Dominican Leaders Visit NECC
On Monday and Tuesday, April 25 and 26, a distinguished group from the Dominican Republic, including the chancellor of the country’s public university and a popular senator, visited Lawrence as the guests of Northern Essex Community College.
The group was in the city to further develop higher education partnerships with Northern Essex and to meet with Lawrence business, community, and government leaders.
A highlight of the visit was the announcement of a new program— PIÉS Latinos de NECC—which was created to increase higher education attainment among Latino immigrants living in Greater Lawrence. PIÉS will focus on helping immigrants validate and transfer foreign credits to NECC and other colleges in Massachusetts and validate their foreign degrees with job training. PIÉS will also provide support for Latinos outside the U.S. interested in attending college in the U.S.
“The goal is to get more local Latinos working in professional positions,” said Dr. Noemi Custodia Lora, executive director of NECC’s Lawrence Campus and community relations. While 39 percent of Massachusetts residents have a college education, only 12 percent of Lawrence residents have a bachelor’s degree.
Northern Essex has already begun to partner with colleges in the Dominican Republic, creating agreements that will allow for the transfer of credits and also provide opportunities for faculty, staff, and student exchanges.
Last August, Northern Essex signed a formal agreement with the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (UASD), the public university system of the Dominican Republic, and, in January, an agreement was signed with the Instituto Técnico Superior Comunitario, the Dominican Republic’s first public community college, which began offering courses in January 2013.
At a Monday night forum, a panel including Dr. Iván Grullón Fernández, chancellor Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo; María Corporán Garcia, vice chancellor academic affairs, Instituto Técnico Superior Comunitario de San Luis; and Charles Mariotti Tapia, constitutional senator of Dominican Republic for Monte Plata Province, NECC President Lane Glenn, and Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera discussed new higher education initiatives in the Dominican Republic and opportunities for expanding partnerships.
Dr. Grullón is the leader of UASD, which was founded in 1538 and is the oldest university in America, with over 205,000 students in undergraduate and graduate programs.
“Education is key to developing communities like Lawrence,” he said. “We want to help support the Dominican immigrants in this country.”
According to Dr. Grullón, there are over one and a half million Dominican immigrants living in the Eastern part of the U.S. For the past 20 years, UASD has had a presence in New York City and, working with Northern Essex, the university wants to expand that collaboration to Lawrence.
To address language barriers for immigrants, Dr. Grullón suggested that students interested in immigrating to the U.S. enroll in English immersion classes so they are ready to succeed in college by the time they’ve finished.
In her remarks, Garcia of ITSC focused on the similarities between her college, which opened in 2013 and is the first community college in the Dominican Republic, and Northern Essex. Both institutions focus on careers and transfer and are supported by state funds.
She said that by the fall of 2017 she hopes the two colleges will have a student exchange available to students who are fluent in both Spanish and English. Translating course syllabi from Spanish to English will also be a logical first step so that it’s easier to transfer credits from the Dominican Republic to the U.S.
Senator Mariotti who represents Monte Plata, a centrally located province in the Dominican Republic, shared his vision for what he calls the City of Knowledge, which would co-locate educational opportunities for all ages from pre-school through college. “You can have dreams in bed, even when you’re sitting in a chair, but the dreams don’t become reality until start walking. That’s what we’re doing today.”
Mayor Rivera explained the positive impact educational partnerships with the Dominican Republic will have on the city of Lawrence. “Lawrence is a city of immigrants and we’ve always been a city of immigrants. With better access to higher education, our residents will be able to go after high skilled jobs. They can build their families and their businesses here.”
Anyone interested in more information on PIÉS, including immigrants who are interested in transferring credits from the Dominican Republic, can contact Dr. Noemi Custodia -Lora, firstname.lastname@example.org or 978 738-7401.
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 www.necc.mass.edu.