NECC Observer

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

Letter to the editor: Community Resources help students

Dear NECC Observer,

I’m an Associate Professor, in my twelfth year working at NECC, and this is my first time writing a letter to the editor of this paper.

What moves me to write is my concern about the recent removal of a crucial staff position at the college.

Last month, our community learned that there will no longer be a Civic Engagement, Service-Learning, and Community Resources Coordinator. Janel D’Agata-Lynch currently holds this position. A licensed social worker, she’s a single point of contact for students experiencing food and housing insecurity.

We have many such students here at NECC, as do community colleges across the country: according to one recent national survey by CCCSE (The Center for Community College Student Engagement) at UT Austin, 29% of respondents were food insecure and 14% housing insecure.

And there are indications that this is a low estimate, with actual numbers closer to 50%.

When a person is without basic needs, it can feel overwhelming to try to navigate various channels of aid.
Janel helps connect students to these resources, coaching them to self-advocate. She also runs food pantries on both campuses and a free monthly farmers’ market, among other initiatives. It makes such a difference to me, as it does to many faculty, to know that I can refer students to an in-house social worker if needed.

Going forward, how will our community address students’ needs and help them thrive? There is an absence of information on this topic.

I urge NECC’s leadership to reconsider their decision to retrench the position of Civic Engagement, Service-Learning, and Community Resources Coordinator, and I await communication regarding how to best support our students. I hope that my colleagues who share these views will join me in voicing them.

Thank you,
Michelle Carter
Associate Professor of Art & Design

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