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Future Doctor is Student Commencement Speaker

Submitted by on May 15, 2011 – 12:00 pm

Is there such a thing as too much good news? With the accolades and scholarships she’s received lately, Shannon Sheltra could certainly be the judge of that and I think she’d tell you the answer is no.

Describing herself as “on cloud 9,” Sheltra was selected to represent the class of 2011 as this year’s student commencement speaker; received the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Transfer Scholarship, a national scholarship worth up to $60,000; was accepted to Tufts University’s biology-premed program; and was honored at the State House as one of the top graduates in the state, all in the past two weeks.

Sheltra will graduate with an associate degree in respiratory therapy on Saturday, May 21, and her ultimate goal is to attend medical school and become a pediatric pulmonologist.

A single parent of three, she came to Northern Essex looking for a way to support herself and her family. “I didn’t come to Northern Essex seeking self enrichment,” she says “I came here because I needed to pay the bills.”

Sheltra lived a life that many would call charmed until her partner and the father of her children died unexpectedly six years ago. Left alone with three young children to support, she struggled to hold onto the family horse farm, eventually losing it to foreclosure.

Lacking a college education and with few marketable skills, she came to NECC to find a new career. She selected respiratory care because of its promising job market and because she has struggled with asthma her entire life.

Sheltra excelled academically at Northern Essex—participating in the Honors Experience and Phi Theta Kappa—and immersed herself fully in the college experience. She is the founding president of the NECC Respiratory Care Club, a member of the Student Senate, and an NECC Presidential Student Ambassador.

After a year at the college, she began supporting her family by working as a respiratory therapist with a student license at Spaulding North Shore Hospital in Salem, a job which she plans to continue after sitting for her national board of respiratory care credentialing exams this summer.

Sheltra is deeply appreciative of all the opportunities she received at Northern Essex, where she discovered what she calls “a vehicle to a brand new life.” Her story is inspiring and is sure to be a highlight of this year’s commencement, which will be held beginning at 11 a.m. on the quadrangle on the Haverhill Campus.