Northern Essex Community College program PIÉS Latinos de NECC wins 2019 Patrick Prize for Community Colleges

Rapidly growing program ensures skilled immigrants can build upon their education to reach their professional potential

May 1, 2019

Lane Glenn Noemi Custodia Lora and Rosalin Acosta
Northen Essex Community College President Lane Glenn and Vice President Noemi Custodia-Lora with Mass. Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Rosalin Acosta

Boston The Boston Foundation is pleased to announce that Northern Essex Community College has been selected as the recipient of the 5th Annual Deval Patrick Prize for Community Colleges. The College was selected for the $50,000 award in recognition of PIÉS Latinos de NECC, a program established in 2016 to help immigrants with college credits and/or high school diplomas with additional certifications/training from other countries to reach their professional potential.

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’ among the Merrimack Valley immigrants, where immigrants with strong education backgrounds or credentials from other countries are forced into low-wage, low-skill jobs because those credentials are not accepted or understood here.

Rosalin Acosta
Rosalin Acosta shared stories of her family's dedication to community colleges before awarding the prize. 

“At a time when we know demand for skilled workers is high, this program opens doors for hundreds of talented students who can fill those roles, but deserve credit for the relevant work they have done,” said Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation. “We applaud NECC for its creative and effective approach – knowing that it is just one example of the remarkable work going on at the Commonwealth’s community colleges.”

The PIÉS program works with students at a number of levels – from those who come in with robust credentials but may need volunteer work, academic ESL or other coursework at NECC to continue their studies at NECC or a four-year school, to those with high school diplomas or technical certificates who would benefit from work-based training or stackable, portable credits in addition to having their high school diploma validated.

As a result, the program reaches beyond simply validating participants’ experience to give them strategic pathways to better careers in areas like education and information technology.

NECC PIES team
The Northern Essex Community College PIES Latinos de NECC team with Secretary Acosta

“Community colleges are strengthened by the diversity and experience of our students, as we work to launch them on a road to future success,” said Lane Glenn, President of Northern Essex Community College. “PIÉS Latinos de NECC ensures that immigrant students not only get the credit for academic and work experience that they deserve, the program helps them navigate the best possible path to their personal, professional and academic goals.”

Northern Essex Community College was recognized at an event at the Boston Foundation on May 1. Earlier in the day, the Foundation released a new report from authors Richard Kazis and Nancy Snyder that highlighted the need and opportunity for the Commonwealth to create policies and programs that increase access to paid internships for community college students.

Called Uncovering Hidden Talent: Community College Internships that Pay and Pay Off for Students and Employers, the report examines models from other states, as well as Massachusetts programs, as possible models for an expanded internship program, and lays out some frames for how such a program could work in Massachusetts.

The report is now available on TBF.org.