NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

PACE yourself at NECC with Karen Mitchell

By Fred Riley III

Karen Mitchell is the director of the Pathways to Academic and Career Excellence also known as the PACE program at Northern Essex Community College.

Mitchell has been working at NECC for 21 years or one-third of her life. Mitchell started at NECC in 1993 as an academic adviser/career councilor. During her time as an academic adviser from 1993 until 1997, Mitchell advocated Perkins Vocational Education grants for college woman in non-traditional careers and assisted Lawrence high school juniors and seniors in making the transition to college through the Massachusetts Educational Opportunity Project (MEOP).

In 1997, Karen became the director of the PACE program at NECC. The Pace program is a federally funded program. Started by President Lyndon B. Johnson in The Educational Opportunity Act of 1964, the program is available to 250 students, or two-thirds of students at NECC as mandated by Congress.

PACE participants must come from families with incomes at least 150 percent or less of the federal poverty level, and either parent must have graduated with a bachelor degree or higher.

PACE was originally part of the Trio Project started by the Educational Opportunity act of 1964. It stands for the three education programs that were started in 1964. Currently there are now eight educational funded programs provided by the federal government. The programs are available to students in more than 1,000 colleges in the U.S., the Caribbean
and the Pacific Islands.

Mitchell graduated from The University of New Hampshire, Durham in 1973 with a Bachelor of the Arts in Spanish and minored in education. Mitchell started working in education as a Spanish teacher at Kennett High School in Conway, N.H. from 1974 through 1977.

Mitchell then earned a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. in 1979. She went on to work as a student adviser for New England College in Henniker, N.H. from 1979 until 1988.

In 1988, Mitchell became a college counselor at Great Bay Community College in Stratham N.H. and worked there until 1993. In 1993, she started working at NECC.

In 1995, Mitchell earned a second masters degree in Education from the University of New Hampshire, Durham. She has also attended NECC. In 1999 she was awarded a certificate in Computer Applications with high honors in the subject.

Mitchell continued teaching Spanish to students online from 2009 through 2012 for students of the Virtual Learning Academy Charter School in Exeter, N.H.

Mitchell’s office is located in the student advising center on the second floor of the Haverhill campus. She also travels to the Lawrence campus once a week.

Mitchell said her favorite part of the job is “to help students achieve their goal and dreams, it is phenomenal.”

Michael Markham, who also works for PACE, said, “Karen is energetic, kind, and compassionate in putting students ahead of everyone. She is good working with students who face challenges.” Markham has been working with Karen for the last 17 years.

Mitchell likes to travel. While attending the University Of New Hampshire, Durham, she spent her junior year studying abroad at the University of Navarra in Pamplona Spain. She has also been to France, England, Hawaii, Guatemala, and she has visited Yellowstone. She would like to visit Iceland and Switzerland in the future.