She Had a Career Plan in First Grade
Shania Berard decided on her career path as a six-year old at the Tenney Grammar School in Methuen.
She admired her teacher, Miss Ata, so much that she adopted her mannerisms. “She would walk around with her hands in her back pockets and I started to do that,” says Berard. “I knew as a first grader that I wanted to be a teacher.”
Now, 14 years later, she is on the path to having her own elementary school classroom.
After graduating from Methuen High School in 2019, Berard enrolled in the Elementary Education Program at Northern Essex Community College, which transfers into bachelor’s degree programs at four-year colleges and universities.
With an almost perfect 3.95 GPA, Berard has been selected to be the commencement speaker for the commencement ceremony for the Center for Professional Studies Graduation Ceremony, which includes educational studies, criminal justice, human services, American Sign Language studies, and early childhood education.
While in college, Berard has been working as a teacher at the Andover Little Sprouts, an experience which has affirmed her career decision.
“I love my job. My students are my world; they teach me everything,” she says. “I’m so thankful to be 20-years old and wake up and love my job.”
In the fall, Berard will transfer to Merrimack College and complete her bachelor’s degree in elementary education.
She has two older sisters and is the first in her family of five to attend college.
Being a participant in the PACE Program, a federally funded support program for first generation college students has helped her navigate college. “I’m a first generation college student so I didn’t know how everything worked. They taught me everything,” she says. “Led me to scholarships, broke down my financial aid, helped with transfer. If it wasn’t for the PACE Program, I wouldn’t know what I was doing.”
Berard is paying for college herself, so affordability is important. An excellent student in high school, she felt that starting at Northern Essex would be the most affordable route to her teaching degree.
“I’m proud to be a student from NECCO,” she says. “Starting here really put me on track for a bright future.”
Her parents are also “extremely proud” and plan to be there cheering her on at the May 15 Commencement Ceremony. “It was a huge thing, to know that I’m going to walk the stage and give a speech. It is so crazy. I am honored.”
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.