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Student celebrating with diploma at 2022 commencement

Congratulations to the NECC Class of 2023!

On these pages, you will find everything you need to know about Northern Essex Community College’s 61st Annual Commencement.

Congratulations to the winners of the #NECC2023 photo contest! Thank you to everyone who submitted pictures this year, we loved seeing all of your joy and excitement on the special day!

Click here to view the #NECC2023 photo contest winners (Facebook link)

Graduation Requirements

Graduation Requirements

Graduation Petition Form May and August Petitions are due by March 31, 2023; email to

Caps, Gowns, Hoods

Caps, Gowns, Hoods

Caps, gowns, hoods are available for purchase at the Haverhill Campus Bookstore from Tuesday, April 18 to Thursday, May 11. Students will be given a name card when picking up their caps and gowns. Graduates will need to have their name card when walking on stage to receive their diploma at the ceremony. Tickets are not required to attend the ceremony.

  • Cap, gown and tassel cost – $36.00
  • Honors cords cost – $5.50
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.

Graduate Photos

Graduate Photos

Want to get copies of your Commencement portraits? They are now available by clicking here!

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, 2023.

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 below. 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, use the following link:

Help us Make This Year’s Commencement Social

Social Media

Celebrate this milestone with us by using the hashtag #NECC2023 to share your photos and stories. Pictures posted with #NECC2023 or emailed to by May 20th will be eligible for the Commencement 2023 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 22nd. 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!

Commencement News and Updates

Methuen Student Fought Through Hard Times to Discover Her Passion at NECC

Methuen Student Fought Through Hard Times to Discover Her Passion at NECC 

Mya Rivera of Methuen has many qualities that contributed to her success as a recent Northern Essex Community College graduate: she’s determined, she’s a hard worker, and she isn’t afraid to ask for help. But perhaps above all, she has perseverance.

Following graduation from Methuen High School in 2016, Rivera enrolled at two different four-year colleges as a biology major. She says while she enjoyed her classes, she started to feel burned out. “I realized at that time that Biology wasn’t something I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” she remembers. “So, I took a small break and decided that NECC was the most convenient place to go, and I could make it work with my schedule.”

Mya Rivera at NECC Commencement

Rivera enrolled at NECC as an Early Childhood Education major in the summer of 2019. She had just started to hit her stride when the pandemic struck.

“The pandemic took a toll on the world, and I was no exception. I worked through the entire pandemic while attending online classes, and during this, my parents were going through an extremely difficult divorce.” Rivera was also mourning her grandmother’s death, with whom she had a very close relationship. “Everything together was overwhelming. With my mental health at some of its worse during this time, staying in touch with friends and holding tight to my religion saved me and brought me to where I am today.”

Today, she has her associate degree in early childhood education after graduating this spring with a 3.62 GPA. She was also recently awarded a $1,000 scholarship from the NECC Fund for her achievement in her honors math course. Rivera credits her professors and the PACE Program for helping her to see what was possible as a student. PACE stands for Pathways to Academic and Career Excellence and helps connect first-generation college students with a variety of services, including scholarships and transfer opportunities.

“The PACE program was honestly a game-changer. They were the most helpful people I have ever met. They made it so convenient to find information, and if you asked about something they didn’t know, they would point you in the right direction or find the answer for you.”

And she says she’s not done with Northern Essex just yet. She’s now working on her second degree, an associate in American Sign Language studies.

“I am someone that has always had a passion for language. I speak both English and Spanish fluently, and my friends have taught me quite a bit of Korean as well. I just love the infinite way words can be used and how these things may transfer into different languages,” she says.

Rivera hopes to eventually work with children with hearing disabilities in hospitals or schools. For now, she’s enjoying taking on this new subject.

“The professors here are always happy to help you and answer any questions. The worst thing you can do is not ask a question and miss an opportunity that would have benefited you.”

Photo Roundup: 2023 Awards Convocation

Photo Roundup: 2023 Awards Convocation

Haverhill, MA (June 5, 2023) – 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 9th 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 Radiologic Technology Club. Academic Awards included the 2023 Campus Compact Newman Civic Fellow, awarded to Sarah Pachano, and the Civic Engagement award, presented to Alyssia Terenzi.


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: 2023 Awards Convocation Program.

NECC Celebrates 400 Early College Students

NECC Celebrates 400 Early College Students

Haverhill, MA (June 5, 2023) – Four hundred and ten graduating seniors from 27 local high schools earned college credits in addition to their high school diplomas this year as participants in Northern Essex Community College’s Early College Program.

