Luling nurse named first recipient of Distinguished Young Alumni of the Year award

Cera Jewell, a registered nurse who lives in Luling, was the first recipient of the award given by Nicholls State University.

Registered nurse Cera Jewell was named the first recipient of Nicholls State University’s Distinguished Young Alumni of the Year award, which recognizes those who have made significant contributions to society.

For Jewell, winning the award was a complete surprise because she misread the school’s email.

“I assumed I was a nominee until I arrived at the event,” she said. “Even on the way to the gala, my husband asked me if I had a speech prepared in case I won. I laughed it off and told him I had some bullet points but I wasn’t winning so it didn’t matter.”

When Jewell and her husband, St. Charles Parish President Matt Jewell, arrived at the event she was congratulated by attendees, but thought it was because she had been nominated, not because she was being named the award winner.

Cera and her husband, St. Charles Parish President Matt Jewell.

“The event coordinator approached me and said, ‘when you walk across the stage to get the award you can say a quick thank you speech.’ Still confused, I replied, ‘Wait, I actually won?!’”

Jewell was shocked, but grateful.

“To even be nominated was such a surprise but to actually be the award recipient; I felt so humbled, honored, and excited… but then immediately nervous because I had no real idea what to say for the acceptance speech,” she said.

Per Nicholls State University, the purpose of the award is to recognize alumni who have made significant contributions to society, and whose accomplishments, affirmations and careers have honored the legacy of the school’s excellence. The criteria includes professional achievement in career, service to society and service and support to Nicholls State.

Jewell, who works with Ochsner, is also a member of their Collaborative Staffing Resource Center, where she floats around to eight difference hospitals. She works in intensive care units for adults, children and babies. 

“I work with the sickest patients in the hospital system. Some do well and others don’t but part of the care I provide isn’t just for the patients, but for their families as well,” she said. “I really believe that caring for others, in many different ways, is my calling.”

She’s also a partner in the wellness company BODi, in which she has a team of people she guides to live healthier and longer-lasting lives, and is a member of the St. Charles Parish Art Guild. Her recent charcoal drawing won her third place for March’s Artist of the Month contest.

Cera is also a member of the St. Charles Parish Art Guild.

Years ago, she spent her summer at the Louisiana Lions Camp in Leesville where she had the privilege to work with children who had physical and mental disabilities. 

“I absolutely fell in love with the campers and not only learned so much about these amazing kids and a little bit of what their lives entailed, but I learned a lot about myself,” Jewell said. “I worked with children who had a wide variety of special needs; using crutches to walk to fully wheelchair bound kids. There were children with diabetes, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, severe learning disorders, and more.”

Though she was in the seventh grade when she decided she wanted to both help people and work in the medical field, spending time with those children solidified her choice to pursue a career in nursing. It also has led to her decision to host fundraisers for Special Olympics of St. Charles.

“I truly feel helping people is in my veins,” she said. “Being a nurse isn’t just my job, it’s a part of who I am. Naturally, when Matt was elected into office I saw an opportunity to access a wider variety of contacts in order to fundraise for such a fantastic organization such as the Special Olympics. And as far as the Christmas theme, it was an easy choice because I am a holiday fanatic!”

Last year, her Cocktails and Candy Canes fundraiser raised more than $30,000 for Special Olympics of St. Charles. 

“It still gives me goosebumps when I think about how much the event raised,” Jewell said. “It honestly leaves me speechless- Matt can attest that me being speechless doesn’t happen often! It brings me so much joy to know that this fundraiser was such a huge success and that we were able to give so much to the Special Olympics.

“Unfortunately, this organization only runs off of the donations it receives from larger businesses or events like this, which is why it is so important to keep this going.”

Jewell’s next fundraiser for Special Olympics will be called Cocktails and King Cakes. It will take place the Saturday after King’s Day, which next year is Jan. 11, to kick off the Mardi Gras season. The fundraiser grew so much in a single year that it required a larger space, so Jewell has teamed up with the Smith family and the event will be hosted at G. Smith Motorsports in St. Rose. 

The fundraiser will include entertainment, food, drinks and a silent auction.

“I’m looking to form a small committee for the fundraiser this year because it’s grown so much and I need the extra help!” She said. “So, if you or someone you know would be a good fit, please send me a message on Facebook.”

As one can imagine, the life of a parish president’s wife is a busy one…especially when you also have two young children.

“I’m sure most parents of active toddlers know, but I try to prioritize as best as I can. With Matt’s job as parish president, he can be away from home for a period of time or has hectic work weeks, in which case I try to plan my week out as best I can,” Jewell said. “I figure out my schedule as it revolves around the kids, then focus on my nursing work days, then move on to the other things I have to take care of. As of now, I manage to do work in small chunks of time.

“I truly can’t forget to mention the help I get from my mom, Stasi, and mother-in-law, Mary, who are such a huge help with the kids, especially on days that I work or if Matt is out of town- I truly couldn’t do it without them.”