All posts by Idalmis Camilo, Correspondent

Navigating the semester’s final stretch: Student perspectives on stress and coping

As the academic year reaches its end, college students across campus find themselves grappling with the stress and challenges that come hand in hand with the end of the semester. Balancing academic responsibilities, work commitments, and personal life can be a difficult task. However, amidst the stress, students here at Northern Essex like Maya Rivera, Esnerfree Garcia, and Genaily Sanchez are finding great ways to cope and persevere.

Maya Rivera, a 25-year-old American Sign Language/Deaf Studies major, offers a glimpse into the demanding life of a full-time daycare worker and part-time student. Rivera, who attends in-person classes once a week, highlights the delicate balance she maintains between work and academics. “Working full time at a daycare and attending classes has its challenges,” she says. “Luckily though, my boss works around my schedule. Even so, with work, I don’t have much time to study and get all my other chores and responsibilities done. The end of the semester for me is both extra stressful and relieving because I know it’s almost over and I did my best.”

Esnerfree Garcia, 23-year-old Liberal Arts major, finds solace in a different approach to managing end-of-semester stress. “I cope with the stress of the end of the semester by putting on headphones and listening to music,” Garcia says. “This helps me de-stress and focus on whatever assignment I’m doing or whatever I’m studying.” Many students can relate to the therapeutic power of music, and Garcia’s simple yet effective coping mechanism highlights the diverse ways individuals navigate the pressures of finals season.

Genaily Sanchez, a 22-year-old Psychology major, takes a proactive approach to stress management. Contrary to the stereotype of stress leading to a sedentary lifestyle, Sanchez emphasizes the importance of physical activity during challenging times. “I actually exercise more when I’m stressed. When I exercise, I feel more energized to study and feel more prepared for my final exams. I think I actually do better on them too when I exercise and hydrate beforehand,” she says. Sanchez’s commitment to maintaining a healthy lifestyle not only contributes to her physical well-being but also positively impacts her academic performance.

As students like Rivera, Garcia, and Sanchez navigate the pressures of the final weeks, their stories serve as a reminder that each individual copes with stress in their own way. The diverse range of strategies, from finding balance in a hectic schedule to immersing oneself in music or prioritizing physical activity, underscores the resilience and creativity of the student community here at NECC. As the end of the semester approaches, these personal anecdotes offer insight into the various paths students take to emerge triumphantly from the challenges of academia.


“Scott Pilgrim Takes Off” is a remake that soars above the norm

In this age of endless remakes and reboots dominating our screens, there is one television show that has instantly become a reigning testament on not only how to create dynamic and engaging remakes, but on why doing so can add new layers of rich story elements that benefit the ardent fan and newcomer alike. “Scott Pilgrim Takes Off” is the latest adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s beloved comic book series “Scott Pilgrim” about an early 20’s amateur rocker who discovers he must defeat his new girlfriend’s seven evil exes in order to stay with her. Following the 2010 film adaptation “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World”, directed by Edgar Wright, this new 8 episode animated show not only captures the essence of the original comic and star-studded film, but takes the original narrative on a chaotic, colorful, punk-rock-filled flight, smashing through the boundaries of its predecessors.  

What makes “Scott Pilgrim Takes Off” so unique and engaging is its determined departure from the conventional remake formula. Indeed, by the jaw-dropping finale, the show ends up becoming an expansion of the existing universe and continuity, morphing into a refreshing narrative that feels both nostalgically recognizable and yet, entirely new. The nostalgia bites hard in the reprisal of all major characters from the original film (a fact which in and of itself is a wonderful demonstration of the love and loyalty the actors have for O’Malley’s creation) and is accentuated when the show continuously throws a curveball and shred’s the viewer’s expectations on what familiar plotline may be coming next. This chaotic blend of familiarity and unpredictability keeps audiences on their toes and reminds them in a blur of colorful flashing fists and blaring bass and drums that in this show, anything is possible.  

Much like the 2010 film, the television show’s punk-rock filled narrative is a visual and auditory treat, and the fast paced fight scenes and catchy music are at the heart of the magic of “Scott Pilgrim Takes Off”.  This is what fans expect, and what pulls newcomers in, and yet the show also delves deep into unexplored facets of the Scott Pilgrim universe, giving fans a unique opportunity to rediscover a new take on the story they fell in love with, while introducing newcomers to an eccentric and captivating world dominated by music, duels, love and friendship. 

