Class of 2023: Nursing valedictorian had an early role model in compassion and dedication

On college campuses in late spring, life experiences start coming full circle.

Nadira Colbert, a valedictorian in the nursing program, closed one such loop during her pinning ceremony—the symbolic welcoming of soon-to-be-graduated student nurses into the nursing profession.

During the ceremony, Colbert’s grandmother, Ingrid Perez, affixed the Georgia College & State University nursing pin upon her lapel signifying a new chapter to the life calling Perez had modeled for Colbert since her childhood in Duluth.

“Oh gosh, just thinking about it makes me emotional,” Colbert said.

Nadira Colbert
Nadira Colbert

Perez was a registered nurse in Trinidad and Tobago before immigrating to the United States in the 1960s. Determined to continue working toward her life’s calling, Perez went back to school to earn her accreditation in the American healthcare system. At the same time, she was starting her family and adapting to life in a new country.

Colbert admires the compassion her grandmother shared with her patients, family members and the many people she comes into contact with. This is the quality that led her to want to pursue nursing.

With her grandmother’s example, Colbert set her ambitions on becoming a registered trauma nurse. And she promised herself she wouldn’t let any of the bumps on life’s road push her off track.

“You always think everything's so smooth until obstacles come up,” Colbert said. “So, when I'm experiencing little bumps in the road, I tell myself, ’Okay, it's a little bump. I'm going to keep moving to get to my goal, because I want to do this. This is who I am. I want to be a nurse, and this is how I have to get there. And that’s okay.’”

For Colbert, things have been better than okay.

Having maintained a 4.0 grade point average through all four years at Georgia College, Colbert prides herself on doing it with style. She balanced the nursing program’s rigorous academics with the professional development of career placements and serving her peers through work in the School of Nursing’s simulation center, skills lab and the Learning Center at the Library. She’s also earned officer roles in cocurricular organizations like Gamma Beta Phi—the national collegiate honor society—and the Black Student Alliance (BSA).

As a student from Gwinnett County, one of Georgia’s most diverse counties, studying at a predominantly white university, Colbert said it was gratifying to work with current students, staff at the Cultural Center and members of the African American Alumni Council who care deeply about helping Georgia College work toward the inclusivity that all members of the campus community deserve.  

The human body has always interested me, but also being able to talk to people of different backgrounds and actually help them get better—this strikes a chord in me.
– Nadira Colbert

“Unfortunately, we have a retention problem with black students, and that's the whole issue that everyone's trying to fix,” she said. “I really hope to see in the near future that we can improve on this big thing we worked on with BSA–trying to recruit Black students and help them stay here—and for all races, Latinos and Asian Americans—trying to figure out what can we do to make this campus more inclusive.”

Looking at the bigger picture of the institution’s overall health is part and parcel to what Colbert is embarking upon in her calling to be a trauma nurse. It is a part of what her grandmother taught her: that her compassion, empathy, hard work and dedication can make a difference in the lives of individuals and the communities we live in.

“The human body has always interested me, but also being able to talk to people of different backgrounds and actually help them get better—this strikes a chord in me,” she said. “I enjoy seeing people at their worst, but also seeing them at their best as they improve and get better. I enjoy being able to help people make a difference in their lives.

“No one wants to be in the hospital for any kind of reason,” she said. “So being able to come into work and actually talk to them and comfort them and help them figure out ways to get better is this amazing goal for me.”

After taking a celebratory trip with family to Trinidad and Tobago in June, Colbert will take the Nurse Licensure Exam this summer. Then she’ll begin working in the Intensive Care Unit at WellStar North Fulton Medical Center.

Nadira Colbert and her chihuahua/dachshund mix Lucy.
Nadira Colbert and her chihuahua/dachshund mix Lucy.