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With a Headstart on College, These Students Graduate Early and Debt-free

Submitted by on September 29, 2020 – 1:05 pm
Two young woman wearing NECC t-shirts in front of a colorful mural on the Lawrence Campus.

Nicole Affannato and Gladdys Jiminian will graduate with associate degrees for free, thanks to the Promise Program.

Eighteen recent Haverhill and Lawrence High School graduates, who are enrolled at Northern Essex Community College this fall, will earn their associate degrees for free, thanks to the Promise Program.

The program is open to Haverhill and Lawrence students who take Northern Essex Early College courses while in high school and decide to pursue an associate degree at Northern Essex after their high school graduation. All costs are covered including books and a laptop.

Haverhill High School’s Nicole Affannato, a Promise student, didn’t start Early College until she was a senior but she still earned 19 college credits while in high school, which will allow her to graduate a semester early with her Associate Degree in Liberal Arts.

Since she took most of her gen ed classes in high school, Affannato says she was able to “jump right in” this fall, taking courses that will help her explore possible majors, like American Sign Language.

Affannato claims that she “stressed” about paying for college when she was a high school student. “It’s hard to believe this is really free college,” she said.

Gladdys Jiminian, a 2020 Lawrence High School grad, began taking Early College courses her junior year of high school. She started at Northern Essex this fall with a full year of college credits, which will help her fast track her Associate Degree in Biology.

Based on her experiences while in the Early College Program, she says she feels well-prepared for college. “I liked getting the real college experience. Now I feel like I know how to manage college.”

Jiminian plans to transfer for a bachelor’s in the biomedical field after graduating from Northern Essex. Her ultimate goal is to be a pediatrician; a dream she has had since she was a child.

This is the second year of the Promise Program, according to Marcy Yeager, executive director PK12 Partnerships and International Programs.

It was started to help more students access college and graduate, especially lower income students and students of color.

“The goal is to have students graduating with their associate degree a year early and debt-free,” said Yeager. “That way they can continue to build on the momentum of their Early College coursework and complete their degree.”

NECC’s Early College Program allows high school students to enroll in NECC classes as early as their sophomore year of high school. By the time they graduate from high school, they could earn up to 36 college credits, which is more than a full year of college credits.

The college is able to offer the Promise Program in part due to support from the Stevens Foundation and the Cummings Foundation, and is in the process of soliciting funds to provide funding for more students.

“We are working on building an endowment that will enable us to support students like Nicole and Gladdys for years to come,” said Allison Dolan-Wilson, vice president of institutional advancement.

Those interested in learning more about how they can support the program and make a meaningful impact on students, can contact Dolan-Wilson at or 978 556-3624.

Anyone interested in learning more about the Early College or Promise Programs, can contact 978 556-3332 or

Here is a full list of 2020 Haverhill and Lawrence high school graduates who are now  NECC Promise students.

Northern Essex Community College has campuses in both Haverhill and Lawrence. It offers approximately 60 associate degree and certificate programs as well as hundreds of noncredit courses designed for personal enrichment and career growth.  Each year, 6,000 students are enrolled in credit associate degree and certificate programs on the Haverhill and Lawrence campuses; and another 2,000 take noncredit workforce development and community education classes on campus, and at businesses and community sites across the Merrimack Valley.  For more information, visit the website at or call 978-556-3700.