Menu button
Home » Alumni, Mobile, Students & Alumni

From Community College to Ivy League

Submitted by on May 16, 2022 – 3:59 pm
Andrew Cahaly

NECC alumnus Andrew Cahaly’19

Five years ago, Andrew Cahaly ’19 was a high school student taking dual enrollment courses through Northern Essex Community College. Today he is headed to a PhD program at Cornell University.

Originally from West Newbury, Cahaly has long taken a self-disciplined approach to learning. He was homeschooled from an early age, with guidance from his parents, NECC instructors Jim and Diann Cahaly, and by the time he was a junior in high school, had registered at NECC through the dual enrollment program.

“This was a great opportunity for me to get a head start on college while fulfilling my high school requirements,” he says.

Cahaly took his first course at NECC in spring of 2016, during his junior year. He recalls being intimidated with the idea of beginning college classes so early, but was surprised to find that the format at NECC meshed well with the self-disciplined learning he was familiar with at home.

“I felt immediately at ease with how supportive the professors were and how friendly the other students were… I realized that NECC was a place where all students were given every chance to thrive and succeed.”

By time he graduated from high school, Cahaly, feeling comfortable with the community college environment, decided to stay at NECC for one more year to finish up an associate degree in engineering, as well as an associate degree in computer and information science, fields that he developed a passion for after taking a range of upper-level math and science courses.

“The computer science classes I took with Professor Michael Penta helped me to become a good programmer,” he says. “In short, my overall education at NECC is a major reason why I will be able to pursue my PhD.”

Cahaly graduated from NECC in 2019 and transferred to Union College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering this spring – as well as an impressive award. In March, Cahaly received news that he had earned a first-place honor in the national American Society of Mechanical Engineering Old Guard Competition. He says that he was “surprised” to earn this, but was pleased to know that the judges saw the potential in his work and research.

“I was certainly surprised to win the award,” he says. “It was an honor to represent both Union College and NECC at an event with competitors from around the world.”

Cahaly hopes to one day become a professor, a career that sparked his interest while he was working in NECC’s math and science tutoring center, where he helped other students find academic success.

For now, he looks forward to spending the next several years earning credentials toward a PhD in computational fluid mechanics at Cornell, and looks back with pride at the institution that got him there.

“I can firmly say that the major reason I am able to attend Cornell for a Ph.D. this fall is because of the education I received at NECC,” he says.

NECC offers a range of degrees and pathways in engineering science, including associate degrees in engineering science: advanced manufacturing and engineering science: technology option. To learn more, please visit