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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Students in the University of Minnesota’s nursing program usually take part in a century-long tradition on graduation day. The nursing pinning ceremony started at the U of M in 1913.

But for the first time, the in-person ceremony was canceled. Like many graduation ceremonies, COVID-19 concerns forced the ceremony to move online.

“When I first heard the news that it was canceled, I was definitely disappointed because that’s quite a milestone you look forward to,” said Valina Jean-Louis, a U of M nursing school graduate from Madison, Wisconsin.

Instead, Valina watched the virtual pinning ceremony on YouTube on Saturday morning as her mom, Tanis Jean-Louis, gave her the pin that was sent to her in the mail. This was a special moment for the two because Tanis is a nurse as well, and so is her mother, and her grandmother. Valina is the fourth-generation of nurses in their family.

For the at-home ceremony, Valina wore her grandmother’s nursing cape, which has the embroidered letters “RAH” for Royal Alexander Hospital in Edmonton, Canada, where her grandmother graduated. Then her grandmother embroidered the U of M emblem on the other side of the cape, and Valina’s mother put her pin from Foot Hills Hospital in Calgary, Canada from 1985 on her cape.

“It’s special because I didn’t end up buying a gown for graduation so it’s cool that I get to wear my grandma’s cape that has much more meaning to it,” said Valina Jean-Louis.

Now Valina is ready to come back to Minneapolis and work at one of the University of Minnesota Hospitals, and begin a career that is needed now more than ever before.

“It’s been cool to see how the world has a new appreciation for nurses and just realizing how truly important they are,” said Valina Jean-Louis.

“I think she’s going to make a difference,” said Tanis Jean-Louis.

Administrators at the U of M still plan on having an in-person ceremony when it’s safe to do so.

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Marielle Mohs