RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in the Triangle is about to get a boost from Wake Tech Community College.
Sixty-four soon-to-be graduates of Wake Tech's Martha Mann Smith School of Nursing will be able to enter the workforce before taking their license exam to help support healthcare workers battling COVID-19.
On Monday, Wake Tech held a special curbside pinning ceremony but neither rain nor a pandemic could stop the parade, literally.
"We're doing a drive-by ceremony," said Dr. Scott Ralls, president of Wake Tech.
The coveted pinning ceremony is 200 years old, thanks to Florence Nightingale.
"It's the year of the nurse. So, she decided her students needed recognition in the field. So, she gave them pins and gave them lanterns, " said Dr. Ann Milner.
On Monday, it was Milner who was passing the torch and Dr. Ralls commending their commitment.
"They're moving straight from us into the workplace and so they're going right into the frontlines," Ralls said.
For Amy Powell, this moment took 10 years, but she's honored to help during a health crisis.
"I never could've imagined that when I finally go to graduate, I would be in a pandemic or helping people on the cusp of death. I'm very excited to make a difference for people," Powell said.
The pinning ceremony shows appreciation for decisions like Amy's but also recognizes sacrifice.
"They're the most resilient students we've had. We've had to switch to online teaching, and they've been strong and courageous," said one faculty member.
While faculty is naturally proud of their future nurses, the pinning privilege was even more special for Dr. Milner, who got to pin her daughter.
"I wanted to pin her because my daughter going into nursing, but this is OK. I'll pin you at graduation," said Milner.
Her daughter is headed directly to WakeMed, taking on COVID-19 and drawing on everything she learned from Wake Tech.
"I'm nervous, I'm excited. Wake Tech has given us the tools and we've learned a lot to deal with this and I think it's going to be a good opportunity. What better way to start your career than during a pandemic," Milner's daughter Sam said.
Wake Tech nursing students help with COVID-19 care