Four years after coming to the University of North Georgia (UNG) with a vague plan to study nursing, newly commissioned 2LT Lauren Peterka has a bachelor's degree, the gold bars of a second lieutenant and a job in the U.S. Army Nurses Corps.
"UNG has really expanded my development; I was a bit uncertain about what to do when I started here," Peterka said. "I had thought in high school about becoming a nurse, and I was interested in gerontology and the study of dementia. During my freshman year I made the decision to become an Army nurse, and I received a three-year Army nursing scholarship. After I travel to Texas, I want to see where the Army wants to take me."
|Peterka receives her gold bars during her commissioning ceremony.|
Peterka and some 300 new graduates from all UNG campuses were recognized in the summer commencement ceremony held Aug. 1 on UNG's Dahlonega Campus. For the 2014-2015 academic year, more than 2,400 students graduated from UNG and have gone on to serve as professional, civic and military leaders in communities nearby and around the world.
"We are here to honor you with the richest tradition in the academic community — a commencement ceremony," UNG President Bonita Jacobs said before conferring degrees. "We all know what it took for you to reach this moment. We know that, as graduates of UNG, you will add meaning and value to the lives of those around you."
Graduates also heard messages of congratulations and encouragement and an assurance from guest speaker Britney Vickery, CEO and founder of Initials, Inc., that they now hold the ticket to their future.
"My favorite word is 'choose.' You've chosen many things already, and you will choose many more things. The opportunity to choose is a powerful one," Vickery said to students. "A diploma is a ticket. It's not about what the paper says; what's important is that it shows commitment and dedication to your commitment to yourself. This is your ticket to greatness."
Peterka will punch her ticket in October as she heads to Joint Base San Antonio in Texas to begin four years of active duty. In addition to the busy student life of a cadet at UNG, Peterka also served as the officer in charge of the Corps of Cadets' nursing students, participated in the Student Activity Board and a sorority. She also participated in the Army Nurses Summer Training Program at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
She works in the medical/surgical unit at Habersham Medical Center and volunteers with hospice agency Homestead. She also participates in "We Honor Veterans," a program serving northeast Georgia that is designed to honor veterans in failing health. One of Peterka's roles in the program is to render the "final salute" at the culmination of each ceremony.
On Aug. 1, 16 UNG students were commissioned as second lieutenants in the National Guard or U.S. Army in commissioning ceremonies held before the commencement ceremony. The university commissioned a record-high number of 83 Army officers over the course of the academic year, and plans to confer 446 degrees this summer.