Methuen Student Fought Through Hard Times to Discover Her Passion at NECC
Mya Rivera of Methuen has many qualities that contributed to her success as a recent Northern Essex Community College graduate: she’s determined, she’s a hard worker, and she isn’t afraid to ask for help. But perhaps above all, she has perseverance.
Following graduation from Methuen High School in 2016, Rivera enrolled at two different four-year colleges as a biology major. She says while she enjoyed her classes, she started to feel burned out. “I realized at that time that Biology wasn’t something I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” she remembers. “So, I took a small break and decided that NECC was the most convenient place to go, and I could make it work with my schedule.”
Rivera enrolled at NECC as an Early Childhood Education major in the summer of 2019. She had just started to hit her stride when the pandemic struck.
“The pandemic took a toll on the world, and I was no exception. I worked through the entire pandemic while attending online classes, and during this, my parents were going through an extremely difficult divorce.” Rivera was also mourning her grandmother’s death, with whom she had a very close relationship. “Everything together was overwhelming. With my mental health at some of its worse during this time, staying in touch with friends and holding tight to my religion saved me and brought me to where I am today.”
Today, she has her associate degree in early childhood education after graduating this spring with a 3.62 GPA. She was also recently awarded a $1,000 scholarship from the NECC Fund for her achievement in her honors math course. Rivera credits her professors and the PACE Program for helping her to see what was possible as a student. PACE stands for Pathways to Academic and Career Excellence and helps connect first-generation college students with a variety of services, including scholarships and transfer opportunities.
“The PACE program was honestly a game-changer. They were the most helpful people I have ever met. They made it so convenient to find information, and if you asked about something they didn’t know, they would point you in the right direction or find the answer for you.”
And she says she’s not done with Northern Essex just yet. She’s now working on her second degree, an associate in American Sign Language studies.
“I am someone that has always had a passion for language. I speak both English and Spanish fluently, and my friends have taught me quite a bit of Korean as well. I just love the infinite way words can be used and how these things may transfer into different languages,” she says.
Rivera hopes to eventually work with children with hearing disabilities in hospitals or schools. For now, she’s enjoying taking on this new subject.
“The professors here are always happy to help you and answer any questions. The worst thing you can do is not ask a question and miss an opportunity that would have benefited you.”