Welcome friends and family, members of the faculty, and fellow students. We have made it! My name is Mike LoPresti, and I am graduating from Elgin Community College's Nursing Program. Today is a great day that many have looked forward to since we were small children, while some, like myself, never saw a day like today coming. Congratulations to all.
Nursing is a career that I never imagined myself going into growing up. Now, I could not imagine doing anything different. I did not just wake up one day and decide this was the career for me, though. I've had several signs throughout my life that aimed me in this direction. Some really happy, and some downright devastating. I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, whether we know it at the time or not. As I stand here today at this podium graduating from nursing school, my story is evidence of just that.
Growing up, I don't believe I really fit the societal standards of who a nurse is, but I know for a fact this is what I am here to do. The list of signs, or cues as we call it in nursing, is lengthy, so I will spare you the time only share what are to me the most significant. May 21st, 2013 is a day I'll never forget for two reasons. For one, it was the first day I ever wore scrubs. Secondly, it was the day my daughter Ava was born. She was premature, covered in vernix, and lacking enough surfactant. Sorry to my non-nursing friends, I just want to make sure TJ knows I paid attention in OB. Something wasn't right. As Ava turned a little bluer than we would call the 'expected acrocyanosis found in infants,' the quick actions of my wife and daughter's nurses landed Ava in the neonatal ICU. For the next few nights, my wife Jen and I stayed awake terrified of what was to come, only to be comforted and educated by the unit's charge nurse, who happened to be a friend of Jen's. Jen and I took turns going to see Ava in the NICU, and to my surprise, I became increasingly fascinated with the entire idea of being a healthcare worker. I want to be like them - what a way to spend your life helping and saving people, I thought to myself. I was inspired by those nurses' knowledge, attention to detail, and empathetic attitude. Eight and a half years later, Ava is rocking third grade and perfectly healthy thanks to those awesome nurses and their actions years ago.
After other signs, experiences, and opportunities, I found myself working in healthcare as a hemodialysis technician. This was quite the change from my previous occupation as an ice-cream delivery man and fishing guide. I took my placement tests at ECC, and to no surprise, my academic reputation from high school didn't fall too far from my placement test scores. I had to start with Eng 98 and Math 96, so I started from the bottom; now I'm here. ECC played a huge role in this accomplishment, as the only way for me to realistically make a play for this nursing thing was to take one class at a time every semester until I couldn't anymore. So I did, and five years later, in Jan 2020, I started the nursing program. You want to talk about culture shock, go from doing one class a semester to the first semester of the nursing program. It was an adjustment for myself and my family, to say the least. My success is proof that hard work, dedication, and perseverance can take you anywhere in life. Add that hard work and dedication to a little bit of maturity and wisdom, and I had no idea what I was capable of. I want this to be motivation for everyone listening to me today; if I can become a Registered Nurse, the sky is truly the limit for each and every one of us. Push yourself every day, strive to succeed, step out of your comfort zone, and go big or go home, for we only get one chance at life. Make the best of it.
Many other signs led me down this path, some coincidences, some absolutely not. At the age of 16, I and many others lost a special person to suicide. Fast forward 20 years, I began my mental health section of the 4th semester. Being somewhat of a psychonaut myself, I was really excited for this part of nursing education. After a quick intro to mental health, we dove into the material. We discussed how nurses, especially in our current state of affairs, can sometimes develop a form of PTSD known as compassion fatigue. As my instructor Peggy told a story about an experience she had as a new nurse, I could not believe my ears as she was telling the story of my friend who died on that 4th of July night in 2002. Peggy and I had some rather deep conversations about the matter, both pretty dumbfounded by this coincidence. Wait, coincidence? There is no way this is a coincidence! 20 years later, a nurse who had this traumatic experience involving my close friend is now teaching me!? Not a chance. Call it a sign, a cue, divine intervention, whatever you want to call it; this was the icing on the cake, that nursing is my calling.
Over the years here at ECC, we have made many acquaintances, friendships, and relationships. For some of us, these may last a lifetime, but all too often, somebody we are close to may leave us too soon. Cherish the times you have with friends and family. Embrace the challenges in life. Look at the glass as being half full, never half empty. Remember PMA, positive musky attitude…I mean a positive mental attitude for the people that don't fish in the audience. Give everything you do, everything you've got, leave with no regrets. Remember, the effect we have on others is the most valuable form of currency. The founder of nursing, Florence Nightingale, once said, "Let us never be finished nurses…we must be learning all of our lives." This goes for all of life, though, not just nursing. The day we stop learning is the day to hang it up, move on, and find something else to fill our passion. Leave from here and take all of your experiences, good and bad, and apply what you have learned to everyday life. Treat others with kindness and patience; if you show love, you spread love.
I want to thank my family and friends for all the love and support throughout this journey. It has been quite a long, strange trip. I want to thank my best friend and beautiful wife for being my rock and for all she does for our family. I couldn't have done this without you, nor would I have. You really are special, Jen - you deserve this diploma as much as I. I want to thank everyone for their time, and on behalf of the ECC class of 2021, thank all the ECC faculty.
I'd also like to leave you all with this Alan Watts quote: "This is the real secret of life – to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play."
Michael LoPresti ‘21
Associate of Applied Science