HOLYOKE, Mass. - There are 125 students in the nursing program at Holyoke Community College and all are volunteering at vaccination sites.

The students say it's been a great experience, and one told Spectrum News 1, it’s going to help her be a better nurse.

"It's empowering to know we are vaccinating so many people and keeping the community safe," said nursing student Melissa Perry.

Perry just finished her first year at Holyoke Community College in the nursing program. She has been volunteering at vaccine sites in Western Massachusetts, including the Castle of Knights in Chicopee.

"Here I have been doing data entry," Perry said. "I have also given over the past few weeks 300 to 400 hundred vaccine,s so it is really great thing."

Perry's path to nursing was unique. She had worked in retail management, but when her mother fell ill, she decided to make a change.

"She was my best friend and I just wanted to make her proud, so that is what I decided to do," said Perry.

Perry’s mom passed away and now she’s following in her footsteps by going into medicine.

"She was a registered nurse," said Perry. "She worked all over the community. She was a nurse for 20 years and she also went to HCC."

Perry said although it has been challenging, the experience of helping vaccine the community has been valuable. 

"I think nurses don't get the chance in nursing school to do this kind of thing," Perry said. "They don't give a lot of the injections so I have gotten a ton of experience doing that. So I think it'll help my career."

For all the nursing students stepping up to the plate to help during the pandemic, Perry said they will be prepared for their careers. 

"The nurses coming out of these programs are going to be some of the strongest nurses because we have had to face so many new things, new protocols, new everything," said Perry.

Perry said once she finishes her degree at HCC, she plans to continue her education. She hopes one day she will be able to work in the operating room or cardiac.