Northern Essex Community College Student Wins Rare Slot in International Program

Daniela Valdivia-Terres shares her story at the recent NECC Impact Awards. (Courtesy photograph.)

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Northern Essex Community College journalism student Daniela Valdivia-Terres is one of only 20 first-generation undergraduate students from the U.S.—and the only one from Massachusetts—selected to study this summer at The Hague University of Applied Sciences.

Valdivia-Terres will participate in the Council for Opportunity: Keith Sherin Global Leaders Program, which connects students from around the world to study courses based on the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Classes focus on solving global issues by connecting the public and private sectors.

“I thought it was out of my league. Come on, 20 spots nationwide! Many people would apply who hadn’t traveled overseas. I thought I wouldn’t qualify,” she says.

Valdivia-Terres received assistance with her application from Northern Essex’s Pathways to Academic and Career Excellence—or PACE—program, which helps connect first-generation college students with a variety of services, including scholarships and transfer opportunities. PACE Director Kristin Arnold, along with Journalism Professor Mary Jo Shafer, encouraged her to apply for the highly selective, three-week summer program at The Hague, Netherlands.

Even better, the NECC Foundation granted her a scholarship to cover her tuition for the program.

“I am very thankful for this opportunity to study in Europe. The possibility to learn a country as one of their citizens. International students mingled with students from all over Europe. I can’t wait for that. This is something that I never expected! Regardless of age, take it from someone who is 46 and very well-lived, we are all here (at Northern Essex) because we want to pursue a dream,” she adds.

Born and raised in Lima, Peru, Valdivia-Terres started her own successful travel agency there. She ran her business for four years before moving to the United States with her husband in 2015. She won a small business grant that year, which she used to start Vibra Tours USA, a travel agency in Lawrence. She specialized in crafting full-day tours and getaways to destinations around New England for Spanish speakers.

She took a break from the tourism business in 2017 when she became pregnant with her daughter. Unable to spend 12 hours a day on her feet leading tours, she enrolled in a free, four-month NECC program called the Basics of Business. She says, “It was such a great experience as every faculty member I encountered was so knowledgeable and student-focused. They ignited my desire to achieve a degree and convinced me I could pursue the American dream through my studies.”

When the pandemic further sidelined Valdivia-Terres’s travel business, she pivoted to create her own digital marketing agency and turned to Northern Essex Business Professor Sheila Muller for more training.

She is the Campus Life Editor for the student newspaper, the NECC Observer, and a member of the college honors society Phi Theta Kappa. She has won several writing and journalism awards and received the “PACE Citizenship Award.”

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