Student Government Association President, Franziska Hoene, was one of seven high school students who also earned associate degrees.

The students, along with their families, celebrated at a May 11 Early College Recognition Ceremony, held under a tent on Northern Essex’s Haverhill Campus.

The students earned a total of 7,100 credits while in high school, an average of 17 credits each, which translates to a full college semester.  The students will transfer their credits to 45 different public and private colleges. Seventy-five have elected to attend Northern Essex in the fall. Many are part of local promise programs which allow them to continue their education at NECC tuition-free.

Seven students graduated with both associate degrees and their high school diplomas this year, having completed two full years of college while still in high school. That group includes Franziska Hoene and Edward Hoene of Woburn; Ryan Rothberg and Olivia Hansen of Newburyport; Hailey Cameron of Merrimac; Kyla Dolan of Groveland; and Gianna McColley of Haverhill.

Russell Leung was selected as the Early College Student Speaker. The Haverhill High School graduate started taking college courses during his junior year. “It was a great opportunity to not only take different classes but to learn responsibility,” he reflected. “You had to show up on time, and you were treated like an adult. We learned to advocate for ourselves.” Leung will attend Northeastern University this fall, where he plans to major in computer science.

Haverhill’s Russell Leung delivered the student address.

NECC is one of 22 colleges and universities participating in the statewide Massachusetts Early College Initiative, which partners high schools with colleges and universities for designated programs between them. NECC has designated programs with Haverhill High School, Lawrence High School, and Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School.

Students from these designated programs earn college credits for free while they’re still in high school. Plus, the classes count toward both students’ high school graduation requirements and their future college degrees. Students spend part of their day at the high school and travel to the college campus by bus for morning or afternoon college-level courses.

And because the Early College program also includes “pathways” that mimic college majors, including business, criminal justice, healthcare, and education, students can experience the rigors and culture of college while also getting a taste of their possible major.

In addition to its state-designated partnerships with Haverhill, Lawrence, and Whittier, Northern Essex offers its Early College Program to students from 25 other local high schools. These students can earn credits at a 50% discount.

If you are interested in learning more about Early College opportunities at NECC, contact

He Started without a High School GPA, Now Has Two Degrees from NECC

He Started without a High School GPA, Now Has Two Degrees from NECC

Noah Rothgaber of Salem, New Hampshire, has big dreams, and they match his big heart and the big accomplishments he’s achieved at Northern Essex Community College.

“My dream is to build the medical technology responsible for assisting surgeons in major surgery. The medical field envelops some of the things most interesting and important to me,” he says. “Robotics, software engineering, and giving back to the medical profession are all things I dream about being a part of.”

Noah Rothgaber now holds two degrees from Northern Essex

It’s a noble and ambitious career that’s worthy of someone who Rothgaber’s professors have described as hardworking, kind, and determined.

But Rothgaber wasn’t always sure about his academic future. He struggled with health issues and was unable to complete his freshman year of high school. And despite earning a GED in 2017, he had no high school GPA, which made college admissions difficult.

That’s when he found NECC, which his mom also attended.

“They were willing to accept me as a student with only a HiSet (GED) and no GPA from high school,” he said. “The school provided an opportunity for someone like me to achieve the dream of higher education, despite my limited education.”

He’s certainly achieved that dream and more. As a NECC student, Rothgaber was a peer tutor in computer science and information technology, an intern with the school’s Accessibility Center/CIT, and a drummer in the school’s jazz band. He’ll also return to NECC as a supplemental instructor in the fall of 2023.

Rothgaber spent his time outside school working and volunteering, too. Through his job at Best Buy, he volunteered with Liberty House, a housing and assistance program for veterans in Manchester, New Hampshire, organized baskets for a charity raffle, and helped build bikes for the veterans.

Today, Rothgaber has not only graduated from NECC but has done so with dual degrees in Science, CIS: Information Technology, and Computer Science Transfer. Now, he’s planning to finish his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science with a robotics minor at UMass Lowell. He’ll also start a summer robotics internship at the UMass Lowell NERVE Center, an interdisciplinary robotics testing, research, and training facility.

Noah Rothgaber played drums in the NECC Jazz Ensemble following the commencement ceremonies in 2022 and 2023

“He has proven himself to have the determination, the perseverance, the teamwork skills, and the work ethic to be successful in that field,” according to his former calculus instructor, Liliana Brand.

