Tarrant County College celebrated its most recent class of nurses Saturday night with a pinning ceremony, at a time when the graduates are needed most.
Celebrating via a laptop screen may not have been the way nursing school graduates Jessica and Alaina Long imagined concluding their schooling. Then again, nothing about their college experience was conventional.
Alaina started her prerequisites for nursing in the fall of 2017 after she graduated high school at just 15 years old.
Inspired by how easily her daughter navigated the classes, Jessica followed the next semester.
"I'd already been thinking about doing nursing for a while, but I had a 2-year-old. So I had to get her old enough,” Jessica Long said.
Like others have done, Jessica had put her own aspirations on hold to raise eight children.
Throughout those years, she’d done part-time work like delivering newspapers or driving for Uber and Lyft.
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After her husband lost his job, she knew she would be the one who’d need a career that could provide better benefits and pay to take care of her family.
After a couple of summer classes, Jessica was caught up and ready to start nursing school at the same time as Alaina.
As classmates, the mother-daughter duo became each other’s support system, especially when the pandemic meant they weren't able to see other classmates.
"We've been able to study together and bounce ideas off of each other,” Jessica said.
At times, they were also each other’s fiercest competition.
"In all the classes that I took by myself, I would be top of the class. Then in the classes with her, she'd beat me,” said Alaina laughing.
Yet Saturday night, as Jessica was recognized for a 4.0-grade point average and for rising to the top of their class, Alaina expressed nothing but pride.
"I'm really proud of her," Alaina said. "I know that whatever she has, I got it from her. So we're alike in that way. She's just constantly a role model for me in how hard she works."
Moving forward, Jessica will continue work at Texas Health Harris Methodist in downtown Fort Worth while Alaina begins a career in pediatric home health care.
Both will move on to pursue a bachelor's degree.