NECC Observer

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

Courageous conversations

Student Life hosts series of events to spur dialogue about social issues

The Student Life Department held its first event of Courageous Conversations on Feb 20 at the Riverwalk Campus to celebrate World Day of Social Justice.  Courageous Conversations is a three part event taking place throughout the spring semester led by Stephanie Haskell, coordinator of social justice and student leadership.  Students can sit down and start a conversation about anything regarding the awareness subject, in this case being social justice. “Courageous conversations is an invitation for (students) to say whatever (they) want to say about any sort of problem. I would best describe it as a ‘one voice, all ears’ scenario, and it is an opportunity for me to say ‘please excuse my ignorance,’” says Haskell

One of the most important things to consider is the meaning of social justice, she says.  Haskell says each student interviewed gave a different response to what they think it means.  For Haskell, social justice is about the feeling of security a person has in being included and acknowledged in society.  “My goal is to make everyone feel included because everyone contributes to society. People need to look at life, community needs to be open and accepting, says Haskell. Social justice is a staple in higher education with many colleges making great effort to include students of all identities.

women siting in a directors style chair holding a notebookPhoto by Aaron Lehner

Stephanie Haskell, coordinator of social justice and student leadership, recently hosted the first in a series of ‘Courageous Conversations” on campus.

Connie Bodemer, Deaf Studies major, says that by working with Student Life as a New Student Advocate (NSA), she has had the opportunity to listen to the other voices of the student body. She has also given a voice to the deaf community by being a representative through Student Life. “The deaf and hard of hearing community is often misrepresented, and there are many misconceptions about it. People feel bad when a person can’t hear and pity them, but I know there are so many clubs and organizations to help. They live their lives just like any other person, the community is very tight knit,” says Bodemer.

Bodemer is an active member of the American Sign Language Club, and helps to raise awareness to make people who are deaf more included on campus as she continues her training to become a sign language interpreter. There are many clubs and activities that are designed to educate students and faculty about campus diversity at NECC.  The Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) is one such club. According to club president, Colby Patrie, the club strives to, “…bring acceptance, educate, give support, advocate for the queer community and its allies regardless of gender and sexuality.”

Between discussing problems that the LGBTQ community face on a regular basis and teaching queer history, the GSA is another community that gives students a voice in social issues.  On Feb 13, the GSA made a presentation celebrating Black History Month by showing African-American historical figures who were also in the LBGTQ community. While being interviewed, Haskell also mentioned the NECC institute accreditation for being a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI).  Northern Essex was the first certified HSI in New England.  Federal institutes must have at least 25 percent  Hispanic enrollment rate to be eligible for HSI.

According to Community and International Relations director, Analuz Garcia, Northern Essex has approximately 48 percent enrollment rate of Hispanic and Latinx students. “Hopefully (Courageous Conversations) can be a long term thing that spreads to other departments besides student life.” says Haskell. “You can definitely broaden people’s perspectives with Courageous Conversations. No matter where I go, people are going to say things about deaf people that I know is wrong. The same thing can be applied to any minority,” says Bodemer.

The upcoming events for Courageous Conversations are Gender Equality Month on March 14 on Haverhill Campus 11:00-1:30, Sexual Harassment Awareness Month on April 18 at Riverwalk and Lawrence 11:00am-1:30pm.  For more information about upcoming events, you can contact Stephanie Haskell in SC215 at (978) 556-3279 or

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