Margarita Gonzalez had earned a bachelor’s degree in teaching in the Dominican Republic, but when she came to the United States, she found herself working at a McDonald’s until she heard about PIÉS Latinos de NECC. The Northern Essex Community College (NECC) program helps immigrants with high school diplomas, college credits and other certifications from their countries of origin to reach their professional potential here in Massachusetts. Today, Gonzalez is an assistant teacher in the town of Lawrence.
On May 1st, the Boston Foundation announced that PIÉS Latinos de NECC is the recipient of the 5th Annual Deval Patrick Prize for Community Colleges. NECC was selected for the $50,000 award. Since 2016, the program has evaluated the credentials of more than 600 immigrants, including dozens with university degrees from foreign countries, helping them gain credits and/or enroll in coursework that moves them into and through higher education in Massachusetts at NECC and other institutions.
As a result, the program addresses the issue of ‘brain waste’ in the Merrimack Valley, where immigrants with education backgrounds or credentials from other countries are forced into low-wage, low-skill jobs because those credentials are not accepted or understood here.