A humble pinnacle

North Shore Community College (NSCC) announced on Wednesday that it is one of 10 finalists nationwide for the 2018 Bellwether Award.

The award, according to an NSCC press release, is given annually ” … to community colleges that have implemented cutting-edge, trendsetting and innovative programs with demonstrated success that other colleges might find worthy of replicating.”

NSCC President Patricia A. Gentile called the award “a tremendous honor” and credited its Academic Affairs Division and Dr. Cristy Sugarman and Dr. Karen Hynick ” … for their leadership on projects that earned NSCC consideration for the Bellwether Award.

Ranked first among Massachusetts community colleges by Washington Monthly magazine’s annual College Guide and Rankings, NSCC for 40 years has been a high-achieving but humble school with a Lynn campus and two other sites serving students.

Its Lynn main campus building is aptly named for former Massachusetts House Speaker Thomas W. McGee, a legislator and father of the city’s current mayor who believed in giving people second chances and in jump-starting opportunity.

NSCC faculty and facility employees bring McGee’s words alive every day by educating and providing opportunities for students who are juggling jobs and families in order to enrich their lives.

The students who attend the Lynn campus or go to school in Beverly and Danvers are classified in academic-speak as non-traditional. But Gentile and her colleagues really view the people they educate as adults with job and life experience who now want and need academic and technical skills to broaden their horizons and provide more opportunities for their families.

For as long as it has educated North Shore students, NSCC has conducted prior learning assessments to help find ways to best tailor college programs to people who have taken the leap into getting a college education.

According to information provided by NSCC, student participation in prior learning assessments at NSCC is 68 percent higher than the average number across the other 14 community colleges across the state. The college’s goal is to help students control the amount of money they need to spend on their education and the amount of time required to get a higher education.

NSCC achieved this goal with sufficient documentable success to secure a grant to oversee the design of a statewide website and curriculum crosswalk on prior learning assessment at the 15 community colleges across Massachusetts.

The website and its implications for success for students is an example of achievements that make NSCC worthy of national recognition.

But there are plenty of local reasons for a national spotlight to illuminate the school. It has made strides in educating veterans and provides veteran-oriented job fairs annually. It has reached out to forge alliances with Lynn public schools and workforce training experts on the North Shore and, in Lynn, it has expanded its presence as an economic contributor to the city.

If the Bellwether Award is conferred on NSCC, the news will be a cause for celebration but no real surprise to everyone who knows the school and the contributions it makes every day in the lives of thousands of students and educators.

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