All posts by Karen Stokes, Correspondent

PACE students enjoy workshops

Three women and a man sit at a table in a building on the Lawrence campus.
PACE students attend workshop over spring break Photo by Karen Stokes

PACE always has your best interests at heart and takes the lead during the week of Spring break by providing weeklong activities, opening with the annual NECC Student Success Conference.

A leadership conference entitled “The Power of You,” was open to all NECC students. The conference opened with registration and a light breakfast. Students had a chance to mingle with other students before the conference began.

The conference began with the keynote speaker Rockell Bartoli, a professional speaker, author and scholarship coach.

Native of Miami, FL. Rockell brought an open-minded uplifting style of leadership and one that helped to broaden the perspectives on life as well as encouraged students to stay true to their dreams and goals especially when faced with challenges.

Rockell also piloted the conference with real talk that included personal experiences that resonated with many and that which many could identify with. Rockell’s fun-loving personality made her open, approachable, and willing to connect with the students and be of assistance in any way possible.

The conference included three different sessions that comprised of two different workshops within each session that the students had a choice of attending.

One of the workshops in the first session was Career Exploration.
In the Career Exploration session students learned and were given tools on how to explore career resources pertaining to their occupation plus many additional resources about their prospective occupation.

In the second session the workshop was about Financing Your Education/Scholarships/Student Loans.

This session provided the students with loads of information, one being on how to best pay for your college education at NECC and beyond.

Students were also schooled in the area of federal direct student loans, the repayment of student loans, the length of loans and student loan interest deduction on federal taxes. The students were also guided on accessing private scholarships.

After lunch, students sat before an alumni panel whom they were able to interact with by asking questions after hearing of the panel’s success stories and their personal experiences having attended NECC.

The conference finished with a sweet treat with a cupcake truck at the end of the event.

Friday wrapped up the PACE weeklong events with a Scholarship Retreat.

This is a workshop to help PACE students apply for ANY scholarship.

Jessica Rocker Transfer Adviser to the PACE Program, TRIO – and Student Support Services explained that they run the PACE Scholarship Retreat every year so students can get help applying for scholarships and that they make sure that the students who attend apply for the NECC General/PACE Scholarship first.

Jessica also added that they help with the scholarship essay writing, talk about how to ask a professor for a recommendation letter and fill out the actual application.

Once students have applied to the NECC General/PACE Scholarship, PACE suggest scholarships they might qualify for.

We know college is expensive, so we encourage students to apply for multiple scholarships so their chances of getting on are higher, said Jessica.

Snacks and drinks where provided at the workshop.

These are the many things the PACE Program offers in support of its students and NECC students to ensure their success while here at Norther Essex Community College.

he conference was sponsored by PACE, TRIO Program, SOAR and NECC Career Services.

PACE wants you

A sign that says Proud to be First
Photo by Karen Stokes

This story is to highlight one of the many different programs here at Northern Essex. In the event that you are unaware of this program this article will introduce, if not inform you of the many things that the program offers. In case you are not familiar with the name, PACE stands for Pathways to Academic & Career Excellence, it is a federally funded program through the U.S. Department of Education.

The program provides support to first generation college students who are low income as well as provide assistance to students with a disability.

The program started here at Northern Essex in 1980, however the program was initially coined TRIO in the 1960’s under the president Lyndon Johnson to address the war on poverty, as stated by Kristen Arnold, Director of PACE program/TRIO-

Student Support Services.Now known as PACE, Arnold said that the goal of PACE is to help students graduate with a degree, transfer to other colleges after Northern Essex and to find as well as apply for scholarships. PACE is one of thousands of TRIO programs and not all colleges have a TRIO program, but there are programs all over the nation. Not all TRIO programs are run the same way though they have the same mission.

PACE here at Northern Essex consists of a staff of four who are always looking for new students to be a part of the program where they can help them to achieve their academic dreams. The staff plays an important role in the lives of the students, with the support that they give to students in many different areas from registering for classes, to workshops, internships and summer programs to name a few. The PACE team is exceptionally good at ensuring that they are supportive of the students’ overall well-being in all areas possible to ensure the students’ success.

It is never dull at PACE; they are always providing students with outside fun opportunities that keep them engaged and energized. The PACE staff here at Northern Essex is dedicated to making sure that the program works for everyone and provides many different resources.

This long-standing program has been the backbone for many first-generation students and many of these students have gone on to be successful people and play very important roles in our society.

Many of the PACE alumni come back every year to share their experiences with PACE and to encourage those that are currently in the program and share their stories on how the program has benefited them.

Going on to higher education can sometimes be challenging and it can often times be a financial struggle.
We do not always have the means to fund our dreams and it is programs like this that give us hope.

Stop in the PACE office where the environment is warm and friendly and learn more about how you can become a part of the PACE program.

