Thursday afternoon, Latresa Monique Wright walked across the stage at Piedmont Technical College’s Medford Event Center and was handed her diploma. But the biggest surprise may have come the day before, during her pinning ceremony.

Graduating nurses like Wright are welcomed into the profession with a pin presented either by the nursing faculty or a loved one. After she got her pin, Wright walked with the rest of her graduating class in pairs towards the exit.

The person she was paired with knew what was about to happen and let Wright walk ahead. That was when Rufus Swittenberg Jr. fell to one knee and asked Wright to marry him.

“I was nervous, I was shaking,” Swittenberg Jr. said. “Next is just building. Building for the young ones, for our children.”

T’Laysha Creswell, another from Piedmont Tech’s 200-plus graduating class, also knows what’s coming next. She was one of the afternoon’s two commencement speakers, and ended her speech with an apology to her mother and her brother.

“I also would like to say sorry to my mom and brother, but I will not be following you to Lander,” Creswell said, smiling. “I must go to the orange and purple.” She plans on studying chemical engineering at Clemson University and eventually joining the Air Force.

Creswell was one of 16 students from McCormick High School who walked across the stage Thursday, having earned an associate’s degree while still in high school.

Aime Lorick, the ceremony’s other speaker, described how she had been inspired to pursue nursing after she learned about the miracle of birth.

In an 11th-grade biology class at Saluda High School, she and her teacher were talking about fetal development.

“I remember feeling so astonished as to how something as small as a poppy seed was designed to develop into someone,” Lorick said. “I knew that day that I wanted to be reminded of this miracle every day.”

Lorick described how she had initially failed the test required of those who want to enter the college’s nursing program.

“They had clearly given me someone else’s grade. I was so upset I had failed the test, I cried all the way home, completely forgetting that I had to stop and get gas.” Just three miles from home, “I found myself stuck on the side of the road, pregnant and feeling like the biggest failure.”

On Thursday, Piedmont Tech’s Paige Childs told the crowd that Lorick had recently accepted a job in labor and delivery nursing.

The graduating class was split into two ceremonies: one in the afternoon for those with degrees and certificates in the arts, sciences, and healthcare; and another in the evening for those who studied agriculture, business, computer technology, public service, engineering and industrial technology.

Thursday’s graduating class was the first to leave Piedmont Tech with a “job-ready guarantee.” At its last meeting, the school’s governing board approved a policy that would allow for the retraining of any graduate who could not successfully do the job for which he or she had been trained.

“This guarantee is our promise and commitment to you that, as a Piedmont Tech graduate, you can be assured that you are entering the workforce with a skill set to succeed in your chosen career,” President Ray Brooks said. “That’s a first.”

Contact staff writer Aleks Gilbert at 864-943-5644.