receive their degrees at 7 p.m. today in the Convocation Center at USC Aiken.

Helping people is the bedrock of nursing, and the Aiken Technical College spring 2019 Associate in Applied Science nursing students are solid as a rock in that desire, said John Mims, the class valedictorian.

Mims, from Edgefield, is one of 27 students who received their nursing pins Monday afternoon during the college's traditional Pinning Ceremony. They will be among 400 ATC students who will receive their degrees at 7 p.m. today during commencement exercises in the Convocation Center at USC Aiken.

“You've got to go into nursing for the right reason, and ultimately, that's to help people,” Mims said after the ceremony. “That's got to be your bedrock, and I think everybody in my class has that desire to help people.”

Mims said attaining his degree took “dedication.”

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Aiken Technical College recognized its spring 2019 Associate in Applied Science nursing students Monday afternoon during the Pinning Ceremony. Elizabeth Coody, left, was the class salutatorian, and John Mims, the valedictorian. Macye McClure received the Tradition of Caring Award.

“You have to put so much of your life into your studies and take it from other parts of your life and put it into school,” he said. “For the past five or six years, it's been what I wanted to do. It's definitely been my calling. Everything has aligned since I decided to go into nursing.”

Mims said being named valedictorian was the “culmination of a lot of hard work and support.”

“It signifies that it was all worth it,” said Mims, who will put that hard work to use in the ICU at Doctors Hospital in Augusta.

Elizabeth Coody, the class salutatorian, worked in emergency medicine as an EMT for six years and now will be working in the ER at Augusta University Medical Center. She said she expects her transition to her new career in health care to be smooth.

“I'm really looking forward to continuing that in the ER and getting to help people who are truly in need and in dire circumstances,” she said. “I've got a wonderful work family that helps me learn and has helped mold me.”

Coody, from Evans, Georgia, said she was “shocked” to be named salutatorian with the second highest class GPA.

“I never would have thought I would have made it this far, especially to follow behind John,” she said. “It's been a complete honor to know we had the love and support of our classmates. It's just been amazing.”

Macye McClure's classmates chose her to receive the class Tradition of Caring Award. The award is given to the student his or her peers would want to care for their families.

“I am extremely honored,” said McClure, who originally is from Alabama and now lives in North Augusta. “I have always tried to make everyone feel that they are loved and accepted and if they needed help I would do my best. I believe that everyone in my class would do the same.”

McClure, who also received an LPN degree from ATC but had left the profession, came back to nursing and will be working with vascular and heart failure patients in the cardiac tower at University Hospital in Augusta.

“It's in my blood. Caring is my occupation. I can't not do it,” she said.

The nursing pin represents dedication to the service of others and pledged loyalty to fellow nurses, according to the ceremony's program. ATC's pin features the school colors, blue and gold, which matches the uniforms worn by South Carolina troops in the Revolutionary War.

Larry Wood covers education for the Aiken Standard.