by Mike LaBella, Eagle Tribune
Immigrants with educational or work credentials they acquired in their native land are getting a helping hand in having their education and career skills recognized and understood in this country.
Since 2016, Northern Essex Community College's PIÉS (pronounced PS) Latinos de NECC program has helped 600 local immigrants to validate their academic credentials, including dozens with university degrees from foreign countries, helping them gain credits or enroll in coursework that moves them into and through higher education in Massachusetts, at NECC and other institutions.
Noemi Custodia-Lora, vice president of NECC's Lawrence campus, said the PIÉS program hosts several open house events each year for immigrant residents with professional credentials who are looking to take the next step.
"We set up one-on-one meetings and outline the steps needed to either continue their education or how they can validate their degree so they can get a professional job," she said.
As one example, she said a man in his early 40s who was attending a university in the Dominican Republic for engineering moved to Lawrence, and with the help of the program, most of his college credits were accepted at NECC, where he took a few more classes then transferred to UMass Lowell.
"He will now be able to finish his engineering degree," Custodia-Lora said. "It's really about empowering people and giving them the information they need."
In recognition of the successes of the PIÉS program, the Boston Foundation recently presented Northern Essex with the annual $50,000 Deval Patrick Prize for Community Colleges.