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NECC Knight to Attend Tufts University This Fall

Submitted by on July 13, 2023 – 4:19 pm

It was in upstate New York, while playing summer baseball for the Elmira Pioneers, that Cooper Smith ’23 first heard about Northern Essex Community College. Several of his teammates, including fellow class of 2023 graduate Tristan Ciampa, were already enrolled at the college and regularly raved about the quality of its academic and athletic programs. By summer’s end, Smith was sold – he wanted to enroll.

Baseball player Cooper Smith, NECC Class of 2023

Cooper Smith ’23

The team wasted no time in getting Smith set up with the connections to make that possible.

“[Ciampa] got me in touch with NECC’s Coach Mejia and was ultimately the one who convinced me to transfer there,” he says.

Now, just a year later, both Smith and Ciampa have been recruited to elite universities, where they will continue their athletic and academic careers this fall.

For Smith, who is originally from Bloomington, Minnesota, the past year at NECC has been a whirlwind. He enrolled at Northern Essex in the fall of 2022, and before long made his mark as a high honors business transfer student and as a member of the Knights baseball team, which recently completed its second most successful season in program history, finishing third in the NJCAA World Series. He graduated last month with a 4.0 GPA and has been admitted to Tufts University, where he will pursue a bachelor’s degree in economics while playing for the Jumbos, the university’s baseball team.

For all of his success on the NECC baseball team, Smith says that it was actually a different type of team altogether – the student support staff – that made his experience on campus especially memorable and positive. He particularly credits his academic coach, Pam Belmonte, with helping him achieve his goals and making him feel comfortable in a new community far from Minnesota.

“I attended academic coaching meetings nearly every week with Pam,” he says. “She was a major contributor in my academic journey to Tufts… Pam is one of the nicest people I have ever met and made me feel at home.”

Smith is also quick to mention the number of faculty and staff who were willing to go above and beyond just to help him afford the next step in his academic journey. Upon being accepted to Tufts University, Smith says, he reached out to CFO Mike McCarthy, a Tufts alum, to see whether McCarthy had any helpful tips to share about obtaining financial aid from the university. McCarthy not only gave him helpful advice, but also helped secure a scholarship for him.

“Through his guidance on my behalf, I was able to get a scholarship through the NECC Foundation. I was both honored and grateful to be able to receive this scholarship from Northern Essex Community College.”

Without him, Smith believes, and without the help of Belmonte as well as baseball coach Jeff Mejia, the opportunity to attend Tufts and play on their baseball team would never have been possible.

While he eagerly awaits the start of his academic career at Tufts, Smith will resume a summer position playing in upstate New York for the Elmira Pioneers, where he will once again join a number of his NECC peers – this time with the knowledge of everything the college has to offer, and all thanks to the teammates who got him his start here.