This site is best viewed in Firefox, Chrome, Safari, or EdgeX

Congratulations Class of 2024!

Relive the magic – watch a replay of NECC’s 62nd Commencement Exercises, in partnership with HC Media!

This page will be updated with contest winners, photos, and more to keep the party going shortly – stay tuned!


Stay for the After Party

Reception to Follow Commencement

Graduates and their families and friends are invited to attend a reception following the commencement ceremony featuring refreshments. Graduates will receive a special gift from the NECC Alumni Office and have the opportunity to take special photographs.

Social Media Contest

Social Media Contest

Celebrate this milestone with us by using the hashtag #NECC2024 to share your photos and stories. Pictures posted with #NECC2024 or emailed to by May 27th will be eligible for the Commencement 2024 Photo Contest! Gift baskets will be awarded for:

  • Best Family Photo
  • Best Graduate Group Shot
  • Best Graduation Cap Design
  • Best Diploma Post
  • Best Photo with a Teacher and Student

Get out there and get creative – show us how you celebrate graduation! Winners will be notified the week of May 27th. Photos may be re-shared on the official NECC social media channels.


Join in the Commencement Countdown or use these Snapchat filters during the celebration to show off your NECC Pride!



Event Photos

Official Commencement Portraits

  • The portrait company will email graduates with information about ordering photo packages
Watch Live

Watch Live

Thanks to HC Media, friends and relatives who cannot attend the commencement ceremony will be able to watch it live on their computers or mobile devices.

To watch the commencement live, come back here the morning of commencement and visit the live stream. Or, subscribe to NECC’s YouTube channel to be notified when we go live – it’s free!

Live captioning will be provided during commencement. To access live captioning on your smart phone or personal device, a link will be provided closer to commencement.

Accommodations, Assistance, or Special Seating

Accommodations, Assistance, or Special Seating

If you or any of your guest require assistance or special seating, please let us know so that we may accommodate you. Contact or 978-556-3974 by Monday, May 1, 2024.

News & Updates

Observer Editor Wins Outstanding Student Award

Observer Editor Wins Outstanding Student Award

Kim Zappala '24
Kimberly Zappala ’24 (right) accepts award from Alumni Board President Jouel Gomez ’15 (left).

Kimberly Zappala, a resident of Haverhill and member of the Northern Essex Community College Class of 2024, has been named as this year’s Outstanding Student Award recipient. The annual honor, granted by the NECC Alumni Board, was announced during NECC’s spring commencement ceremony on May 18.

Zappala, who was lauded for her campus leadership, integrity, and commitment to amplifying the student voice, served as Editor in Chief and Opinion Editor for the NECC Observer. During her tenure, she focused on boosting the paper’s politics and current events content, believing that by providing a factual source of up-to-date information, she could better encourage active, informed participation in the national conversation. She considers this work a point of pride in her academic career.

“When students go to vote in November, I know that I did my best to provide them with honest information so that they can make informed decisions at the ballot box,” she says.

Her efforts have not gone unnoticed. Earlier this spring, Zappala received a prestigious honor from the New England Newspaper and Press Association, which awarded her with a second-place win for “best opinion page” in the Better Newspaper Competition for colleges and universities in New England.

In a letter of recommendation, journalism professor and Observer advisor Mary Jo Shafer emphasized Zappala’s impact on NECC.

“She exemplifies resilience in her dedication to her education,” Shafer says. “As a non-traditional older student, Kim is a role model to other students at NECC and highlights the impact NECC can have.

These thoughts were echoed by fellow nominator Kristen Arnold, director of NECC’s PACE Program, who shared that “the leadership [Zappala] has displayed on campus at NECC” made her “an excellent candidate for the Outstanding Graduating Student Award.”

Her journey to her role as a journalist and campus leader, Zappala says, has not been easy. Before attending NECC, Zappala often struggled to find her place academically. She eventually landed upon a career in hair styling, a role she enjoyed for over 18 years until a spinal condition prevented her from being able to stand for the amount of time the job required.

“I knew I needed to find a new profession, so I decided to enroll at NECC,” she says. “The decision to attend was one of the best things I could have done for myself.”

Zappala credits her success to the many faculty and staff members who helped her along the way, including nominators Mary Jo Shafer and Kristen Arnold, among many others.

“These people have given me the confidence I did not have when I started at NECC. Everyone here wants to see you succeed… I am grateful to them all.”

This fall, Zappala will continue her studies at UMass Lowell, where she will pursue a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science.

The annual Outstanding Student Award recognizes the accomplishments of a graduating NECC student who has demonstrated an exceptional commitment to academic success, community service, and involvement with campus initiatives. Please visit the Outstanding Awards page to learn more about the Outstanding Student Award. Nominations are accepted each spring.

