NECC Observer

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

A year of celebration

Photo by Melissa Bouse

One of the new signs at the Haverhill campus commemorating its 50th year at the current location.

Northern Essex Community College is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. It is also the 50th anniversary of the Haverhill Campus and the 30th anniversary of the Dimitry Buidling in Lawrence. 

NECC has come a long way from its first years at Greenleaf Elementary School in Bradford which was repurposed to accommodate its first graduating class of 181college students. The 142 men and 39 women, ages 18-19 were taught by five full-time faculty and eight part-time faculty. 

Students chose from six associate degrees: Liberal Arts, General Liberal Arts, Business Management, Accounting, Secretarial, and Electronics Technology. 

Today NECC consists of a sprawling rural campus in Haverhill as well as an urban campus in Lawrence. 

In the fall of 2020, the student body consisted of 4,715 students, of which 69% were studying part-time, 65% were female, 42% were Hispanic, and 30% were over the age of 25.  

Students are now taught by 79 full-time faculty and 261 part-time faculty and have over 60 majors to choose from.  

Over the last six decades NECC, colloquially known as NECCO, has strived to evolve with its students and the various local communities it serves.  

A notable way in which NECC has grown is by being one of the 19 colleges and universities participating in the statewide Massachusetts Early College Initiative. The college has designated programs with Haverhill High School, Lawrence High School, and Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School and partners with 25 other local high schools.  

In the fall of 2020, there were 548 students enrolled in Early College Programs, a 37% increase over the fall of 2019 when 398 students were enrolled.  

Photo courtesy of NECC Newsroom

Police recruits on campus.

The college is home to one of the most successful police academies in Massachusetts. Since its inception in January 2015, over 500 recruits have graduated from the academy, serving more than 58 municipal police departments, eight colleges and universities, the Massachusetts Port Authority, and the Somerville Housing Authority.  

NECC also provides space for the Essex County Sheriff’s Training Academy for corrections officers and runs the educational programming for Essex County inmates, through a partnership with the sheriff’s department. 

Photo courtesy of NECC Newsroom

Aerial view of the El-Hefni Building in downtown Lawrence.

The El-Hefni Building in Lawrence houses the 22 health programs at NECC, in which a third of students are enrolled. The health programs include high demand fields such as nursing, respiratory care, sleep technology and more.  

Photo courtesy of NECC archives

NECC news articles and program from 1968.

The Nursing program recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. It was the first health program offered by the college and started in the fall of 1968. 

The college recently purchased three new manikin simulators and replaced the aging dental assistant lab, thanks to a $400,000 state grant.  

To better serve its wide range of students, NECC launched an evening option for the dental assisting program in the spring and is working on offering a new series of micro-credentials for current health care workers in areas such as advanced cardiac life support, pediatric advanced life support, and more.

The new Lupoli Family Culinary Arts Institute occupies two floors in The Heights in downtown Haverhill, a new 10-story luxury building, opened in fall of 2020. With sweeping views of the Merrimack River, the space features classrooms, laboratories, and state-of-the-art kitchens.

Photo courtesy of NECC Newsroom

The Heights Building in downtown Haverill houses the new Lupoli Family Culinary Art Institute.

The institute is home to the college’s 29-credit Culinary Arts Certificate and 63-credit Associate Degree in Hospitality Management.  

Noncredit culinary courses are offered to the community through the Center for Corporate & Community Education.  

NECC holds closing the equity gap in higher education as a number one priority.  

The college is known for its student services, which support students at every step of their education, with academic and career advising, financial assistance, tutoring, leadership, and more.  

With a student population that is 42% Hispanic, NECC continues to make serving students of color a priority, developing best practices for helping these and other populations that are under-represented in higher education to be successful.  

In 2001, NECC was the first college in New England to be designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education, based on the number of Hispanic students served.  

The college’s academic and student affairs areas recently restructured to better serve students. There are now five academic centers, organized by major, where students can meet with faculty and academic and career advisors, access tutoring, register for classes, attend presentations, and meet informally with other students who share similar interests. 

NECC now runs the MassHire Merrimack Valley Career Centers in Haverhill and Lawrence, which offer employment and training services for job seekers and employers.  

In the fall, in partnership with three Fortune 500 employers, NECC launched new micro credential programs, short-term noncredit programs that will lead to immediate jobs with good salaries.  

The first two programs will be in sales and customer service and business analytics, both of which have been identified by employers as areas of great need, where the training can be short term.  

Most recently, NECC is collaborating with the YWCA of the North Shore to jointly build a facility on the Haverhill Campus and with Whittier Regional Vocational Technical School to have a permanent home on our Haverhill Campus. 

Dean of Liberal Arts Amy Callahan has been with NECC for over 21 years. She has pushed for a revitalization of the Liberal Art department for several years as part of the faculty and now as Dean. She planted the seed to hold an outdoor showing of “tiny beautiful things” at the Haverhill campus.  

“Everyone is going to love it!” She recounted telling Director of Public Relations Ernie Greenslade. 

Callahan says that NECC has affected her in many ways over the years but that she “has become a much better educator by paying attention to her students.” She hopes to continue expanding the Liberal Arts department by adding various internships and catering to the needs of students and the community. 

Greenslade, who is a Lawrence native and has worked at NECC for 33 years says, “The most exciting part of my job is interacting with students. I’m so inspired by students’ stories.” 

NECC wants to hear from you. A social media campaign is currently running in celebration of the milestone. Use #NECC60 on social media posts regarding NECC and the anniversary.  

A mosaic is also in the works in honor of the anniversary. Photos and messages can be sent to All submissions are eligible to be included in all anniversary coverage.