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NECC Celebrates the Classes of 2020 and 2021

Submitted by on May 17, 2021 – 8:44 pm

Biology Grad Narin Khem’s graduation cap summed up the experience of this year’s graduates.

Held on Saturday, May 15, Northern Essex Community College’s 59th Commencement Ceremony was a little different due to the pandemic, but the consensus is that everyone loved it.

Rather than have one large graduation for all graduates, the college scheduled five socially-distanced ceremonies, organized by academic center. And 2020 graduates were included, since their graduation was virtual last year.

There was a student speaker for each ceremony, President Lane Glenn addressed the grads, and the awards that are traditionally presented during commencement were spread out over the five ceremonies.

“When we were planning this year’s graduation, it was very important to us that every graduate be given the opportunity to cross the commencement platform and receive their diploma and their well-deserved spotlight,” said Glenn in his remarks. “Earning a certificate or degree is always something to celebrate, but even more so this year and last year when there were so many obstacles placed in your way as a result of COVID-19.”

Over 1,300 graduates from 2020 and 2021 were celebrated and associate degrees and certificates from over 70 academic programs were awarded. Everyone was masked and there was 3 feet between graduates and 6 feet between guests, following state guidelines.

President Glenn typically shakes the hand of each graduate, which wasn’t possible this year due to safety guidelines. Instead, each graduate received a foam hand that proclaimed “NECC Grads are #1.”  As they crossed the commencement platform, they were given the option of high-fiving (by far the most popular); waving, toe tapping, or elbow bumping.

Here is some background on the graduates:

·         67.4% are women

·         Close to half are first generation college students, meaning they are the first in their family to attend college

·         About half are students of color, including 37% who are Latino

·         35 are veterans

·         The youngest grad was 17 and the oldest grad was 69

Calling this year’s group “one of the most diverse in NECC’s history, President Glenn referred to the college’s mission—which is “to empower a diverse community of learners to meet their individual goals”—and thanked the graduates for “helping us achieve our mission.”

The five commencement speakers included:

Business and Accounting:

Shanna Guy of Newburyport

Associate of Science: Business Transfer: High Honors

Guy attended Northern Essex soon after graduating from Amesbury High School in 2011, but things didn’t go as planned. Seven years later, she came back to finish what she started. This time, she excelled. She will transfer to Merrimack College, UMass Lowell, or Bentley to continue her studies in Accounting.

Shanna Guy’s Speech

Professional Studies:

Shania Berard of Methuen

Associate of Science: Elementary Education, High Honors

Berard decided on her career path as a six-year old at the Tenney Elementary School in Methuen. She has been working full time as a teacher at the Andover Little Sprouts while in college. She is transferring to Merrimack College.

Shania Berard’s Speech

Liberal Arts:

Rosanna Lara of Lawrence

Associate of Science: Public Health, High Honors

The married mother of three, Lara came to Northern Essex after she was laid off from her customer service job. She’s been hired by the college as its contact tracer case manager. She is planning to continue her studies at Regis College, which has a campus in Lawrence.

Rosanna Lara’s Speech


Vladimir Ventura of Lawrence

Associate of Science: Computer Information Sciences: Computer Science Transfer Option, Honors

Ventura is graduating having completed two software engineering internships and with plans to transfer to UMass Lowell to continue his studies. Ventura is an immigrant from the Dominican Republic.

Vladimir Ventura’s Speech

Health Professions:

Paola Sierra de Valerio of Lawrence

Associate of Arts: General Studies: Health Specialization, High Honors

A native of the Dominican Republic, Sierra emigrated from Spain in 2014 to fulfill her dream of graduating from college in the U.S.

Paola Sierra De Valerio’s Speech


Awards Presented Included:


Stephen Fabbrucci, Vice President Emeritus of Human Services (2020)

Gail Feigenbaum, Professor Emerita Early Childhood Education (2021)

Joanna Fortna, Professor Emerita Academic Preparation (2021)

Marilyn McCarthy, Professor Emerita Academic Preparation (2021)

Suzanne Van Wert, Professor Emerita English (2021)

The following individuals were unable to attend a ceremony and received their Emeritus Awards in abstentia:

Kerin Hamidiani, Professor Emerita Dental Assisting (2020)

Nancy Julin, Assistant Dean Emerita of Health Professions (2020)

Patricia Kidney, Professor Emerita of Art & Design (2020)

Jean Poth, Vice President Emerita of Institutional Advancement (2020)

Outstanding Alumni Award:

Mabel Covarrubias-Doucette, Esq., ’12 (2020)

Brian Mohika, ’06 (2021)

Social Justice Award:

Analuz Garcia, Assistant Director, Community & International Relations, NECC

The ceremonies opened with the national anthem sung by graduates Alica Catalano, AA: General Studies: Music Option, High Honors, 2021, and Emily Forisso, AS: Early Childhood Education, High Honors, 2020.

Here is a full list of Commencement 20-21 Grad List of grads.

To learn more about this year’s Commencement, visit the website.