NECC Observer

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

Alumni share stories: Dynamic Duo share memories of their times at NECC in interview

Two women sit next to eachother on a couch. Aibhne Martino, News Editor

Photo of Carolyn Martino (left) and Jean Aiken(right) sitting before their interviews

Northern Essex Community College opened its doors on the new Haverhill campus in 1971 to more than 2,300 students, and has since then yielded numerous possibilities for academics as young as highschoolers taking part in duel enrollment to adults continuing their education.

No matter the goal, the college has a place and a program for any student with a goal and ambition. I interviewed my grandmothers, alumni Jean Aiken and Carolyn Martino on why NECC was an excellent fit for them. Both came from different backgrounds, and were working towards different goals, but found that the college substantially helped them along the way. Aiken, 75, attended courses to earn an accounting associates degree, and continues her passion for accounting as a bookkeeper at The Natural Grocer in Newburyport. Martino, 76, attended continuing education courses at NECC to update her nursing license after she served as a nurse in the Vietnam war.

“Every course I took was a feather in my cap,” said Aiken, expressing the satisfaction and knowledge taken from her classes. “What prompted me to start, was that there was a piece in the Newburyport Daily News that Northern Essex Community College was going to offer some non credit evening courses at Newburyport High.” Each alum voiced what caught their eye about the school.

“Northern Essex was convenient and the courses they offered were interesting,” Martino said, “I went with a friend actually, so that made it even more interesting! It was always a good experience.” It serves as a good reminder that a friend in academia will always heighten the experience and yield good results. Aiken additionally expressed that the college provided the opportunity to explore her interest. “I took Bookkeeping I, liked it. I took Bookkeeping II, liked it, and I knew that’s what field I wanted to go into,” she said, “I enjoyed it but I knew I would need much more education in order to advance… So a year later, I enrolled in NECC up in Haverhill and took my first on campus course, Accounting I.” In those days, the Northern Essex campus was brand new, and provided an exciting and certainly memorable opportunity to receive an education in a state-of-the-art college. “It was very modern, a new campus, and was very nice to attend,” Martino recalled, stating that it was amazing to be among some of the initial students to take classes.

Though, aside from the modernity of the school, NECC left more than just memories of a new campus. “I think it gave me the self confidence and the knowledge that I could go out into the working field and do my job and do it well, and I credit Northern Essex for that,” Aiken said.

This is something that still holds true today, students attend NECC and successfully transfer to four-year schools and to the working field with the skills to achieve. Along with wonderful academic opportunities, Northern Essex presented as accessible, even during its earliest days.

Martino expressed: “The nice thing about attending a community college is that it is affordable for most people and there’s a wide variety of courses you can take there… I happened to only need the continuing courses at the time, but who knows, I may take courses there in the future!” Aiken shared similar views on the subject of accessibility. “You could get all the extra help you need, [the courses] all gave office hours in Lawrence or on the Haverhill campus to get academic assistance… there were no computers when I was going in the beginning, so you had to meet in person… no one would ever turn you down for extra help!” An added bonus today is Academic Advising offices offer virtual meetings, so students no longer have to schedule time to drive to campus.

When considering that these two lovely ladies came to NECC from different backgrounds, and were working towards different goals on different pathways, it is amazing to see that both received the same incredible experience. Aiken said: “I’d really say that NECC gave me the confidence and knowhow to achieve and enjoy my working career.”

Jean Aiken grew up in a North Shore city in a small family and attended NECC while raising two children; Carolyn Martino grew up in rural Appalachia Pennsylvania in a family of 10, and attended the college after serving in the Vietnam war. Aiken worked towards an associates degree in Accounting, and Martino worked on courses for her nursing license. In the end, they both left the college with skills for taking on the working field.

Two women sit next to eachother on a couch. Aibhne Martino, News Editor

Candid Photo of Martino (left) and Aiken (right)

To connect with Academic Support Services, visit the NECC website,, and scehdule an appointment.