Shortly after receiving her certificate in patient care assisting at Aiken Technical College on Friday, Tiffanie Rickerson walked to the stands and brought back her son, Tristan, 1, to the other ceremony participants.

“It feels wonderful,” said Rickerson, smiling with those next to her. “My goals are to achieve a better life for me and my children. I’ve been working full-time and going to school.”

About 150 people were eligible to participate in the Allied Health-Pinning program. Faculty members pinned the graduates – what ATC President Dr. Susan Winsor described as a symbol of the right of passage into the noble profession of health care.

“You have earned this through long hours of study and challenges,” Winsor said. “You have shown determination and courage. ... Maybe you were not sure if you would make it through, but here you are and congratulations. Many of your friends are here, and you have a foundation that will set your future course.”

Christine Kramer, a class speaker, never expected to complete a college program in medical assisting. She took two jobs to put herself through school and didn’t get much sleep along the way. Yet, even as she found the process slow and difficult, Kramer found the classes flew by for her and her new friends.

“I’ve grown to love them,” she said.

“Most of my classmates will go on to careers, and some will continue their education – wherever life takes them. All of us will be great medical assistants.”

All the certificate recipients have chosen a profession that will impact patients, said Dr. Gemma Frock, ATC’s vice president for education and training.

She cited the support and care the faculty members provided the students.

“You have been in an environment for learning technical skills, as well as character attributes,” Frock said. She invited the students to work at a high standard and act with integrity.

The program faculty members were Hermecender Walton, Vania Germany, Terri Talley, Amelia Johnson, Latina Jackson, Jo Bessie Bickley, Katie Barton, Teresa Larson, Adrienne Guy, Lisa Jones, Carole Grooms, Shenese McMillan and Lauren Wertz.

Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard’s education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.