He credits NECC for helping him to discover his love for robotics and computer science in the first place, pointing to two classes in particular that “fully gave me my career passion,” he said.

“Intro Computer Science showed me what the world of computers was like at a level I’d never seen before,” he said. “And Programming for IT showed me just how much I love programming, logic, and the computer.”

He also credits NECC’s faculty and extensive students resources, from receiving an out-of-the-blue text from the Computer Information Science department chair, who offered to help him register for classes at a time he was feeling discouraged and burnt out, to the tutoring, academic coaching, teacher office hours, and free meals that help support students.

Now, Rothgaber is eager to move forward with a solid foundation from NECC.

“The resources are here to support your success,” he said.

By Alexandra Pecci

Woburn Resident Receives Outstanding Student Award

Woburn Resident Receives Outstanding Student Award

The Northern Essex Community College Alumni Board is pleased to announce Woburn resident Franziska Hoene as the latest recipient of the Outstanding Student Award. The selective honor, granted annually to one graduating NECC student who has demonstrated an exceptional commitment to academic success and community service, was announced during the college’s 61st commencement.

NECC Trustee and President of the Alumni Board Jouel Gomez presented Franziska Hoene with the Outstanding Student Award

Throughout her time on campus, Hoene has served in a variety of key leadership roles that have helped to elevate the student life experience at NECC. In the spring of 2021, she became the president of the Student Government Association (SGA), through which she has initiated a range of advocacy efforts on behalf of her peers, in addition to organizing the bi-annual SGA Golden Lamp Awards for exceptional faculty and staff. She is also a member of the Art Club, Phi Theta Kappa, the Civic Scholars program, the Commonwealth Honors program, the National Society of Leadership and Success, and the student advisory council, among other campus committees and organizations.

Outside of campus, her influence is just as far-ranging. A strong proponent of community service work, Hoene regularly steps up to volunteer at her local library, organize park cleanups, and referee for soccer and futsal groups, often assisting in regional and national tournaments.

On winning the Outstanding Student Award, Hoene was quick to express her gratitude:

“This means a lot to me. Words cannot describe how grateful I am to be appreciated by the college and key people… This award shows me that people care about my success and contributions to this college.”

She was nominated for the award by Suzanne Reyes, interim coordinator of student activities, who noted Hoene’s dedication and work ethic.

“Franzi [went] from a homeschool environment to making strides in her academics here at NECC and UML,” she says. “She is very hard-working and driven in her classes.”

Hoene, who began studying at NECC when she was just 12 years old, has long had high aspirations for her educational career. By the time she reached seventh grade, she had already passed a college entrance exam for math. Now, at 16, she holds an associate degree in engineering science and is already dual enrolled at UMass Lowell, where she will continue to work toward a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering this fall. Hoene’s goal is to one day work as an oncology research clinician.

As part of the award, Hoene received a new Dell laptop courtesy of the NECC Alumni Association.

Please visit the Outstanding Awards page to learn more about the Outstanding Student Award. Nominations are accepted each spring.

NECC Celebrates Class of 2023

NECC Celebrates Class of 2023

Over 700 students are now part of the Northern Essex Community College alumni family. Four hundred of those students, along with their families and friends, gathered under the tent on the Haverhill Campus for the 61st annual Commencement Ceremony this past Saturday.

Students processing in for the 61st Annual Commencement Ceremony

The now-graduates processed into the tend behind the Stuart Highland Pipe Band– a Northern Essex tradition. NECC President Lane Glenn opened the ceremony with words of encouragement for the class of 2023: “Today means you’re ready – whether you think so or not. Ready to take on life and the world. You endured the challenges of the pandemic. You beat many odds to get to this day. And what a glorious spring day we have to celebrate.”

Ember Spera, who earned their American Sign Language Interpreting Certificate, gave the student’s address. In a poignant twist, Spera signed their speech while friend and classmate Jess Myer read the words aloud.

Ember Spera signed the Student Address

Spera’s parents are Deaf, and this speech represented a special full-circle moment. When Spera was in high school, they had planned to give an address at graduation, but the interpreter never showed up. “Looking back, NECC changed my course of path and my life. My 18-year-old concept of a community college looks nothing like the real one. I found more community here than in some 4-year programs. I invested my time and energy, and the return is priceless,” they shared.

Spera plans to work as a freelance interpreter. They also hold associate degrees from Northern Essex in liberal arts and communication/journalism and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from UMass Amherst.

