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RAIN Celebrates Nursing Grads with Traditional Meal & Honor Ceremony
December marks the celebration of commencement and the conferral of degrees for many of our College of Nursing and Professional Disciplines students. Along with the traditional graduate and undergraduate commencement ceremonies, which were held on December 17th and 18th, 2015, many of the College’s departments also hosted their own celebrations to commemorate the accomplishments of their students. One of those celebrations is the Traditional Meal and Honor Ceremony which is hosted each semester by the Recruitment/Retention of American Indians into Nursing (RAIN) Program to recognize the accomplishments of American Indian Nursing graduates.
RAIN provides academic mentoring, support, and advising to undergraduate and graduate American Indian nursing students. More importantly, the RAIN staff and office provides these students with a welcoming environment where they feel accepted and supported which helps them to succeed toward their goals.
Destiny Blue, who graduated in December with her BSN, stated, “RAIN was a constant support system for me while [I was] a student. They were always there to help me sort classes, tutoring, peer support… anything I needed, I was able to turn to RAIN for assistance.”
The RAIN program has been hosting the Traditional Meal and Honor Ceremony since the inception of the program. The event was formerly held during Time Out Week but in an effort to create a more personal and familial environment for the graduates, the RAIN staff decided to hold their own Traditional Meal and invite the graduate’s family and friends as well as the Nursing faculty and staff to participate.
The Traditional Meal and Honor Ceremony for the Fall 2015 graduates was held on December 16th. Four graduates of the Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN) program were honored; Destiny Blue, Jason Jones, Jezarae LaRocque, and Carmita St. Pierre, and two Masters of Science (MS) in Nursing graduates were honored at the event; Valerie McCarney and Kristina Smith.
The Traditional Meal featured a spread of delicious food which included buffalo roast, wild rice soup, fry bread and wojapi, a blueberry pudding dip for the fry bread. The RAIN staff worked all day to prepare the meal with their own family recipes. About 75 guests enjoyed the meal which was followed by an Honor Ceremony that acknowledged the graduate’s success.
During the Honor Ceremony, each graduate was called to the front of the room by Deb Wilson, the Director of the RAIN program one-by-one, and was wrapped in a beautiful Pendleton blanket by Dean Roux and Barb Anderson, the Program Coordinator. After being wrapped in the blanket, the graduate’s family members were asked to join them at the front of the room and were introduced to the audience. The graduates were then given the opportunity to thank their families for their support throughout their education, which played an integral role in each of the student’s successful completion of their nursing degrees.
Once all of the graduates had been draped in their Pendleton blankets, the Buffalo River Drum Group from Moorhead, MN, began singing a traditional Honor Song. One by one, the graduate’s family, friends, and faculty greeted them and congratulated them on their accomplishments. After each guest congratulated the graduates, they stood next to them and became part of the receiving line, shaking the hand of each guest who followed them until all attendees joined the line, creating a large circle around the room. After the circle was formed, everyone participated in the Round Dance, or friendship dance, which signifies celebration and togetherness. The Honor Song and Round Dance made each guest feel connected to the graduates and provided an opportunity for all attendees to celebrate the graduates accomplishments.
Destiny Blue decided to become a nurse because she wanted a career where she could help others on a daily basis and would allow her to return to her hometown of Belcourt, ND to help make an impact on the health of her community. The Traditional Meal and Honor Ceremony meant a great deal to her and her family.
“This meal was so important to me. It showed me how big of an honor it was for me to graduate and that my accomplishments meant something to others as much as it meant to me. Having the Honor Ceremony was a great way to help me connect with my culture and community during a time of great importance in my life. It was a chance to celebrate in a traditional way,” she said.
This year marked the 25th Anniversary of the RAIN program. Since the program’s inception in 1990, 203 American Indian nurses have received their Bachelor of Science in Nursing and 53 American Indian Nurses have received their Masters of Science in Nursing from UND with an additional 20 RAIN graduates receiving their master’s degrees from other institutions. Five American Indian graduates from UND have gone on to receive their PhDs in Nursing and one graduate has earned their Doctor of Nursing Practice; In addition, one nurse has received her Juris Doctorate.
When asked about the role that RAIN plays in student success, Deb Wilson stated, “Each class is a little different as each student’s story is a little different. They come with their own history and overcome their own challenges to make their path through school. It’s nice to know that we were a little part of that journey with them and were there to be an extra support system for them.”