Practical nurses graduate from Penn State Hazleton

Rows of practical nursing students in white scrubs lined up on steps in front of campus building.

Penn State Hazleton held a virtual graduation ceremony for the practical nursing class of 2020 on Dec. 17, where 27 students who completed the 18-month program were recognized for their achievements.

Credit: Penn State

HAZLETON, Pa. – Graduates of Penn State Hazleton’s practical nursing program marked the successful completion of the program during a virtual ceremony on Dec. 17. The class of 27 students completed the requirements to earn a certificate in practical nursing and will be eligible to test for the National Council Licensure Examination-Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN).  

The class began their studies in August 2019 for the 18-month program offered in the evening and on weekends in the classroom and laboratory in the Slusser/Bayzick Building. Students took classes at Penn State Hazleton and attended clinical studies at area partner facilities. After the shift to remote instruction in March, students continued learning through a combination of in-person and virtual coursework. 

Chancellor Gary M. Lawler presided over the ceremony along with Director of Academic Affairs Elizabeth J. Wright and Practical Nursing Program Coordinator Andrea C. Shook.  

Guest speaker for the event was Heather Clark, director of the Penn State Practical Nursing Program. Based at Penn State Lehigh Valley, she works with program coordinators across three campuses to ensure the program is consistent and meets the standards of the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing. 

Dr. Clark earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Allentown College of St. Francis of DeSales, master’s degree in nursing from DeSales University, and doctorate degree in nursing practice from Penn State. 

Her experience includes teaching community health and geriatrics at DeSales University and Cedar Crest College, as well as working as a nurse in hospice, long-term care, and public health settings. 

Dr. Clark’s research is focused on using a curriculum to enhance licensed practical nursing leadership in long-term care facilities to increase job satisfaction. She has been a presenter at various conferences including the statewide Strategies: Educational Excellence for Health Care Providers and Educators conference and the international Neuman Symposium. She also co-authored a chapter in the book "Neuman Systems Model: Celebrating Academic-Practice Partnerships," edited by Sarah Beckman and Jacqueline Fawcett. 

During the ceremony, graduates received their certificates and pins to signify successful completion of the program.  

Graduates and their hometowns included: 

Christina E. Albertine, McAdoo; Luisa Alejo, Hazleton; Amber Marie Atkinson, White Haven; Genesis Beato, Hazleton; Gissell Cruz, West Hazleton; Kelsey Leigh Deitz, Berwick; Jocelyn Marie Dougherty, Beaver Meadows; Kimberly Gennaro, Milnesville; Melissa Jasmil Gonzalez, Nuremberg; April J. Houseknecht, West Hazleton; Kaitlin Marie Isherwood, Berwick; Theresa Marie Karosa, Ringtown; Sary Sabina Lithgow Casado, Hazleton; Ashley Krystan Matthews, West Hazleton; Kara Rayanne Musselman, Mountain Top; Brenda M. Nevel, Berwick; Brandie Lynn O’Neil, Orangeville; Ana Maria Ortiz, Hazleton; Jenny M. Rojas, Drums; Bethanne Leigh Shoemaker, Nescopeck; Catherine Mary Sockriter, Berwick; Ashley C. Vigoda, Pottsville; Chelsea Braziell Walker, Drums; Julie Lynne Wallace, Tremont; Jennifer M. Walters, Catawissa; Sarah Lee Ann Welles, Shenandoah; and Jamie Nicole Winters, Shenandoah.  

Several members of the graduating class also earned special recognition with an award. The awards and winners included:  

— Excellence in Clinical Practice, an award presented to the nursing student who best displays a high regard for clinical care and clinical aptitude. This year’s recipient was Genesis Beato. 

— Award for Leadership and Professionalism, which recognizes outstanding leadership and professionalism during the nursing education process. Julie Wallace was this year’s recipient.  

— Most Compassionate, an award presented to the student who displays exceptional emotional capacities of empathy and sympathy for others. This year’s recipient was Luisa Alejo. 

— Community Service, which is presented to the student who displays the initiative to reach out to those in need within the community. This year’s recipient was Brandie O’Neil. 

— Spirit of Nursing Award, which recognizes the student who shows excitement, motivation and enthusiasm toward the nursing profession. This year’s recipient was Ana Ortiz. 

— Patricia D. Kelly, R.N. Academic Award in Practical Nursing, an award presented to the student earning the highest overall grade-point average. Bethanne Shoemaker was this year’s recipient.