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Former Welder is NECC’s Student Commencement Speaker

Submitted by on April 25, 2016 – 1:07 pm
Photos by Mike Dean

Raymond Florent, a resident of Merrimac, will be this years Student Commencement Speaker.

Raymond Florent, a Haverhill native now living in Merrimac, who is graduating from Northern Essex Community College with an associate degree in elementary education, has been selected as the student speaker for the college’s 54th Annual Commencement Exercises, which will be held on Saturday, May 21, on the Haverhill campus.

Born and raised in Haverhill, Florent is a 1999 graduate of Haverhill High School. He trained as a welder and was making a respectable living when a workplace injury sidelined him. Unable to return to the physical demands of a welding position, he accepted part-time work at an area amusement park designing sets and dressing as a cast member. He enjoyed the work, but realized it wasn’t a sustainable career.

Using his imagination, Florent saw himself blending his creativity with working with children. The seed for becoming an elementary teacher was planted. In 2013 he enrolled in Northern Essex’s Elementary Education program.

Initially, he saw Northern Essex as a means to an end. He would attend classes, graduate, and transfer into a four-year program. He couldn’t imagine socializing with traditional students, yet they gravitated toward this funny, smart, and charismatic teacher -in-training. Soon, he was elected a student senator; he participated in the student leadership program; became a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the community college honor society, and Psi Beta; joined the Pathways to Career and Academic Excellence (PACE) Program; joined the NECC Judicial Review Board, and volunteered for a number of local organizations including Emmaus House, Lazarus House, Cor Unum, the Community Outreach Group (COG), and local veterans’ charities. He is also a work study student in NECC’s Wellness & Fitness Center.

“Coming here I found a passion for education that I never had before,” Florent says. “It was so welcoming that I couldn’t get enough.”

Last fall, the PACE staff nominated Florent for the Massachusetts Educational Opportunity Association Scholarship Award. He was one of just five recipients to receive the award.

Florent will graduate in May with a near perfect GPA. He intends to transfer to either Merrimack College or Salem State University where he will work toward his bachelor’s degree in education.

He was nominated for this honor by Amanda Fregeau, academic advisor in the PACE Program; Karen Mitchell, director of the PACE Program; and Peter Flynn, professor of behavioral sciences.

Over 1,000 graduates will receive certificates and associate degrees at the college’s 53rd Annual Commencement, which will be help on Saturday, May 21, at 11 a.m. on Northern Essex’s Haverhill Campus.

Lawrence Attorney and NECC alumna Wendy Estrella will be the featured commencement speaker.

To learn more about commencement, visit the commencement website.

With campuses in Haverhill and Lawrence, Northern Essex Community College offers over 70 associate degree and certificate programs as well as hundreds of noncredit courses designed for personal enrichment and career growth.  More than 6,600 students are enrolled in credit associate degree and certificate programs on the Haverhill and Lawrence campuses; and another 3,400 take noncredit workforce development and community education classes on campus, and at businesses and community sites across the Merrimack Valley.  Northern Essex is the only state college located in the lower Merrimack Valley Region of Massachusetts. For more information, visit the website at