Fairfield County's newest nurses officially graduate from Norwalk Community College Thursday, but they're already on their way after receiving their nursing pins in a candlelight ceremony Tuesday. Pinning is a tradition that dates back 1,000 years, said graduate Robin Bocuzzi of Ridgefield as the ceremony started. The candlelgiht was an homage to famed nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale.

"Everything was hard," said Magdala Charleus, but she felt "very good" to be graduating.

Charleus, a Stamford resident, is originally from Haiti. English is a second language, which put her with the majority of her classmates, according to classmates Nicola Holzberger of New Canaan, Maria Vanderhorn of Darien and Marta Mystkowska of Stamford. The women introduced their class to the audience with statistics: the 31 members came from 14 countries and spoke 15 languages, including sign language. They commented that learning to be a nurse was hard enough without having to do it in a second language.

They said the stress was shown with weighty measurements: 11 members had gained a total of 241 pounds, and seven had lost a total of 71 pounds.

Nursing is a second career for Holzberger, who was an international developer, has a master's in public health and worked for Save the Children. "We worked hard, I worked very hard," she said. "I worked 23 hours a week at least. It was challenging, it's a whole different ballgame, and vocabulary. But I loved it -- Very, very interesting."

"I went to school for journalism," said Kelly DePanfilis of Westport. "But I always wanted to go to school for nursing. I figured it would always be here, and it called me sooner than expected. I love it."

Graduates include:

■ Melissa Braddock of Norwalk

■ Caren Brown of Darien

■ Magdala Charleus of Stamford

■ Laura Clark of Weston

■ Yvonne Colton of Greenwich

■ Kelly DePanfilis of Westport

■ Danielle Gall of Norwalk

■ Evelyn Herrara of Stamford

■ Nicola Holzberger of New Canaan

■ Slava Manevich of Stamford

■ Stephanie Morency of Norwalk

■ Marta Mystkowska of Stamford

■ Shalini Pammi of Norwalk

■ Lina Pirolozzi of Stamford

■ Venetta Slavova-Aleksandrova of Norwalk

■ Hyeok Sung of Fairfield

■ Cristina Taborda of Stamford

■ Kathleen Tetley of Fairfield

■ Maria Vanderhorn of Darien

■ Maria Vlady of Norwalk

■ Maria Zamani of Stamford

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