Read more about Spera’s journey here and the full text of their speech here. 

Though Spera was a tough act to follow, NECC alum and radio host Justin Aguirre ’09 provided a rousing and deeply personal featured address. Aguirre came to NECC in 2006 as a recovering drug addict and convicted felon. He credits then-journalism professor, now Dean of Liberal Arts Amy Callahan, for taking him under her wing and showing him what was possible.

Justin Aguirre ’09 delivered the Featured Address

“My story is one of hope. Never give up on your dreams. Wherever you are going from here, whether to another school or into a career – remember to aim high and never give up. Don’t give in to that little voice in your head. If nobody told you they love you Today, you’re hanging out with the wrong people. You should be told every day. ”

Aguirre transferred to Salem State after earning his associate degree in journalism/communication from Northern Essex. He is now the executive producer and co-host of the popular Billy and Lisa in the Morning Show on Kiss 108.

Read the full text of his commencement address here.

Social Justice Award

Northern Essex professor of philosophy Meredith Gunning is this year’s recipient of the 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.

NECC President Lane Glenn and Social Justice Award Recipient Meredith Gunning

President Glenn recognized Gunning’s work with the Community Outreach Group, which aims to be a bridge between the college and its surrounding neighborhoods.

The group has collected canned goods for food banks, items for holiday gifts, clothing for homeless shelters; cleaned parks; and raised funds for charitable organizations.

He also cited her ongoing participation in workshops and conversations on anti-racism and equity issues and how she has applied these to her courses. “On a recent sabbatical, she worked specifically to ‘decolonize’ her curriculum, to include more works of philosophers of color in her courses. Meredith’s influence has extended to, and beyond, the more than 10,000 students she has taught in more than 400 sections of philosophy classes in her career.”

In honor of the year the college was founded, the Social Justice Award comes with a cash prize of $1,961, which the recipient can use to advance social justice initiatives at Northern Essex.

Several other honors that have been awarded at commencement in the past are now part of the NECC Impact Awards. Learn more about those honorees here.

Emeritus Recipients

Two long-time members of the college’s faculty and staff received emeritus status:

Mark Palermo retired in 2021 after 36 years at Northern Essex. He started as an ESL instructor and later taught Spanish and medical Spanish. Palermo also volunteered to teach classes for older learners, established the NECC chapter of Amnesty International, and founded the Northern Essex foreign film festival, an annual event that ran for several years and later became the Lawrence Film Festival held at Lawrence’s Heritage State Park.


Linda Murphy retired from Northern Essex in 2021 after 40 years of service to the college. She served as curriculum coordinator for developmental mathematics. In 2002, Murphy was honored with the NISOD excellence award. Her leadership and passion for math found her serving as project manager for the Commonwealth’s 100% math initiative, promoting the reform of math curriculum and pedagogy. In 2014, Murphy launched an open-source modularized developmental math curriculum to build a pathway into college-level math.

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. In addition, see a full list of graduates here: List of Grads 2023

To learn more about NECC’s 2023 Commencement and see additional photos, visit the webpage.

Life has Come Full Circle for the 2023 Student Commencement Speaker

Life has Come Full Circle for the 2023 Student Commencement Speaker  

Ember Spera of Billerica has been selected as the student speaker for Northern Essex Community College’s 61st Annual Commencement. The ceremony will occur on Saturday, May 13, at 11 am on the college’s Haverhill Campus.

Spera, whose pronouns are they/them and who is receiving their certificate in American Sign Language interpreting, is already familiar with commencement at NECC. After graduating from Innovations Academy Charter School in 2014, they spent a semester at Emmanuel College before realizing it wasn’t the right fit. Spera then enrolled at Northern Essex in January 2015.

Their parents both attended NECC, and their father earned his associate degree in computer science in 1999. Spera’s parents are Deaf, and initially, Spera was interested in studying interpreting. After all, American Sign Language was Spera’s first language, and they had been interpreting for their parents all their life. “The professors described what it takes to be an interpreter, and I thought, ‘I’ve already done this. I want to try something else.’”

Spera was drawn to the flexibility of a Liberal Arts degree. Now the Dean of Liberal Arts, Amy Callahan, was one of Spera’s professors and encouraged them to pursue a journalism degree as well. “We met up after class one day and looked at all of my prerequisites,” remembers Spera. “We realized I would only need another two semesters, and I would graduate with two degrees.” In the meantime, Spera started volunteering on campus. They were the Opinions Editor of the student newspaper, The Observer, and were instrumental in launching the first mobile food market. They even met the person who eventually became their spouse, fellow student Travis (Barrett) Spera.

