Teirra Wynn of West Point receives her nursing pin from instructor Karen Gray during the graduation ceremony for the Practical Nursing program Thursday at East Mississippi Community College's Golden Triangle campus. Wynn completed the program despite losing her mother and giving birth to a son in 2011.
MAYHEW -- Teirra Wynn always knew she wanted to be a nurse. Graduating from her first nursing program should be the most significant thing to happen to her since graduating from West Point High School.
In fact it's third on the list.
A distant third.
Wynn graduated from East Mississippi Community College's Practical Nursing program Thursday along with 23 classmates. The 22-year-old plans to move on to Mississippi University for Women to pursue a career as a Registered Nurse. She may go as far as becoming a nurse practitioner.
She'll enroll at The W with an almost unassailable confidence. EMCC's Practical Nursing program is difficult enough for the average person, but Wynn completed it under trying circumstances.
"I've been through so much. But I'm strong. I can take the punches," said Wynn.
The first shot Wynn took was in March 2011 when her mother, Debra Wynn, passed away unexpectedly.
"She always used to tell me that I was smart and to go ahead and be a nurse and I could do it," Wynn recalled.
Three months later, in June 2011, Wynn was one step closer to following her mother's advice. She had been accepted to the Practical Nursing program at EMCC. Then one week after earning a spot in the program she learned she was pregnant.
"I was scared and I didn't have my mom to support me. But I went ahead and took my chances. I was supposed to have my baby over spring break so I figured everything would fall in place," said Wynn.
Instead, everything fell apart. On Dec. 6, Wynn was waiting to learn her final grade in one of the hardest classes of the first semester when she felt an excruciating pain in her back. She was rushed to the emergency room.
"They tried to stop the labor but I ended up having my baby at 31 weeks. TJ was three pounds. I got to kiss him but then they took him and the next time I saw him he was on a ventilator," said Wynn.
Soon after, TJ developed pneumonia and had to be airlifted to University Medical Center in Jackson. Wynn would visit her baby every weekend but couldn't hold him because TJ was on a ventilator with an intravenous tube in his scalp.
Again, Wynn had to make a choice. Again, she chose to press on and began the spring semester in January, driving to Jackson every weekend to see TJ, even when she had a test on Monday.
"I got very discouraged and, I'll never forget, I cried to my instructor, Karen Gray, and told her I didn't think I could do it. I said I'm just going to quit. But she said 'You can do it. You're very smart. Just stay focused,'" said Wynn.
Wynn not only took Gray's advice and remained in the program, but handled her business with vigor, eventually graduating with special recognition for excellence in clinical practice.
"Our students have a limited number of hours they can miss each semester. I know Teirra sacrificed a lot in order to complete this program," said Gray.
"She was able to use her circumstances to help push through the discouragement."
Things turned for the better in February. TJ began breathing on his own and gaining weight and came home to West Point. Wynn's grandmother and aunt kept him while she was in class or at work. And her grades actually improved.
"I got my mind right after I had my baby. That was my motivation. When I was pregnant, I would sleep. I didn't study. After I had TJ, I studied," said Wynn.
Even two nasty car crashes couldn't stop Wynn. She totaled her car one weekend and still managed to make an 85 on a tough test the following Monday. But she doesn't recommend anyone take the PN program lightly.
"The Practical Nursing program is very hard. It takes a lot of dedication. It has to be something you really want to do. You can't just go to nursing school and not want to be a nurse," she said.
Wynn has always wanted to be a nurse, but now she has more concrete reasons to proceed. It's how she'll support her son, and it's what her mom always wanted for her. And she doesn't have to look far to see both of her motivations.
"I can see my mom through TJ. He has her eyes. When I see him smile I can see my mama smiling through him," she said.
"Hopefully my life will have balance now. My mom's death was unexpected and TJ was unexpected. I lost someone but I gained someone of equal value."
Having witnessed how Wynn responds to stress, Gray believes Teirra will find her balance: "If a student can fight those odds and win, I'm sure she'll make the most of what nursing has to offer," she said.
Here's a look at the 24 students who graduated from East Mississippi Community College's Practical Nursing program during Thursday's ceremony at the Golden Triangle Campus:
Murissa Allen of Columbus
Tiara Avant of Houston
Kenya Cistrunk of West Point
Brandy Crowley of Maben
Ebonie Cox of Aberdeen
Amber Doughty of Columbus
Estaban Facundo of Starkville
Sylvatrice Hart of Crawford
Jessica Holley of West Point
Mary Catherine Hunt of Louisville
Santana Ivy of West Point
Dana Jaynes of Columbus
Trinity Johnson of Columbus
Katie Lee of Sturgis
Jason Mangum of Byrum
Lauren McClelland of Sturgis
Eureeka Overstreet of West Point
Renae Perkerson of Columbus
Jennifer Reams of Columbus
Stephanie Stuart of Macon
Kimberly Tillman of Greenville
Jessica Vandergriff of Columbus Air Force Base
Teirra Wynn of West Point
Jessica Young of Starkville