As each Columbia College school year concludes, Nursing graduates unofficially kick off commencement week with a traditional pinning ceremony. On Thursday, April 27, the college’s Lake of the Ozarks location honored and celebrated nine graduates who earned their Associate in Science in Nursing.

With friends and family in attendance, Ashley Bond, Morgan Duncan, Anthony D. Grider, Alisha Griggs, Carri Hall, Amanda King, Kelli Ann Schaffer, Baylee Soldano and William Vanderford were recognized for their outstanding efforts in the classroom that culminated in receiving their degrees.

Front Row (L-R): Alisha Griggs, Amanda King, Ashley Bond, Kelli Schafer, William Vanderford. Back Row (L-R): Morgan Duncan, Carri Hall, Baylee Soldano, Anthony D. Grider. Photo by Columbia College Photographer & Graphic Designer Abigail Wade.

For any Columbia College graduate, regardless of their field of study, their respective journey toward earning their degree is unique. Here are some of the stories of the newest Lake of the Ozarks Nursing graduates.

Family’s military journey brings new opportunities in mid-Missouri

Lab/Clinical Instructor Lois Kollmeyer (left) and Baylee Soldano (right). Photo by Columbia College Photographer & Graphic Designer Abigail Wade.

As the Lake of the Ozarks Nursing program’s student vice president, Baylee Soldano and her family began their journey in the state of California. With her husband as an active-duty U.S. Marine, the Soldanos’ “hometown” has been and will continue to be a moving target. Residing in Missouri since 2020, the family will next trek to Okinawa, Japan, in August.

While being a mother of two children and managing the ever-changing landscape as a military spouse, Soldano is thankful for Columbia College’s flexibility.

“The options that the college offers adult learners like me is the main reason that I was able to complete this program,” she says. “They offer evening classes, more than 40 nationwide Columbia College Global locations and an accelerated program. That’s why I ultimately chose to pursue my degree at CC.”

From serving as a registered veterinary technician for the past ten years to now earning her Associate’s in Nursing at Columbia College, Soldano has made it a goal to positively impact society for her family.

“My children are the motivating reason behind my career change,” she says. “Once I became a mother, I knew I wanted to do more to create a safer world for them. Without the support of my husband, Cameron, and our children, Shea and Cruz, I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this goal. It gives me such an overwhelming sense of pride and humility to become a nurse and be able to change the world through my work.”

A mother’s love and encouragement serve as motivation to degree

Senior Clinical Instructor III Lorri Steffen (left) and Ashley Bond (right). Photo by Columbia College Photographer & Graphic Designer Abigail Wade.

The simple joy of helping others has been a driving force for Ashley Bond as long as she can remember. Since her childhood, Bond has been fascinated by science and exploring how things work. It’s no surprise that pursuing a Nursing degree at Columbia College became an attractive option.

With a location in her hometown of Osage Beach, Missouri, and the flexibility that the college offered, it became increasingly evident that CC was the place to be. If there was ever any doubt for Bond, her mother also obtained an undergraduate degree from Columbia College and she was proud to become the next Cougar graduate from her family.

For any college graduate, there will certainly be times when one needs to lean on internal and external support groups. Bond’s mother was perhaps her biggest cheerleader throughout the pursuit of her degree. Sadly, as Bond neared the conclusion of her nursing studies, her mother passed away. While she wasn’t able to be present at her pinning ceremony, Bond knows that her mother’s support will never go away.

“For me, completing my degree is bittersweet,” she says. “Bitter because I wish my mom could be there in person, but I know she’s there with me in spirit. However, she was my biggest supporter and she knew before passing that I would succeed and graduate. She would be proud. So overall, I’m happy, proud and relieved. Completing my degree while facing the hard times showed me that if you keep going after what you want and love, you can persevere.”

With a small group of nine Nursing graduates this semester at the Lake of the Ozarks, it’s not a surprise that the class formed a strong connection. Down the road as she looks back at her accomplishment, Bond will also be forever grateful for the support shown by her Columbia College family.

“I received a lot of support from my peers and faculty/staff at CC,” she says. “My classmates and instructors reached out to me numerous times to check on me and still do to this day. They constantly encouraged me on and rooted for me throughout the program.”

Ultimate flexibility and support systems provide the perfect path

Senior Clinical Instructor III Lorri Steffen (left) and Amanda King (right). Photo by Columbia College Photographer & Graphic Designer Abigail Wade.

When Amanda King first pursued the idea of obtaining a Nursing degree, she knew flexibility and support would be key. As an adult learner and raising children while completing coursework, she quickly realized Columbia College offered everything she would need.

Attending classes both online and in-person at CC’s Lake of the Ozarks location, King was ecstatic with the flurry of convenient options thrown her way.

“I was first attracted to the college’s Nursing degree because it was an accelerated program with completion available in only 14 months,” she says. “This was much faster than many other traditional nursing programs. The flexibility that’s offered while taking prerequisite courses is amazing. You’re able to take them online or in-seat, which allows time for my personal life.”

A final perk of King’s journey at Columbia College was the availability and opportunity to secure scholarships to assist her financially. Without all the benefits she earned at her disposal, she knows her path to the finish line wouldn’t have been possible.

“Receiving a scholarship was a major key to continuing and completing the program,” she says. “The Phil Davis Scholarship allowed me to take classes that I wouldn’t have been able to take due to my personal financial situation. It was very much appreciated and allowed me to continue and ultimately complete my journey.”

A special thank you

Columbia College-Lake of the Ozarks’ Nursing department plays a pivotal role each day in their students’ experience and development. Thank you to the following faculty, staff and instructors who helped shape the newest class of Nursing graduates:

Nursing Faculty and Staff

Senior Clinical Instructors

  • Kristen LaChance, BSN, RN
  • Shana Luebbering, BSN, RN
  • Jill Myers, MSN, RN
  • Lorri Steffen, BSN, RN
  • Theresa Veit, MSNEd, RN

Nursing Staff

  • Administrative Assistant Thomas Halderman (Columbia, Missouri)
  • Administrative Assistant Angela Jones (Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri)
  • Outreach Specialist and Office Manager Benjamin Spurlock (Columbia, Missouri)

Front Row (L-R): Alisha Griggs, Ashley Bond, Amanda King, Baylee Soldano, Senior Clinical Instructor III Lorri Steffen. Back Row (L-R): ASN Coordinator/Instructor Melissa Pickett, Morgan Duncan, Carri Hall, William Vanderford, Anthony D. Grider, Kelli Schafer.