This heartfelt ceremony marks an important milestone: the completion of their classroom work
One of the many traditions that makes Branford Hall campuses special is the pinning ceremony. This is a chance for students to come together with their instructors, in the presence of invited friends and family, to honor their accomplishments before they head out on their final phase of training: the externship.
At the Springfield campus, pinning ceremonies take place with each class of “seniors” (as they call themselves), every five weeks. The most recent ceremony was on November 30, with 8 Medical Assisting (MA) students as well as 2 Health Claims Specialist students. We spoke with Lisa Robinson, Springfield’s Associate Campus Director/Director of Education, and Stacey Richters, Lead Instructor of the MA program, about what makes this ceremony so meaningful, to students and staff alike.
“The pinning ceremony signifies students having finished their on-campus training in the classroom,” Robinson says. Richters explains that the ceremony is called “pinning” because students receive a Branford Hall pin, which they can wear when they’re working as externs—a kind of badge of honor. “This is symbolic for them,” she explains. “It’s a school tradition that holds a lot of meaning.”
Weeks of preparation
Richters explains that the students spend a good amount of time planning for this day. “What makes the ceremony special is the effort that each group of students put into it,” Richters says. During that last mod (short for “module,” or term), they hold fundraisers so they can afford decorations and a cake to celebrate the day. Some groups host bake sales to raise money; others organize a “Scrub-Down Day,” when, for a small donation, students are permitted to wear jeans instead of their scrubs to class—kind of like a campus Casual Friday.
“They really look forward to it and are very ‘gung ho’ about decorating the classroom where the ceremony is held,” Richter says. They come in early to set up the room, and designate a special area for family and friends to sit. Sometimes the students will agree to all dress a certain way for the big day. The students also use the funds to purchase a flower for each of their instructors.
A simple ceremony
The ceremony itself is usually held in one of the largest classrooms on the campus, or in the library. Family and friends are also invited, which makes for an intimate and moving event, where the guests learn about their student’s time at Branford Hall and help them to celebrate the completion of this important phase of their work.
During the ceremony, an instructor calls each student’s name, and they come up to receive their pin. The students get to decide for themselves whom they would like to pin them: either a faculty member or a family member. Students then walk down a line of their instructors before taking an oath about loyalty and service. Al Landry, an instructor who has been at Branford for many years, has students raise their right hand and recite the oath after him.
Honoring a meaningful accomplishment
“Pinning is a short but emotional ceremony,” says Richter. “It solidifies the relationships that have developed between the students and their instructors, and you can see how far they’ve come!” “The MA staff is honored to attend,” Richters says, “and we’re always moved to give hugs to all our students.”
“Our students don’t take this ceremony—or their experience here at Branford Hall—for granted,” Robinson continues. “Many of them have overcome significant obstacles to be here.” She describes one student who was homeless, and living in a shelter, and another who had no transportation to the school and had to take two different buses to campus. She adds that several of the students are single mothers, who struggle to find someone to watch their children so they can attend classes. “The pinning ceremony becomes an opportunity for celebration for this small group of students that overcame all those obstacles and made it through,” says Richter. “Many times you’ll see the instructors as tearful as the students and family members!”
Preparing for the next phase: externship
At Branford’s Springfield campus, the Health Claims Specialist program requires 160 hours of externship, and the MA program requires 180 hours. Robinson explains that this is the opportunity for students to go onsite to get real-world, hands-on experience. They may be placed at one of many local facilities, ranging from large hospitals and pediatrician’s offices to small clinics and private practices of doctors, orthopedic surgeons, and cardiac specialists.
The school begins to help students with placement during their second-to-last mod, with the assistance of Externship Coordinator Nichole Rockafellow. She works with the students individually, and does her best to accommodate their interests and preferences. There is a need to place the students relatively quickly, but if, for example, the student expresses a desire not to work with children, then Rockafellow will avoid placing that student in a pediatric office. “We try our best to find a good fit,” adds Robinson, “with the hopes that the externship will translate into the student being hired for permanent employment.” She says that this does often happen, due in part to the excellent preparation the students receive. “We have a good working relationship with many of the sites,” she says, “which we’ve built up over a number of years.”
Robinson explains that the externship site also has some responsibilities to Branford Hall, in sending timesheets and helping to evaluate the performance of each student that’s onsite with them. Richters, as lead instructor, checks in on each of her MA students once they’re externing, to oversee the process.
Gearing up for graduation
The pinning ceremony isn’t the only time students come together at the end of their training. Branford’s Springfield campus has two larger graduation ceremonies each year: one in winter and one in late summer. The last graduation was in late August, so the next one will be during the first week of February. “This is a much bigger event,” Robinson says, “with all of the students who were pinned and then went on to complete their externships during that six-month period.” For that event, the school rents the auditorium of a local high school, and the students wear the traditional caps and gowns.
She says that the students, however, find the pinning ceremony more intimate. “They’re gratified by this formal recognition of what they’ve accomplished up to that point,” says Robinson. “You’d be amazed how many of the graduates keep in touch,” Richters says. “It’s impressive, and goes to show the bonds that they students form while they’re together here completing the program.”
This article is part of the Branford Hall weekly blog. We’re dedicated to showcasing and supporting all our current students. We welcome prospective students to visit any of our ten campuses in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey, where we offer an array of professional training programs. Reach out to us by calling 1.800.959.7599 or request more information today!