Grad following in family footsteps

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Betty Poyner wants to work as a registered nurse with AIDS patients, the elderly or in the emergency room.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

For Betty Poyner, Friday’s Clovis Community College graduation is only a step toward a new career path.

Poyner, 55, will be receiving a certificate of completion in practical nursing during Clovis Community College’s commencement ceremony at the Clovis Civic Center.

However, Poyner said she plans to return for two more “grueling” semesters in pursuit of an associate degree in nursing.

“What they put us through here is difficult, but when you’re holding a life in your hands, you’d better be prepared,” Poyner said. “And that’s what they do here.”

A Muleshoe native, Poyner said her family provided plenty of inspiration to become a nurse. Her mother was a registered nurse, her daughter is a registered nurse and her sister has a master’s degree in nursing.

Poyner said nursing is about compassion and understanding.

“People are vulnerable when they’re sick, it’s a fear of the unknown,” she said. “It’s up to us (nurses) to have the knowledge. We can’t change their disease or its progression, but we can change how they perceive it and how it affects their lives.”

Poyner said she pushes herself and her classmates to be what she calls “a real patient nurse.”

“My mother cared for people, she didn’t care much for the administrative side of nursing, she cared about people,” Poyner said of her mother, who passed in February. “And that’s what I will do.”

Poyner recalled several people coming up to her at her mother’s funeral and telling her of how well her mother took care of them, their husband or child.

“It meant so much to me,” Poyner said, as tears welled up in her eyes. “To know how well my mother cared for people. To me she symbolizes a Florence Nightingale angel nurse.”

There are 91 graduates scheduled to participate in Friday’s commencement ceremony.

One of the two student speakers, Laura Leeder plans to focus on the differences of each student in her speech.

“We might all look the same in our gowns and hats,” Leeder said. “But we are all unique and we have a lot to offer people that come our way.”

A Clovis native, Leeder plans to transfer to Eastern New Mexico University with her associate degree in liberal arts. Leeder, a recovering meth addict, said she hopes to work as a drug and alcohol counselor in the area. She said she’s been clean five years.

“My goal is to help our law enforcement get drugs off the streets and the way I think I can help is to be a counselor,” Leeder said.