Hughes and 79 other nursing students took big steps toward fulfilling their dreams Friday night when they were among 621 graduates in 44 academic programs receiving degrees and certificates at the spring commencement of Chippewa Valley Technical College.
Nursing had the most graduates at the Eau Claire campus, followed by business management with 38 graduates, and electrical power distribution with 30.
Hughes, a 2008 Chippewa Falls High School graduate, originally completed training as a certified nursing assistant and worked at the Chippewa Manor before starting the nursing program, then taking some time off to start a family. Completing her associate degree in nursing now puts her in line for a long career in health care.
“I always enjoyed helping people,” Hughes said. “I just like being around people. Everyone’s so different and it’s never the same every day.”
Hughes plans on pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the future after she begins working in the field, a typical strategy for CVTC nursing graduates. She also has her eye on emergency room work.
“I love adrenaline. I was a volunteer firefighter for the Chippewa Fire District for a while,” Hughes said.
Liking the caring as well as the excitement in nursing is something Hughes has in common with fellow graduate Jamie Smith of Cornell.
“I really liked my transition experience at Mayo Health Systems,” she said. The transitions part of nursing training involves 80 hours in the field working with cooperating health care providers.
“I was able to respond to level one trauma in the emergency room, and help people who came in with neurological problems and brain trauma,” Smith said.
She started her nursing education at Western Technical College in La Crosse, but came to Chippewa County, where her husband William works at Chippewa Concrete. She transferred to the CVTC program.
“I always wanted to be a nurse. It’s been my passion since I was a little girl,” she said. “I like caring for people, and there’s always diversity in what you do.”
Graduate Ashley Weiss of Menomonie, who is originally from Gilmanton, was the student speaker and urged graduates to have confidence that they can achieve their goals and overcome their failures.
“If you want something bad enough, what you have accomplished here today should be enough to show you that you can absolutely reach any goal you set your mind to,” she said. “But don’t be afraid of failure on your way there. Sometimes those failures are what motivate you to do better and push yourself harder.”
The guest speaker was Jeff West, president of Bear Down, a company that helps companies effectively implement their strategic plans. West was the co-founder and CEO of Silicon Logic Engineering, a company he sold in 2006. West told the story of good employee A and disgruntled employee B.
“I hope each of you someday take the leap and start your own business. There’s nothing else like it in the world,” West said, acknowledging that many have either taken jobs or will soon.
“Every business you work for, no matter the size today, at one point was started by someone with a dream. They put their heart and soul and probably most of their worldly net worth into getting going,” West said. “So the question is, which employee are you going to be? A or B?”