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College Leaders, Community Partners Visit the Dominican Republic

Submitted by on April 21, 2023 – 2:53 pm

Six members of the Northern Essex leadership team, along with several community partners, recently spent a week in the Dominican Republic. With forty percent of Northern Essex students having ties to the Dominican Republic, the cultural immersion trip was a chance to learn more about their experiences.

“We want to be able to understand the culture our students come from to better serve them and to help them be successful,” says NECC President Lane Glenn.

group of people outside of college. colorful flags flank the building

Northern Essex leaders and community partners visit the East Central University in San Pedro de Macoris.

The trip was organized by Vice President of the Lawrence Campus and Community Relations, Noemi Custodia-Lora. It included stops at colleges, high schools and healthcare settings, and meetings with elected officials and higher education leaders. A brave contingent even summited Pico Duarte, the tallest mountain in the Caribbean, at over 10,000 feet.

“There is a real opportunity with this exchange to serve our students and their families. And now we’re coming back and figuring out how to implement things we saw and heard and learned,” reflects Chief Officer of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Francellis Quiñones.

She says they’re already exploring an exchange program for faculty and students at the Santo Domingo Institute of Technology and East Central University. “The first step is for us as schools to be able to share our maps. This is the path; these are the credits. And then align and see what classes could fill those requirements. They were willing and able to offer online courses in topics we don’t have like Dominican history or Caribbean culture.”

leaders pose on top of mountain holding NECC pennant

NECC President Lane Glenn, VP of Institutional Advancement Allison Dolan-Wilson, Chief Officer of JEDI Francellis Quiñones, and VP of the Lawrence Campus and Community Relations Noemi Custodia-Lora atop Pico Duarte.

Quiñones says they hope to make these cultural immersion trips a regular occurrence, offering one in the fall geared toward faculty and staff and one in the spring that would include community partners. On this recent trip, the NECC contingent was joined by representatives from Lawrence General Hospital, Haverhill Public Schools, the Essex County Sheriff’s Department, AgeSpan, and the Lawrence Partnership. “All of them said that they were able to understand the culture better, to figure out ways to bring it back home and make a difference. All shared that they wanted to use this experience to better serve and engage with their staff and clientele,” says Quiñones.

Quiñones says this trip will also help inform the work she is doing to transform the Center for Equity and Social Justice (CESJ) into a hub to connect students with resources in the community. “There is infinite potential to solidify the identity of Northern Essex Community College as a community support and encourage people to take classes because they’re going to be taken care of. Out of the CESJ and those partnerships will come internships, job, and work study opportunities. There were a lot of those ideas that came just from small talk on the trip. Imagine what we can do with real intentionality. The work is ours.”

You can learn more about the Center for Equity and Social Justice and JEDI principles at Northern Essex by visiting this webpage.