Campus & Community

Nursing student’s essay wins national award

Ophanise Gelin

Palm Beach State College nursing student Ophanise Gelin is a winner in a national contest for her heartfelt essay about a professor who encouraged her during the pandemic.

Gelin and Associate Professor Stephanie Little, the subject of her essay, each will receive a $1,000 prize. The Scott Wright Student Essay Contest is open to students at community and technical colleges that are members of the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development. Gelin and two other winners will be recognized during NISOD’s virtual conference April 28-30.

“I wrote the essay about Professor Little because she was very nice, and she extended herself to me at a time where I honestly wanted to give up. It was rough,” Gelin said, noting her concerns about the disruptions COVID-19 caused last fall in securing clinical rotation opportunities at area hospitals.

“I could recall having a mentor meeting with Professor Little one day and telling her how stressed out I was about the lack of clinical experience I had thus far,” Gelin wrote. “She allowed me to express my frustration and then let me know there will be obstacles in life and to overcome them I must remain focused and have a strong determination. She said I would get the proper training eventually.”

Little also told Gelin that the pandemic was beyond her control. “She reminded me that I was not in this alone and that she was there if I need her. Some may not see the significance of her words, but they meant the world to me,” Gelin continued in her essay.

Professor Stephanie Little

The pep talks and show of concern were the motivation Gelin, a first-generation college student, needed as she and the world grappled with COVID 19’s disruptions to everyday life. She had dreamed of becoming a nurse since she was 11 years old, even before her family moved to the United States from Haiti.

Gelin graduated from Boynton Beach High School in 2005, but her father became ill and died that year without seeing her cross the stage. With his death and other challenges facing her family, she put off college and went to work instead. However, as the oldest of three children,  she felt she owed it to her family to return to school to fulfill her childhood dream and become the first in her family to graduate.

COVID-19 created challenges she did not expect.  “I could clearly remember going into the third semester of nursing school, freaking out because of a lack of clinical experience and honestly wanting to give up when I met a God-sent angel,’’ she wrote.

Gelin, whose younger sister also is in the nursing program, is doing clinicals this term, has passed her HESI exit exam and is set to graduate in May. She said she never expected to win the essay contest, but she felt compelled to write about Little. “When I won I was shocked,’’ she said.

Little, a PBSC alumna who also works per diem in the labor and delivery unit at Palms West Hospital, said the support and accessibility she provided Gelin is what she strives to give all of her students. She became a full-time professor in January 2020 after teaching as an adjunct instructor since 2016. She is completing her doctorate degree in nursing at Florida Atlantic University, so as a student herself she understands the desire to have easy accessibility to professors. Today’s technology allows her to provide that for her students.

Little, who taught Gelin in the fall, had received the information about the essay contest during her new faculty experience. She shared it with students but was not expecting students to write about her.

“I was floored that one of my students won, and she was talking about me. It’s very reaffirming that I’m doing a good job,’’ Little said.

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16 comments on “Nursing student’s essay wins national award”

  1. Beautiful! Congrats Ophanise and thank you Professor Little!
    Together, we will all get through this trying time!

  2. Congratulations Prof. Little!!!

    Congratulations and thank you Ophanise, for remembering to stop and “express” your gratitude to your nursing Professor! 🙂

    Great job all around ladies.

  3. Inspiration is contagious! I too have been struggling with time management of family life, work, and study. Was looking to drop some educational goals providing additional time for family, chores, and physical training but decided to push forward with my original plans. Thank you Professor Little and Ophanise for inspiring me to not slow down and keep moving forward in the face of despair. Godspeed my Friends!

  4. Congratulations Professor Little… It’s the “little” things we do that is remembered.
    Bravo to you Ophanise for being courageous to write and for your determination to follow your dream of becoming a nurse.
    My Panther Pride is glowing 🙂

  5. Wow! that was beautiful to read such inspiring story this morning about my childhood friend. Congratulations Ophanise! This win was earned knowing how hard you’ve worked to be where you at now. You are an inspiration. Teachers sometimes forget how wonderful they are and how simple words of encouragements can uplift their students. Awesome work Professor Little, keep being amazing!

  6. I am so proud of you, Ophanise!!! You were in my class during your 1st nursing semester at PBSC. I know that you will continue to reach for the stars.
    Professor Vilbrun

  7. Congratulations, Ophanise and Professor Little. What an inspirational story about a winning team!
    That’s the Best of Education right there,…….. and the reason/s those of us in Higher Ed do what we do! I celebrate your dedication and success, both of you.

  8. Congratulations, Ophanise and Professor Little. You are both an inspiring testament of kindness, caring, compassion, perseverance and encouragement.

  9. Hearty Congratulations to Ms. Ophanise and Prof. Little
    Reaching out to one another is the foundation of “Thrive” and you both set a shining example
    It takes a village (college) to raise and lift the spirits of one and all
    Best wishes
    Dr. Chandra

  10. What a beautiful tribute to Prof. Little. Congratulations to you both. Mentoring students is critical to their success both short and long term. Reminds me why we do what we do. Thanks for sharing this heartwarming story.

  11. Congratulation ,
    I shared the same feeling for professor Little. She is a amazing and goes beyond to make sure hers students will succeed. She keeps thing real and her lecture is a pleasure to watch

  12. This is so humbling, beautiful, gracious and a testament of how much we need each other as social beings. Thanks Professor for doing the right thing even under the pressure of the Covid season and to Ophanise in expressing gratitude. A great year ahead to you both.

  13. Mes Felicitations Ophanise & Professor Little!! What an amazing example of Courage and Caring Compassion spoken by Professor Little and received by Ophanise, the true essence of the art and science of Nursing!! We are in this together!!

  14. What an awesome story!! Teachers really do make a difference. Thank you Professor Little

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