Promise Program Allows Early College Students to Attend Northern Essex Community College Free

Early College students Gladdys Jiminian of Lawrence High School and Nicole Affannato of Haverhill High School. (Courtesy photographs.)

Eighteen recent Haverhill and Lawrence High School graduates, who are enrolled in Early College this fall at Northern Essex Community College, will earn their associate degrees for free, because of the Promise Program.

The program is open to Haverhill and Lawrence students who take college courses while in high school and decide to pursue an associate degree at Northern Essex after high school graduation. All costs are covered including books and a laptop.

Haverhill High School’s Nicole Affannato, a Promise student, didn’t start Early College until she was a senior, but she still earned 19 college credits while in high school, which allows her to graduate a semester early with her associate degree in Liberal Arts.

Since she took most of her general education classes in high school, Affanato says she was able to “jump right in” this fall, taking courses that will help her explore possible majors, like American Sign Language.

Affannato said she “stressed” about paying for college when she was a high school student. “It’s hard to believe this is really free college,” she said.

Gladdys Jiminian, a 2020 Lawrence High School grad, began taking Early College courses her junior year of high school. She started at Northern Essex this fall with a full year of college credits, which will help her fast track her associate degree in Biology.

Jiminian plans to transfer for a bachelor’s in the biomedical field after graduating from Northern Essex. Her ultimate goal is to be a pediatrician—a dream she has had since a child.

This is the second year of the Promise Program, according to Marcy Yeager, executive director of the college’s PK-12 Partnerships and International Programs.

She said “The goal is to have students graduating with their associate degree a year early and debt-free,” said Yeager. “That way they can continue to build on the momentum of their Early College coursework and complete their degree.”

The Early College Program allows high school students to enroll at Northern Essex as early as their sophomore year of high school. By the time they graduate from high school, they could earn up to 36 college credits, which is more than a full year of college credits.

The college is able to offer the Promise Program in part due to support from the Stevens Family Foundation and the Cummings Foundation. It is in the process of raising more money for the program.

“We are working on building an endowment that will enable us to support students like Nicole and Gladdys for years to come,” said Allison Dolan-Wilson, vice president of institutional advancement.

Those interested in learning more about how they can support the program and make a meaningful impact on students, can contact Dolan-Wilson at [email protected] or 978-556-3624.

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