Any of the PACE staff would be more than happy to assist you. You will not regret taking the time to find out more details.
PACE is located in the student center building on the second floor across from the bookstore.


My story: A first-year student shares her experiences

I wanted to do an extra credit story and I did not know what I wanted to do the story on. I figured all the news stories about the school probably have already been written and with it being the end of the semester I am somewhat fresh out of ideas. Then I got this idea to write a story about myself. Since I am a NECC student, and I can talk about my experiences here at the school seeing that it is my first year.

I decided to go back to school because I felt as though the world was changing and moving quickly. Moving quickly and advancing every day in technology and new innovations. It is obvious that the world is changing because we are doing things at a much faster rate than ever before, look at the vaccine that was created in less than a year. Because of the ever-changing fast pace that was going on it made me also realize the world as I used to know it, some of the technologies and ideas are obsolete and no longer exist. For me to stay relevant and on top of what’s going on in the world today I thought that now it be necessary to go back to school. I also thought that this is a way to keep up with changes and be in the know while improving my education. I knew that I would someday go back to school, but I did not know what for. I wanted to take courses that was meaningful and useful and that added value to life.

The major I chose to study was Communications/Public Relations. At first, I did not know what to expect but I was very excited. I had not been in school for a long time, so the school put me through some grueling aptitude tests to ensure that I was ready. I happily passed all my test, and I was ready to go.

I am a single divorced mother with two sons, their ages are 19 and 11. We were all going to school online in the midst of the pandemic. It was a little challenging at first trying to navigate through the school website, but I managed to find my way. Whenever I would pass in a paper and I would do very well on the paper it was very rewarding for me, often times I would cry. It was nice and I felt like I was accomplishing something. As a mom and going to school with my children, did not mean that I could neglect my motherly responsibilities. I had to make sure the cooking, the washing and the cleaning was done. My sons would complain if we were having soup and sandwiches for dinner. Children are quick to remind you if you are falling short of your motherly duties. As a mom I always make sure my kids are all set whether I have to leave the house for an appointment, work, Etc.

I loved all my classes and found the school to be incredibly supportive. When I asked the staff to assist me in a paper that I was writing such as if they were available for an interview, they all kindly accepted.

There were some challenges here and there for me personally, but I made it through. I learned so much. In my journalism class there was a section in the course on the amendments and when I saw the work, I thought “the amendments are going to be boring.” Well to my surprise I loved what I learned, and I feel like I am proficient in the First Amendment.

I like the online learning; it works for me because I have a busy schedule. It was important to organize and structure my time that way it would not get in the way of my schoolwork. Keeping focus is key when you are learning online and that is why it is important to have structure. There are so many things that beg for our attention that it is easy to get distracted.

All my studies made me feel as though, they pulled so much out of me as far as my life’s experiences and my journey. I took what I knew and applied it to what I have been learning and used the knowledge with completing some of my assignments. This is also where I could see growth in my life but from a different perspective.

There is so much to say but I will end with this, life has purpose, and we must seek to find it. It is always in important to have gratitude in life and not take things for granted. So many lives have been taken from us with this pandemic, that it is important to remember to be kind and considerate even when the majority is contrary. This has been an amazing semester and I am looking forward to continuing my studies here at NECC.



Greatnes begins at home: A conversation with Noelia Figueroa

It was to my honor and surprise when interviewing Noelia Figueroa did, I out find what great talent we had here on the NECC campus. Our initial contact was due to some issues I was experiencing when trying to register for my summer classes. It was very frustrating for me because I was contacting all the wrong people. 

When I spoke with Noelia via telephone after texting back and forth, she was not only professional, but she was empathetic towards my situation as well. As we discussed my concerns, she kept a peaceful and mild tone throughout the conversation, Noelia never allowed her voice to change or become elevated. Noelia then set me up with the right contact person for enrollment and she followed up with a text message and email to make sure that I had all the information that I needed for my Zoom call with my academic adviser.

Nevertheless, everything went off without a hitch and I killed two birds with one stone. Not only did I register for my summer classes but at that time I was able to register for my fall classes as well. 

But the Story does not end there. A few weeks later I decided to contact Noelia again and asked if I could do a story on her for my Journalism class, and she cordially agreed.

In the beginning of the interview, I asked Noelia what her position was here at NECC and she said, a College Navigator. Noelia then went on to explain what her position entailed and that she worked under the student support services which included working with the students one on one.

She said she loved working with the students one on one and helping the students with challenges. “I know what it is like to be a student and I know what I went through as a student, and I do not want anyone to have to go through what I went through. I want students to be successful,” said Noelia, “and this is the part of my job that I do not see as a job.” 

“When COVID-19 hit it was difficult transitioning because we had to figure out how to communicate with students without meeting with them face to face,” she said. “However, in the process of this I had a great support team, with great coworkers and supervisor and we worked together to come up with creative ways to accommodate the students. “The transition to online was difficult for students, it was about 50/50 especially the new students.”