“Scott Pilgrim Takes Off” flies above the sea of recycled content and emerges as an example of innovative narrative. It celebrates the legacy of O’Malley’s original creation and does so while fearlessly pushing the boundaries and expectations of what storytelling and remakes should be. Seeming more like an artistic expression of a story beloved by millions across the world, including its creators, cast and crew, “Scott Pilgrim Takes Off” will undoubtedly set the bar for future adaptations and remakes to come, demonstrating the importance of soaring into uncharted territories.

Online courses: A balanced approach to student success

As another semester comes nearer to its close, it becomes important to re-evaluate the landscape of education.

Learning institutions transformed drastically in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, pushing colleges like Northern Essex Community College to reevaluate and adapt the way they educate their students.

One notable change has been the expansion of online courses, providing students of all types with newfound flexibility and highlighting the diverse impact of such implementations in a community college such as NECC.

Catherine Ubiera, a 34-year-old former college graduate and owner of Cimaruta Holistics, has had many struggles with traditional classroom settings, saying “I had debilitating anxiety as a young adult, and I dreaded having to present things in class or discuss topics among classmates. Not because I disliked doing it, but because of the waves of anxiety that would hit me when I tried. Although I no longer struggle with anxiety, I would have liked the chance to have taken online courses in my youth; they would have really helped someone like me.”

Ubiera’s perspective sheds light on the transformative power of online courses for students dealing with anxiety. The virtual setting provides a supportive environment, allowing individuals to engage with course materials at their own pace and in a more comfortable space, fostering a positive learning experience where they can excel.

In addition, the inclusion of lively and interactive discussion boards saves the ever-important interpersonal communication that is usually only present in the traditional classroom setting.

However, not everyone requires the benefits of an online education. Nurilys Cintron, a 24-year-old NECC graduate and former Journalism and Communications major, attested to the value of the in-person classroom experience, saying “I’m not a shy person and I loved going to classes in person. I mean, I get why some people might prefer online courses, but I don’t regret the friends I made and being able to meet the awesome teachers who pushed me to try my best.”

Cintron’s testimony emphasizes the irreplaceable aspects of in-person interactions, such as building face-to-face connections with peers and receiving personalized guidance from instructors.

It underscores the importance of a balanced approach to education that caters to diverse preferences and needs present in any student body. In essence, the expansion of online courses at Northern Essex Community College has become a pivotal tool for catering to the diverse needs of its student body.

It serves as a lifeline for individuals like Ubiera, offering a solution to the challenges posed by issues such as anxiety. Simultaneously, the retention of the option of traditional in-person classroom setting post Covid-19 complements the preferences of students like Cintron who thrive in settings brimming with interpersonal communication. Such balance enriches the experience, choices, and diversity of a community college like NECC, expanding the choices an individual student has on how he or she wishes to pursue their education.

MassReconnect: A second chance for education

Man sitting at a table in a classroom
NECC student Bradley Johnsen is taking advantage of the opportunity from MassReconnect. Photo by Editor-in-Chief Kim Zappala

On August 28, in a step towards redefining accessibility to higher education, a state-funded program was launched and is set to reshape the learning landscape for college students aged 25 years and older. 

This program provides two years of free college to such students, working to break down financial barriers that have stopped countless individuals from pursuing highereducation while also restoring the value of traditional collegiate experiences in the face of anincreasingly digital world.

I know so many people that would like to go back to school and would like to further their careers, but can’t because they can not afford to go back; says Maya Rivera, 25, American SignLanguage/Deaf Studies major at NECC, echoing the thoughts of countless individuals who laterin their lives have longed for the opportunity to further their education or change their career trajectories.

Other than financial issues, another obstacle that colleges face in today’s digital age is the abundance of free educational resources online. Former NECC dropout, Michael Martinez, 30, IT Network Architect, offers a different perspective on his journey to a successful career in Information Technology. Reflecting on his experience, Martinez said, “I tried the college route, but realized it wasn’t for. Instead, I went online to study for my Network +

A man standing in a classroom
MassReconnect student Ned Henzine just finished a Health and Nutrition class at NECC. Photo by Editor-in-Chief Kim Zappala

certification. It was really convenient and saved me tons of money. I only had to pay for the certification test, which was also online.”      

