When Northern Essex Community College conducted its 59th Commencement last Saturday, there were five separate ceremonies owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rather than one large graduation for all graduates, there were five socially distanced ceremonies, organized by academic center, and included those 2020 graduates who missed out on an in-person event last year. Northern Essex President Lane A. Glenn addressed all graduates and awards were spread out over the five ceremonies.
“When we were planning this year’s graduation, it was very important to us that every graduate be given the opportunity to cross the commencement platform and receive their diploma and their well-deserved spotlight,” said Glenn in his remarks. “Earning a certificate or degree is always something to celebrate, but even more so this year and last year when there were so many obstacles placed in your way as a result of COVID-19.”
There was a student speaker for each ceremony with Shania Berard of Methuen, representing Professional Studies; Shanna Guy of Newburyport, Business and Accounting; Rosanna Lara of Lawrence, Liberal Arts; Vladimir Ventura of Lawrence, STEM; and Paola Sierra de Valerio of Lawrence, Health Professions.
More than 1,300 graduates from 2020 and 2021 were celebrated and associate degrees and certificates from more than 70 academic programs were awarded. Everyone was masked and there was three feet between graduates and six feet between guests.
Of graduates 67.4% are women, close to half are first generation college students; half are students of color, including 37% who are Latino; 35 are veterans; and the youngest grad was 17 while the oldest grad was 69.