Apart from the fact that not everyone can do online learning. Noelia went on to say that with the online classes she encourages her students with scheduling and managing their time that way they do not get behind in their work.  

I went on to ask Noelia in my interview with her if she thought that it was important to keep a positive attitude.

Noelia said, she was big on positivity and that positivity translates for her into the practice of never giving up.

eing positive is a coping mechanism Noelia went on to say, and that it is important to practice being positive. “I look for the positives every day despite the challenges with the COVID-19, I found something positive to hold onto every day,” she said. 

Tell me about yourself I said to Noelia, and that is when she let me know that she was inducted into the Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2019, here at NECC. 

“I was a two-time National Champion,” she said. “I was inducted along with the men. The school had never done anything like this before as far as a community college, this was the first ceremony. “

Noelia was excited about being awarded here at the school she felt that she was able to represent women at a high capacity 

Not only is she a talent in track and field but her skills with how she communicates and interacts with people will take her a long way. It’s also nice to know that as a student here at NECC we have faculty and staff that really care about the students. 




Success stories behind the pandemic: NECC’s financial aid department

Success Stories Behind the Pandemic    There have been so many adjustments taking place here at the school due to the pandemic. In every area and in different departments that I decided to check in on the Financial Aid department to find out how things were going with them amidst the transition.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Orquidea Taveras Sr. Financial Aid Counselor.

Orquidea said the transition was challenging at first working from home. It was even more difficult for the students because the students were used to walking into the office and they could speak with a financial aid counselor one on one. Prior to COVID-19, there was a lot of traffic in the office, Orquidea says.

With the office transitions and the financial aid department having to work online it helped the students to become more independent instead of walking into the office, she said.

I asked Orquidea if student enrollment was down because of the pandemic, and she said that enrollment did suffer some but that we are one of the schools that transitioned very well in the pandemic.

The numbers were not as good as they were before the pandemic, but they were not that bad either. A lot of people did not go to school in the fall because of the constraints however, she says the future looks very good.

The positives that Orquidea saw in all the changes is that the school was able to help students who did not have or were not able to afford a laptop, get one.

Orquidea sees the laptop program as one of the success stories of the school despite the pandemic.

The laptop program was a program that the school initially had in place to help students who did not have a computer.

The program would lend the laptops out to the students however they would run into trouble when they ran out of computers to give out.

They would also run into problems when the students did not meet the requirements under the lending program.

She said, the monies that came from the Cares Act helped students. Students that came out of high school did not have a computer and “we as college wanted to do something about it,” she said.

Orquidea credited the laptop program as an enormous success, and she said that it was very much needed.

Navigating nursing home woes: How a vulnerable population is affected by the coronavirus pandemic 

Many families with members in nursing homes have been severely impacted by the pandemic.  

“The impact the pandemic has had on residents in the nursing homes that suffer from Alzheimer’s and dementia has been great,” says Laura Tanguay of Lowell, Massachusetts.  

Tanguay worries a lot about the state of her 88-year-old dad that she has not been able to take out of the nursing facility in over a year due to the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.  

“Elderly residents are faced with depression and anxiety because of the lockdown and isolation from family,” says Tanguay. 

Her dad would become angry and upset from not being allowed to have in person visits and socialize with the family and even tried to break out of the nursing facility.  

In the beginning she could go into the nursing facility to see her dad however, she had to wear protective gear. But when many of the staff members started coming down with COVID-19, the nursing facility went into full lockdown. It was very difficult because many of the patients including her dad also had come down with the virus and it was thought that the exposure was coming from the staff. Nevertheless, her dad survived the exposure.  

After months of only being able to communicate by telephone, Tanguay is now able to communicate with her dad through video conferencing three days a week. At first, only allowed to video chat for 15 minutes at a time, later increased to 30 minutes, which made a big difference. 

Even though she couldn’t physically be there with her dad the video conferencing helped to bring much needed comfort and smiles to her dad’s face because he could both see and hear her.    

Mary Drayton of Haverhill, Massachusetts expressed the same sentiments when going to visit a close friend in a nursing facility. She could only waive at the close friend from the window. The close friend had a mild case of Alzheimer’s, but she quickly began to decline because of becoming upset and angry from not understanding why she could only see family and friends from a window.   

The same is also true of Venita Qualls from Haverhill, Massachusetts, a clinician who traveled to Georgia to see her dad who is staying in a nursing facility and who suffers from both Alzheimer’s and dementia.  It was her dad’s birthday, and she could only see him from a window to say hello and wish him a happy birthday. 

Qualls who is a clinician in mental health sees the day to day impact the pandemic has on people mentally.   

They all agree that not being able to touch and hug their family members has caused great deal of stress.  

They hope that things would soon get back to normal but until then everyone must all do their part in adhering to local and government officials in keeping safe.