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NECC Celebrates the Class of 2024 

Submitted by on May 20, 2024 – 8:03 pm

Haverhill, MA (May 18, 2024) – Mother Nature must be a fan of Northern Essex Community College’s class of 2024. The rain held off just long enough for a dry 62nd Annual Commencement ceremony on the Haverhill Campus.

More than 700 students earned certificates or degrees. Approximately 400 of those students, along with thousands of family members, friends, and supporters, gathered for the May 18th celebration.

NECC President Lane Glenn opened the ceremony with words of encouragement for the class of 2024. “During your time at NECC, you have faced challenges, you have all been through the fire, and you know how it feels. You are stronger and as prepared as any generation that has come before you to take your grit and do great things with it.”

President Lane Glenn presents student speaker Akira Matos with her diploma.

Biology major and student speaker Akira Matos echoed that sentiment in her speech. She recalled a unit from her Early College English class on the Hero’s Journey.

“Maybe it’s me being nostalgic, or maybe it’s the realization that we as a whole are going through our very own impossible quest,” she said. “For some, NECC is only the beginning, act 1 of the call to adventure, or maybe you’re already in act 2 and crossing the threshold into new territory with your degree in hand. No matter the stage, we are still on our way.”

Matos shared how she never thought she’d go to college at all, let alone be chosen to speak at graduation. As a metal fabrication student at Whittier Tech., she sometimes struggled academically. But when she started taking Early College classes at NECC, she discovered the different pace and expectations suited her. Then, she learned that she could continue her education at NECC for free under the NECC Promise Program. Matos is already enrolled at UMass Lowell and studying for her bachelor’s degree in biology. She plans to eventually go to medical school to become an ophthalmologist.

Rep. Lori Trahan gets her own NECC Volleyball jersey

Matos was followed by this year’s featured commencement speaker, US Congresswoman Lori Trahan. She urged the class of 2024 to use the same determination to finish their degrees to create the future they want for themselves and their families.

“Don’t for a second let anyone tell you that our best days are behind us. We are a country that is going to continue improving with each generation,” said Rep. Trahan. “Now more than ever, we need you to vote. We need you to use your voice for the causes you care about. We need you to push for progress. Our nation has always benefited when young people lead the way. There’s no better example of that than here in Massachusetts.”

Read the full text of the Congresswoman’s speech here: Commencement Address.

Following her remarks, President Glenn presented Rep. Trahan with her very own custom NECC volleyball jersey. Trahan was a standout volleyball player at Lowell High School. She earned a scholarship to play at Georgetown University, where she became the first in her family to attend college.

Winnie is quite pleased to earn her puppy school certificate

This year’s ceremony featured a surprise special guest: Winnie, NECC’s comfort dog in training, received a certificate for completion of her first puppy school class.

Social Justice Award

Health and Human Services Professor Brian MacKenna-Rice receives the Social Justice Award

Human Services Professor Brian MacKenna-Rice received this year’s Social Justice Award. The award recognizes individuals, groups, departments, or initiatives at the college that promote values such as a commitment to equity and diversity or the advancement of human rights and social justice.

President Glenn recognized MacKenna-Rice for his commitment to addressing issues of race, class, and privilege as shown in his appreciation and honor of NECC’s Hispanic student population and their cultural diaspora.

The social justice award comes with a cash prize of $1961 (in honor of the year of NECC’s founding) that the recipient can use to advance social justice initiatives at Northern Essex.

Emeritus Recipient

Dr. Stephen Slaner receives Emeritus status

Also, at the 62nd annual commencement, a longtime faculty member received emeritus status. Dr. Stephen Slaner retired this year after 17 years of service to the college. In his time at Northern Essex, Professor Slaner served as chair of the global studies department and as advisor to the Global Politics Club.

Dr. Slaner worked to establish a chapter of the Students for a Democratic Society at NECC and served as a faculty adviser for many years.

President Glenn stated that Dr. Slaner brought a high level of intellectual discourse to his students in the many classes he taught in Political Science and History, including a class on the History of the Vietnam War and one on the History of Film. Since his retirement, Dr. Slaner has continued to teach and enhance the intellectual life of the college.

At Northern Essex, the emeritus rank is an honor that recognizes sustained excellence in performance, character, and meritorious service to the college.

A recording of Saturday’s ceremony can be found on the NECC YouTube page. To learn more about NECC’s 2023 Commencement and see additional photos, visit the webpage.