Bittersweet experience at NECC

When I decided to start my academic journey, I did it thinking that at this point of my life, being 45 years old, I was not looking for the certificate itself. I was looking for the knowledge and the wisdom that professional educators could share with me. By far, I have been pleased with NECC faculty and staff, who have been always keen to help me on this journey.

Never tireless to correct me and make suggestions to improve and challenge me to give my fullest potential, I have no more than words of appreciation for every professional I have related to.

Beyond the top-notch professors in NECC, I have found different programs that helped me to focus on my studies by minimizing other concerns of daily life. The free mobile market has helped me to balance household expenses, and even pushed me to learn how to cook seasonal produce.

Having a toddler bouncing around my house makes me stay in the library late, very late. Once, my peer and I spent long hours studying and we were asked to leave the library on the Haverhill campus as they had to close. The security officer told us to go to the SC building and that is how we discovered the free SMART meals, ready-to-eat frozen meals which we heated in the microwave and filled us to keep studying. We touched glory when we left with high scores in our Statistic test, and with full stomachs.

Later, I learned about the food pantry, besides having instant noodle cups, there were food and hygiene products for students to shop for free. Filling the questionnaire for this service, I also checked the box
for clothing assistance. Somewhat embarrassed, I answered “yes” to Janel D’Agata-Lynch when she called me and asked me for my name and if I needed clothing assistance. Immediately, she kindly and discretely gave me directions to pick up a voucher to get clothes in a secondhand store.

One more thing I feel thankful for is the little baskets with feminine products. Once I had a “red emergency.” There are vending machines for pads and tampons in women bathrooms but who carries a 25 cent coin these days? Pay-by-phone or at least by credit card would be more effective. I had a $10 bill to change but the cafeteria was closed. By the way, the cafeteria opened two weeks after classes started! I asked a few students, but no one had a quarter to donate.

Feeling desperate, someone told me that at the end of the corridor, there was a basket with feminine products and that saved my day. By the next week, all bathrooms had the little basket. By the way, I learned that some female students do not buy feminine products anymore because they save money getting it from school.

As I was progressing with my studies, my classes were getting more demanding. I decided to pause my entrepreneurship to invest my time on studies but that affected me economically.

I do not qualify for FAFSA, so I must manage different ways every semester to keep pursuing my academic dream.
Before I started this current semester, I was concerned about how I would continue studying, but luckily, I learned about the Civic Engagement paid-internship course COP that professor D’Agata-Lynch was teaching. This course included paying $20 per hour (up to $3,000) to students who will work as interns for a non-profit or government organization, and one Civic Engagement class per week. I cannot be more thankful for this opportunity, not only for helping me to pay for my studies this semester, but also, learning by working in a government institution.

So, learning that D’Agata-Lynch, the author of these and other student assistance programs, like registering to vote or housing assistance, will no longer be here at NECC, it’s like the ice-bucket challenge but with no rewards. I am aware that she has worked hard through the years to make every student program run.

She has been recognized for her leadership as well as commitment to students and the community in various opportunities inside and outside the institution.

While professors and students rely on her as the key contact in NECC for food or housing insecurities, the NECC President Lane Glenn raised up a Crisis Resources card with a list of public organization phone numbers, which by the way includes D’Agata-Lynch’s phone number, in front of the board of trustees, and the audience waiting for his take on this situation. This was too bitter to pass.

I asked myself, is this what a professional who gives so much to her or his position gets at the end?
What is the message for her colleagues? What about invaluable professionals, like Dagaata-Lynch, who work passionately giving their best to students? What is the example we, the students, are receiving from this administration?

As the student Maria Cubias said, “It affects all of us who benefit from NECC’s opportunities. I would say it would affect 80% of students who attend school every day.”

I went to the meeting and was told that it is the position that is being retrenched, not the program. That would be very good for the program to continue and to grow but we still need someone to run the program and I do not understand why take the position away from someone who put in long years of work for the program to be successful,” said student Joanne Callahan.

Also, a student of the Civic Engagement paid-internship course, Irwin Mburu, shared his discomfort about the retrenchment.

“I don’t know 100% all the details of the situation, but from what I hear I don’t really like any of it. I don’t see the positives of it or for NECC. I think it’s not a good thing. Janel has been pretty valuable and helpful in her time at NECC as a teacher, advisor, and community leader and is always helping and engaging with the community. Her position is important in helping guide students as they grow and get into their careers as well as help them engage with the community around us. She’s also been great in the internship program, and her along with the internship has helped a lot. She’s been great at NECC and retrenching her is a big mistake in my eyes for NECC,” stated Mburu.

What is it what really matters? Does the voice of the students to NECC?

Over 200 students signed a petition to reconsider the retrenchment, according to Sarah Pachano, student trustee. I did not sign as I did not know about it. However, I join my peers and respectfully ask the administration to please reconsider this decision.

I hope this bittersweet taste can be dissolved by looking for ways to utilize D’Agata-Lynch expertise and experience throughout her years of service into developing and enhancing all her initiatives.

I want to keep seeing NECC as a great institution who listens to their students and works on their behalf.