Ember Spera signed the National Anthem for the Red Sox Opening Day in front of 50,000 fans.

Spera graduated in 2016 with an associate degree in liberal arts and earned an associate degree in communication/journalism in the summer of 2017. Spera transferred to UMass Amherst and was admitted to the highly selective Bachelor’s Degree with Individual Concentration (BDIC) program, which allowed them to build their major. Spera first focused on sustainable communication and media but reevaluated after tragedy struck. Their sister passed away just before their senior year. “After that big loss, I reevaluated my life and switched all my classes to focus more on agriculture journalism. I really found healing through my relationship with plants.”

Less than a year after Spera graduated with their Bachelor of Arts in journalism, another major event changed their trajectory: the Covid-19 pandemic. “Travis and I had both been working in the food service industry in Amherst, and we were left without jobs. Travis had picked up sign language quickly, and the idea of going to school for interpreting was ruminating with them. I said, ‘I think I’m going to join you.’ It was always something I thought I could go back to.”

Both Ember and Travis returned to the familiar surroundings of Northern Essex to pursue this renewed ambition. Each will graduate with their certificate in American Sign Language studies: sign language interpreting on May 13. Ember has a 3.59 GPA and, through internships, has already experienced interpreting for large audiences, such as during the National Anthem on the Red Sox 2023 Opening Day and for several Boston University events. They plan to freelance following graduation to get more experience in various fields.

While graduating from Northern Essex again is cause for celebration, Spera says being chosen as commencement speaker presents another opportunity for a full circle moment. In 2014, they were selected to speak at their high school graduation, but the interpreter for the event didn’t show up, and their parents couldn’t experience the speech. “I had this moment of heartbreak- I’m giving a speech, and the people that I want to hear it the most are my parents, and I didn’t get that. So I signed the speech later at home, but it wasn’t the same. So this really does feel like a second chance. And I know that we will have plenty of interpreters on hand.”

Spera was nominated for student speaker by Kevin Fleese, the program coordinator for the ASL certificate program. Nominations were solicited from the college community and submitted to a committee of faculty and staff who selected Spera as their top choice.

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

Kiss 108 Co-Host Will Be Featured Commencement Speaker

Kiss 108 Co-Host Will Be Featured Commencement Speaker

Haverhill and Lawrence, MA (March 23, 2023)– Planning is underway for the 61st Annual Commencement Ceremony at Northern Essex Community College. The event will be held Saturday, May 13 at 11 am, on the Haverhill Campus. More than 400 students and their families will gather under the tent for the occasion.

Justin Aguirre ’09 is this year’s Featured Commencement Speaker

This year’s Featured Commencement Speaker is keenly aware of the day’s significance. Justin Aguirre is now the executive producer and co-host of the Kiss 108 “Billy and Lisa in the Morning Show.” But back in 2006, he was a young man from Malden who had overcome issues with addiction. He wasn’t sure where life was going, but he knew he needed a change.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to be selected to be the commencement speaker,” he said. “My journey began at NECC as a young student unsure of where I was headed – to be asked to return in this capacity is really special.”

Aguirre enrolled as a journalism/communications student in 2006 at the urging of a mentor who knew he was interested in media. He graduated in 2009 and transferred to Salem State. Aguirre eventually landed a coveted internship on the “Ramiro and Pebbles Morning Show” on JAM’N 94.5.

Aguirre was hired by JAM’N 94.5 as a part-time producer and, from there, moved on to Kiss 108, working first as a producer for Ryan Seacrest and, later, for Matt Siegel of “Matty in the Morning.”  Following the announcement of Siegel’s retirement in May, Aguirre was promoted to his current role as co-host and executive producer of the “Billy and Lisa in the Morning Show,” a position that has him waking up at 3 a.m., hosting live shows from 5 to 10 a.m., and a podcast, “The After Show,” until noon.

“I look forward to sharing with students that ANY dream you have is possible. I’m living proof of that.”

Aguirre recently shared the news with his co-hosts on air. You can listen here. He spoke about how he felt when asked to be the speaker at the 12:52 mark and shared more about his personal journey at 21:00.

The 61st 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.

The 61st Annual Commencement Ceremony is May 13, 2023

To learn more about Northern Essex’s 61st  Annual Commencement Ceremony, 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 is host to 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


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