NECC Celebrates the Class of 2024

NECC Celebrates the Class of 2024 

Haverhill, MA (May 18, 2024) – Mother Nature must be a fan of Northern Essex Community College’s class of 2024. The rain held off just long enough for a dry 62nd Annual Commencement ceremony on the Haverhill Campus.

More than 700 students earned certificates or degrees. Approximately 400 of those students, along with thousands of family members, friends, and supporters, gathered for the May 18th celebration.

NECC President Lane Glenn opened the ceremony with words of encouragement for the class of 2024. “During your time at NECC, you have faced challenges, you have all been through the fire, and you know how it feels. You are stronger and as prepared as any generation that has come before you to take your grit and do great things with it.”

President Lane Glenn presents student speaker Akira Matos with her diploma.

Biology major and student speaker Akira Matos echoed that sentiment in her speech. She recalled a unit from her Early College English class on the Hero’s Journey.

“Maybe it’s me being nostalgic, or maybe it’s the realization that we as a whole are going through our very own impossible quest,” she said. “For some, NECC is only the beginning, act 1 of the call to adventure, or maybe you’re already in act 2 and crossing the threshold into new territory with your degree in hand. No matter the stage, we are still on our way.”

Matos shared how she never thought she’d go to college at all, let alone be chosen to speak at graduation. As a metal fabrication student at Whittier Tech., she sometimes struggled academically. But when she started taking Early College classes at NECC, she discovered the different pace and expectations suited her. Then, she learned that she could continue her education at NECC for free under the NECC Promise Program. Matos is already enrolled at UMass Lowell and studying for her bachelor’s degree in biology. She plans to eventually go to medical school to become an ophthalmologist.

Rep. Lori Trahan gets her own NECC Volleyball jersey

Matos was followed by this year’s featured commencement speaker, US Congresswoman Lori Trahan. She urged the class of 2024 to use the same determination to finish their degrees to create the future they want for themselves and their families.

“Don’t for a second let anyone tell you that our best days are behind us. We are a country that is going to continue improving with each generation,” said Rep. Trahan. “Now more than ever, we need you to vote. We need you to use your voice for the causes you care about. We need you to push for progress. Our nation has always benefited when young people lead the way. There’s no better example of that than here in Massachusetts.”

Read the full text of the Congresswoman’s speech here: Commencement Address.

Following her remarks, President Glenn presented Rep. Trahan with her very own custom NECC volleyball jersey. Trahan was a standout volleyball player at Lowell High School. She earned a scholarship to play at Georgetown University, where she became the first in her family to attend college.

Winnie is quite pleased to earn her puppy school certificate

This year’s ceremony featured a surprise special guest: Winnie, NECC’s comfort dog in training, received a certificate for completion of her first puppy school class.

Social Justice Award

Health and Human Services Professor Brian MacKenna-Rice receives the Social Justice Award

Human Services Professor Brian MacKenna-Rice received this year’s Social Justice Award. The award recognizes individuals, groups, departments, or initiatives at the college that promote values such as a commitment to equity and diversity or the advancement of human rights and social justice.

President Glenn recognized MacKenna-Rice for his commitment to addressing issues of race, class, and privilege as shown in his appreciation and honor of NECC’s Hispanic student population and their cultural diaspora.

The social justice award comes with a cash prize of $1961 (in honor of the year of NECC’s founding) that the recipient can use to advance social justice initiatives at Northern Essex.

Emeritus Recipient

Dr. Stephen Slaner receives Emeritus status

Also, at the 62nd annual commencement, a longtime faculty member received emeritus status. Dr. Stephen Slaner retired this year after 17 years of service to the college. In his time at Northern Essex, Professor Slaner served as chair of the global studies department and as advisor to the Global Politics Club.

Dr. Slaner worked to establish a chapter of the Students for a Democratic Society at NECC and served as a faculty adviser for many years.

President Glenn stated that Dr. Slaner brought a high level of intellectual discourse to his students in the many classes he taught in Political Science and History, including a class on the History of the Vietnam War and one on the History of Film. Since his retirement, Dr. Slaner has continued to teach and enhance the intellectual life of the college.

At Northern Essex, the emeritus rank is an honor that recognizes sustained excellence in performance, character, and meritorious service to the college.

A recording of Saturday’s ceremony can be found on the NECC YouTube page. To learn more about NECC’s 2023 Commencement and see additional photos, visit the webpage.

Students Honored at Awards Convocation

Students Honored at Awards Convocation

Haverhill, MA (May 16, 2024) – Graduating Northern Essex Community College students were honored for their achievements inside and outside of the classroom at this year’s annual Awards Convocation. The May 14th ceremony was held in the Northern Essex Sport and Fitness Center on the Haverhill Campus. Family and friends were invited to celebrate the honorees and enjoy refreshments following the program.

