Stamford resident Kettly Cassamajor wiped a tear from the top of her cheek Tuesday evening as she sat quietly, all in white, in the front row of a stage, along with 33 other members of this year's graduating class of nurses from Norwalk Community College.
She had just received her nursing pin in the college's ceremony, which honors a 1,000-year-old tradition of pinning newly dedicated nurses.
It took two years for the mother and wife, who is in her late 30s, to earn the pin -- a journey she and her classmates admitted was so tough at times that pushing through seemed near impossible.
"We've been exhausted, stressed out, worried and overwhelmed. We've all laughed and cried for no reason, and I'm sure you're all tired of hearing how much work we have to do," Cassamajor's classmate and Norwalk resident Maria Salas told the crowd of about 200 people during the ceremony.
"Thank you for being there and also for not being there when we were trying to study, write care plans and papers, hundreds of med cads, prepare presentations or just have time alone," Salas said.
She said the class of 34 sitting on the stage did not look like many college graduating classes that will be tossing up mortar boards around the country this month.
Instead, the newly minted nurses earning their pins on Tuesday "spanned decades" and are "proud to have mortgages to pay and families to feed," Salas said.
For Cassamajor, whose 14-year-old daughter Cassandra Charles watched from the audience Tuesday, giving up her full-time job at the post office and relying solely on her husband's income to support their family of three, while balancing schoolwork and being a mother, was a tough task.
"It was very hard, but I put everything aside to just do it, and I did it. Sometimes I really felt like, my God, I'm not going to be able to make it. But I had my husband, my daughter and my mother, and they just kept telling me, `You can do it. We believe in you,' " she said after the ceremony Tuesday.
Before joining the class of 2012 almost two years ago, Cassamajor had been a full-time employee at the post office, where she met her husband. But while the job provided a stable income, it didn't excite her.
"She just didn't like it. And it was her desire to be a nurse. So she quit the post office, and it's been a long hard road, but here we are," said her husband of seven years, Frank Longo.
While the road was rocky at times, Longo said he is thrilled to see Cassamajor on the other side, with a chance to do what truly makes her happy.
"I love taking care of people, and I love to take care of people certainly who cannot do it for themselves. You know, I just love people," said Cassamajor, who is planning to go into pediatric nursing.
"I think life is going to be better now," she said.
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