Two Northern Essex Students Receive State Educators’ Scholarship
Two students from Northern Essex Community College were among just six students from across the state honored at this year’s Massachusetts Educational Opportunity Association (MEOA) Scholarship Awards in Falmouth, MA.
Recipients Anthony Severino and Maria “Ampa” Cubias are both involved in NECC’s Pathways to Academic & Career Excellence Program (PACE), a TRiO Student Support Services program that assists first-generation, low-income, or disabled students to graduate and transfer to four-year colleges.
MEOA awards $750 scholarships annually to TRiO students who have demonstrated the ability to overcome significant obstacles and attain educational excellence.
Criminal Justice major Ampa Cubias, of Haverhill, is originally from El Salvador. She moved to the United States with her family when she was a teenager, in part to escape the dangerous political climate at the time. “As problems arose, it was impossible for people to obtain any sort of education,” she recalls.
Cubais says one of the most difficult parts of her journey was learning a new language. “I remember when I was in high school, students made fun of my pronunciation, and at that moment, I knew I had to put more effort and learn and to demonstrate to myself that everything was possible.” It didn’t take long to see the results of working hard and not giving up. “I can tell you, that I do have the confidence that I can make anything possible in my life, and for that, I must work diligently, and I am not going to stop giving my all until I reach the finish line,” she says.
Cubais credits the PACE Program with helping her maintain that focus. As a straight-A student, she is on track to graduate in the Spring of 2025. She plans to transfer to a four-year school to get her bachelor’s degree.
“If there is a phrase to describe the PACE/TRiO Program, I would say ‘unconditional love.’ They make me feel part of a family. They are always welcoming and always making sure they are available for us when we need them.”
Business Transfer student Anthony Severino also appreciates the family-like atmosphere of support PACE provides. Though born in New York City, his parents moved the family back to their home country of the Dominican Republic when he and his twin sister were in elementary school. He says the transition was very difficult, and he struggled until he discovered a love of basketball in high school. “I used to play basketball every day after class and made friends for a lifetime. That eventually led me to want to study sports management.”
Severino knew his options would be limited after high school if he stayed in the DR. So, he and his sister made the difficult choice to move to the United States, without their parents, to pursue higher education.
“It was very difficult for me to leave my parents; they meant everything to me,” he says of that emotional time. “Ultimately, I decided to move to help them in the future. Knowing they are getting up in age and also understanding that the USA offers better opportunities than DR, I decided to move.”
The siblings settled in Lawrence in the summer of 2022 and enrolled in Northern Essex for the fall semester. At first, Severino says he struggled trying to adjust to so many changes. “I always had my mother to remind me of things to do, but here I had no one. I had to organize myself to work a part-time job at Market Basket, attend college as a full-time student, and do other activities such as gym and church.” He did well in three of his four classes that first semester but wound up failing English Composition because he didn’t turn assignments in on time. Realizing that he would not only have to take the class again but also pay for it again, made him vow not to make the same mistake twice. “That led me to tremendous focus during my second semester at NECC, accomplishing my goal to pass all my classes -16 credits in total. I, as of now, have a 3.44 GPA.”
Wrap-around services provided by PACE helped Severino along the way. “I love the workshops where we learn about different activities in relation to NECC and the college experience. Most importantly, we created a special bond that is like a family, something I am really appreciative of.” Severino has begun looking at transfer opportunities and is especially interested in attending a four-year school in Boston to pursue that sports management degree.
MEOA is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization made up of educators, policymakers, private sector professionals, and others committed to ensuring that secondary and post-secondary educational opportunities are appropriate and accessible to students from disadvantaged backgrounds.