Co-Curricular Awards included the President’s Cup, which is awarded to the club with the highest cumulative grade point average. This year, that honor went to the American Sign Language Club. Academic Awards included the 2024 Campus Compact Newman Civic Fellow, awarded to Daniela Valdivia-Terres, and the Dr. Mildred L. Montag award for achievement in nursing, presented to Kelly Armstrong.

Dozens of Northern Essex students were also recognized for achieving high honors in their areas of study. The program then concluded with departmental awards and acknowledgment of honor society inductees. View the full program and all awardees here: 2024 Awards Convocation.

And access the photos from the event here.

Two Named to Honor Society’s All-Massachusetts Academic Team

Two Named to Honor Society’s All-Massachusetts Academic Team 

Two Northern Essex Community College students, Samuel Kiguta Njubi of Lawrence and Haverhill’s Scott Silva, were named to the 2023/2024 Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) All-Massachusetts Academic Team based on outstanding academic achievement and exemplary student service. Njubi will graduate on May 18, Silva completed his degree in the fall of 2023.

Each spring, the Massachusetts Association of Community Colleges (MACC) honors students selected for the academic team at a ceremony at the State House. This year’s ceremony on May 9th will include local and state leaders alongside the students and representatives from their colleges.

Samuel Kiguta Njubi ’24

Njubi is originally from Kenya and emigrated to the United States after high school. He started working as a licensed practical nurse in 2010, a career he says he loves and finds rewarding. During the pandemic, the father of three noticed his children were struggling with online classes. He decided the best way to help them succeed was to show them. “I started picking college prerequisite courses as a way to encourage them as they would see me doing schoolwork too,” he says about deciding to enroll at NECC. “As they did their Zoom classes, I did my online classes. I was impressed by how much I learned at NECC and decided to work towards getting my RN license. I was able to get into the LPN-AND program, and I am very happy to be graduating this year.”

Njubi is graduating with a 3.56 GPA and plans to continue his education at a four-year institution and eventually earn his master’s degree.

Scott Silva ’23

Silva graduated this past fall with two associate degrees: double majoring in philosophy and psychology. He endured a lot of hard times as a child following the death of his mother when he was just 7 years old. However, he says that through it all his thirst for knowledge never wavered.

“My aspirations for this are deeply rooted in my own personal battle with mental illness, as well as the struggles within my family. I am devoted to making a positive impact in this field, both in my professional practice and on a personal level,” Silva says.

Silva graduated with a 3.86 GPA, and he transferred to Boston University, where he’s working toward his bachelor’s degree in philosophy and psychology. From there, he plans to go to medical school to eventually become a psychiatrist.

Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) is the international honor society of two-year colleges. PTK has recognized and encouraged scholarship among community college students for 100 years while promoting the academic integrity of the associate degree program. Students with grade point averages of 3.5 or higher are invited to join Phi Theta Kappa. Fourteen NECC students were inducted into PTK at a ceremony on April 25.

For additional information, contact Professor Lisette Espinoza at or visit the webpage.

From Early College Promise Scholar to 2024 Student Commencement Speaker

From Early College Promise Scholar to 2024 Student Commencement Speaker

Akira Matos of Haverhill will be the featured student speaker for the 62nd annual commencement exercises at Northern Essex Community College. The ceremony will occur on Saturday, May 18, on the Haverhill Campus at 11 am.

Biology major Akira Matos is the 2024 student commencement speaker.

Just a few years ago, the biology major didn’t imagine she’d be graduating from college at all, let alone be the person selected to represent her class at commencement. Matos says she was not a good student in grade school and bounced around to a few local schools as a result. When it came time for high school, her mom pushed for her to go to Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School, even though she might not have had all her facts straight.

“My mom tricked me,” Matos remembers with a laugh. “She told me they had a pool! So I told the admissions people how excited I was for swim team, and they told me they didn’t have one.”

Despite the absence of a swim team, Matos enrolled at Whittier and decided to specialize in metal fabrication. She did well in those classes, even winning second place in her district in the Skills USA competition. She was still struggling in some of her academic classes when she decided to try a different approach. In the fall of her junior year, she took English as an Early College class at NECC and discovered that the different pace and expectations suited her. She ended up with a B+ in the class.

“It was difficult but also a bit more relaxed. I expected to do a lot of writing- and I did. It was good for me. I felt like I could work more at my own pace.”

By the time she graduated from high school, Matos had earned 18 college credits through Early College classes at NECC and was selected to speak at the Early College recognition ceremony.

Through all of this, she still wasn’t sure college was in her future. She explains that her parents weren’t pushing her to go, either. Her father grew up in Cuba, where college wasn’t a possibility and, therefore, not a priority in his life. Her mother was eager for Matos to have the financial security of a career in welding right out of high school.

