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From High School Drop Out to High Honors College Grad

Submitted by on May 10, 2021 – 9:29 pm

Michelle Colbert-Mason of Haverhill has been selected as the student speaker for NECC’s Center for Liberal Arts Graduation Ceremony.

Michelle Colbert-Mason dropped out of Haverhill High School when she was 16, but she didn’t skip a beat, earning her GED later that year, and enrolling in college at the age of 17.

On May 15, Colbert-Mason, now 20, will graduate from Northern Essex Community College with high honors and a degree in Liberal Arts: Journalism/Communications Option, and plans to transfer on for a bachelor’s in communications. She has been selected to be the student speaker for the Center for Liberal Arts Commencement Ceremony.

While her high school experience was challenging—she experienced bullying—she doesn’t dwell on it. “You can’t let setbacks hold you back,” she says. “I’ve found that anything is possible if you set your mind to it.”

Colbert-Mason’s goal is to become a broadcast journalist—Oprah Winfrey is an inspiration—and she plans to continue her studies in communication at Boston University, Northwestern, Northeastern, Simmons, Emerson, or UMass Amherst. She’s applied to all and is waiting to compare financial aid packages, since she’s paying for college herself and affordability is important.

Even before the pandemic, Colbert-Mason took most of her courses online, and because of her success with that format, she was hired as a student ambassador this year to help students new to online learning.

Students who are struggling are referred by faculty to Colbert-Mason and the other student ambassadors, who help connect them with tutoring and other support services.

At Northern Essex, Colbert-Mason also participated in Phi Theta Kappa, a national honor society; worked in the Liberal Arts Academic Center; and was in PACE, a federally-funded academic support service for first generation college students.

All in all, Colbert-Mason has had an overwhelmingly positive experience at Northern Essex.

“I’m so happy to have found Northern Essex and stuck with it,” she says. “I met great people, learned a lot about myself, and found more responsibility.”

This year, due to the pandemic, Northern Essex Community College is holding five smaller graduation ceremonies on Saturday, May 15 on the Haverhill Campus, organized by academic center. Each ceremony will include a student speaker and traditional awards will be presented throughout the day. Students will have the opportunity to cross the commencement stage and receive their well-earned associate degree or certificate.