Martinez’s path to success bypassed the traditional two-year college route, embodying the mindset of many people who cannot afford college. 

When the internet provides an abundance of free resources that lead to lucrative careers, many opt into taking this route instead.

While Martinez’s story displays the benefits of a solo, online education, many do not experience such success. MassReconnect allows older students an opportunity to find similar success in the traditional educational path without the monetary burden.

 Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey, in endorsing this program, emphasized its potential in a press release announcing the programs implementation: “MassReconnect will be transformative for thousands of students, for our amazing community colleges, and for our economy… It will bolster the role of community colleges as economic drivers in our state and help us better meet the needs of businesses to find qualified, well-trained workers.”

MassReconnect’s focus on older learners is working to revitalize the return to an in-person college classroom. When speaking of the utility of online vs. in-person classes, Rivera says, “I think that some classes need to be done in person so that you’re able to retain and practice what you’re learning in person.”, showing that many students still do believe in the benefits of the college experience.

MassReconnect reaffirms this truth and the enduring relevance of colleges in an ever-changing,

digital educational landscape. By prioritizing the education of older learners, the program not only has the potential to transform individual lives but also revitalize the broader educationalecosystem as well as the community’s economy. In doing so, it sends a powerful message: the benefit of hands-on college learning is timeless and should be accessible to all, regardless of age.

A sweet indulgence with a serious message: Respiratory Care Club sheds light on lung health

Two women stand in front of models of the human lung. The models show a healthy lung and a diseased lung.
Respiratory Care Club held a bake sale honoring National Respiratory Care Week at NECC’s Lawrence campus. At the entrance of the main lobby, a large display was presented: two real pig lungs – one a healthy shade of pink, the other blue and disease ridden. Photo by Idalmis Camilo

In a tradition that began in 2011, the Respiratory Care Club held a bake sale honoring National Respiratory Care Week at NECC’s Lawrence campus. The event not only succeeded in pleasing one’s sweet tooth, but also served as a crucial platform to educate and raise awareness about respiratory health.

National Respiratory Care Week was established by former President Ronald Reagan in 1982, and to this day serves as a testament to respiratory care professionals’ contributions to the field. On its fifth anniversary Reagan delivered a speech acknowledging the evolution of life-saving technology and the dedicated workers who have transformed the field, commenting on how their contributions have revolutionized the health care system. He praised the recent advances, saying how progress “from the amazing capabilities of the first iron lungs to today’s use of computerized ventilators” have allowed health care workers in the field to “perform miracles,” Reagan said in a speech in 1987.

Since its inception, the bake sale has drawn inspiration from the movement started by Reagan and has continuously proven to be a success. With an array of sweet treats, the event draws in many people through word of mouth and curious interest. Funds raised go towards supporting the club’s pinning ceremony, raising their collective morale as they educate the public on a heavy topic.

Jomayra Orona, 27, Respiratory Care major at NECC and Respiratory Care club member, emphasized the importance of raising awareness, saying “respiratory care is not one of the first things people think about when it comes to health care; we want to change that.” The bake sale wasn’t just a showcase of sweet baked goods, but an interactive experience designed to illuminate the complexities of respiratory health. At the entrance of the main lobby, a large display was presented: two real pig lungs – one a healthy shade of pink, the other blue and disease ridden. Connected to the lungs was a machine simulating the motion of breath, demonstrating the stark contrast between the two and serving as a poignant visual of the impact of respiratory diseases. Jennifer Jackson, Professor and Program Director of Respiratory Care, watched her students expertly navigate the exhibit, demonstrating their enthusiasm and knowledge, saying “you won’t find people more passionate about a cause.”

The club members’ commitment to raising awareness about respiratory health was apparent, as Orona also took the opportunity to address a growing concern in respiratory health: vaping. She said, “Vaping is worse than smoking cigarettes. It introduces a lot of different chemicals into your lungs, like formaldehyde. That’s not to say smoking is good; it’s just the lesser of two evils.” Her assessment underscores the urgency of educating the public, especially the youth, about the risks of vaping. Through immersive exhibits and educational conversations, the club members brought the words of Reagan to life, affirming that “technology and human compassion continue to work miracles” (Reagan, AARC 30th Anniversary Speech, 1987) in respiratory care.


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