“Up until I graduated from high school, I was insisting I wasn’t going to go to college. I didn’t think I could do it or afford it,” Matos says. However, Whittier’s Early College coordinator changed her mind by explaining that she could continue at Northern Essex for free under the NECC Promise Program, which covers the costs of tuition, fees, and supplies for Early College students who qualify.

Suddenly, a new world of possibilities presented itself to Matos. Having witnessed changes in her own eyesight due to her time welding– “seriously, everyone in my specialty graduated with the same prescription”– Matos decided she wanted to become an ophthalmologist. She enrolled at NECC as a biology major in the fall of 2022.

“I forgot how much I really like science; I had always turned away from it. The classes were a little scary at first, but my professors were so accommodating.”

Matos also found a lot of support by joining the PACE program, which provides various services for first-generation and low-income students. And her experience with Early College continued to open doors for her: she served as a policy fellow at the Massachusetts Alliance for Early College for the 2022-2023 school year. There, she learned about the legislative process and how to advocate for more funding for statewide early college programs.

Matos will continue her education at UMass Lowell, where she’s already taking a class. She will transfer as a junior and, in a few short years, will be weighing her options for medical school. While she’s excited for this next chapter, she says she already misses NECC.

“There is so much support here; some of it I didn’t even register as support. I made a plan, and thanks to my advisors, I stuck with it. I’m graduating right on time.”

Matos has made the Dean’s List each semester and currently has a 3.7 GPA. She is a member of the National Technical Honors Society and routinely volunteers on campus and in her community. Her success has even encouraged her mom, who had previously earned a certificate in Human Services from NECC, to start taking classes again.

Matos was nominated for student speaker by Emily Yunes, 5th Year and Promise Program Coordinator, Kevin Mitchell, Chemistry Professor and Kristen Arnold, Director of the PACE Program.

Nominations were solicited from the college community and submitted to a committee of faculty and staff who selected Matos as their top choice.

To learn more about Commencement at Northern Essex, visit the website at

NECC Announces Plans for 2024 Commencement, Including the Featured Speaker

NECC Announces Plans for 2024 Commencement, Including the Featured Speaker

Haverhill, MA (March 6, 2024)—Planning for the 62nd annual Commencement Ceremony at Northern Essex Community College is underway. The event will be held on the Haverhill Campus on Saturday, May 18, at 11 a.m. More than 400 students and their families will gather under the tent for the occasion.

Congresswoman Lori Trahan will be the featured commencement speaker

This year’s featured speaker will be United States Representative Lori Trahan (D MA-3rd District). Congresswoman Trahan was born in Lowell and raised in a working-class family. She was the first in her family to graduate college.

As a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, Rep. Trahan has been an advocate for supporting public schools, making college more affordable and accessible, and ensuring fair wages and opportunities for the workforce in Massachusetts’ 3rd District.

Rep. Trahan on a tour of the NECC Lawrence Campus in 2019

Shortly after her election in 2019, Congresswoman Trahan visited NECC’s Lawrence Campus. She met with students, toured the facilities, and pledged her support for the school and its critical role in the communities she serves. “If we’re going to set everyone up for financial success, we need to support our community colleges,” she said during the visit.

Since then, Rep. Trahan has secured hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding for local infrastructure projects, small businesses, workforce training programs, community organizations, and more. Northern Essex President Lane Glenn says most recently, they discussed the Workforce Pell Act, which would allow Pell Grants to support students enrolled in high-quality, short-term education programs that align with the most in-demand careers.

“Congresswoman Trahan understands, from a very personal perspective, the transformative power of higher education,” says President Glenn. “She sees how a community college like Northern Essex can pivot to directly and effectively address the workforce needs of our communities and students. We look forward to her sharing her inspirational story with the class of 2024.”

A delegation from NECC met with Rep. Trahan during the National Legislative Summit put on by The Association of Community College Trustees

The 62nd Annual Commencement Ceremony will also feature a student speaker selected by faculty and staff and the presentation of awards, including the Outstanding Alumni Award, Social Justice Award, and Emeritus.

To learn more about commencement, visit the website.


Northern Essex Community College, the first Federally designated Hispanic Serving Institution in New England, is an education leader for the Merrimack Valley. Through a supportive learning environment and cultural inclusion, NECC embraces all identities and inspires initiative and excellence through top-notch, affordable certificate and associate degree programs online and at campuses in Haverhill and Lawrence. NECC offers many bachelor’s degree transfer options, workforce development, and community education classes and hosts the NECC Police Academy, MassHire Merrimack Valley, and Gallaudet University’s Regional Center for the deaf and hard of hearing. Visit Northern Essex online at

Print View