By Ellen Small Davis
Special to the Gazette
---- — As a young boy growing up in Serbia, Milovan Jovic never would have imagined that in a decade he would be writing his own version of the American dream.
But that is exactly what this 21-year-old Northern Essex Community College engineering science student is doing. Jovic, a Haverhill resident who holds a 4.0 grade point average, recently received the Covanta Energy Corporation Scholarship for $1,000.
He was one of nearly 200 NECC students and one of more than 50 Haverhill residents to share about $178,000 in NECC scholarship money — a record amount for the school.
Jovic was 6 years old when he, his parents, and older brother fled the Serbian civil war in 1999. They arrived in Boston under a federal refugee program. None of them could speak English.
Displaced and dazed, his family lived in Lynn for a while. There, Jovic attended school as an English-as-a-second language student. By the time he entered middle school, his family had settled in Beverly and he was fluent in English.
By his own admission, Jovic was not a serious student until he neared the end of high school, when he gave greater focus to his academics, enrolling in advanced placement calculus and physics and dual enrollment classes with UMass Lowell. Following his 2011 graduation from Beverly High School, he enrolled in a four-year college. Though he had the motivation, he didn’t have the money to continue.
Back in Beverly, while playing basketball in the park, he met a fellow Beverly High School graduate whose ambition matched his own. Zuleyka was born in Puerto Rico. She was 3 years old when her family moved first to Boston and then Beverly. When she met Jovic, she was a nursing assistant at Beverly Hospital while attending Northern Essex full time. She encouraged him to enroll at NECC because it was more affordable, and he took her advice.
“Northern Essex is less expensive, yet the quality is much the same,’’ Jovic said. “It really comes down to how much you are willing to study.’’
He took her advice and enrolled at NECC — and she took his heart. They married and both continued taking classes at Northern Essex. She continued to work at Beverly Hospital and he, an electrical engineering student who reads Dostoyevsky, was hired as a test technician at BAE, a developer of defense, security and aerospace systems, in Nashua, N.H.
Zuleyka hopes to enter a nursing program, having already completed all her prerequisite classes. While she waits, she is taking additional math and science classes which she can apply toward a bachelor of science degree in nursing.
Less determined college students might be intimidated by parenthood, but the Jovics welcomed the arrival of their daughter, Eridana, this summer and are undeterred in their quest to earn an education and create careers.
“While working at BAE, I continue to develop my experience, which will go a long way when I start working toward my bachelor’s degree,’’ Jovic said.
Once Jovic graduates with his associate’s degree from NECC, he will be elevated to engineering assistant at BAE. While he believes that all engineering jobs have a “cool factor,’’ Jovic said his “ideal’’ job is field engineer — a position he aspires to and one he hopes will involve travel.
Though currently on maternity leave, Zuleyka, will return to work and school in September in her quest to eventually become a certified, nurse mid-wife.
Both are members of the NECC chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society, and Jovic serves as the student representative on the NECC Alumni Association Board. He also worked for a semester as a Supplemental Instructor in a math classroom. He said it is a position that helped him with his own communication and social skills, talents that have proved invaluable in the work place.
“Some think we are too young,’’ Zuleyka said of the responsibilities which husband and wife have taken on. “But we are busy and we are very ambitious. We prove that despite our age, things can be done.’’
Jean Poth, vice president of institutional advancement at NECC, said without the financial support of local people, many Northern Essex students could not afford to take classes and build their futures.
“Our students like Milovan are deeply appreciative of the many generous individuals and organizations who make these scholarships possible,” Poth said. “For many of our students, a scholarship is what allows them to stay in school.”
These students from Haverhill and Bradford were among the 200 NECC scholarship winners receiving a record number of $178,000:
Anthony Buccini, NECC Foundation, Inc. Scholarship
Olga Hartzavalos, NECC Foundation, Inc. Scholarship
Linda Kenfack, NECC Foundation, Inc. Scholarship
Susan Macdonald, LeBlanc Family Scholarship
Rebecca Purcell, Donald Pailes Memorial Scholarship
Sabrina Sawyer, NECC Foundation, Inc. Incoming Freshman Scholarship
Eliara Aquino, NECC PACE Program Transfer Scholarship
Ernie Aquino, NECC PACE Program Scholarship
Annette Costantini, NECC Foundation, Inc. Scholarship
Jason DeCosta, NECC PACE Program Transfer Scholarship
Eric English, NECC PACE Program Transfer Scholarship
Isidro Estrada, NECC PACE Program Transfer Scholarship
Susan Fritchy, NECC Foundation, Inc. Incoming Freshman Scholarship
Melissa Grondin, NECC Foundation, Inc. Scholarship
Dana Haggar, NECC PACE Program Transfer Scholarship
Mary Harris, NECC PACE Program Scholarship
Elizabeth Harrison, Haverhill Bank Scholarship
Laura Hastings, Rotary Club of Haverhill Scholarship
Samantha Hastings, NECC Foundation, Inc. Scholarship
Katherine Jarvis, NECC Foundation, Inc. Scholarship
Molly Krugh, Women of NECC Scholarship
Ryan LaRochelle, McConnell Family Memorial Nursing Scholarship
Alexandra McArthur, Attorney Joseph C. Edwards Scholarship
Shianne McGilvray, Deborah Pifer Memorial Scholarship
Kwabena Mensah, Lars G. Nichols Memorial Scholarship
Justin Merced, NECC Honors Experience Scholarship
Jessica Palmer, NECC Foundation, Inc. Scholarship
Tianna Parolisi, Everett & Margaret Cooper Memorial Scholarship
Dawn Pendleton, Women of NECC Scholarship
Marie Phillips, Agnes & Francis J. Bevilacqua Scholarship
Margaret Provencher, Eugene F. Connolly Memorial Scholarship
Margaret Provencher, Attorney Joseph C. Edwards Scholarship
Sam Rahiminejad, Pentucket Bank Scholarship
Elizabeth Rosado, Attorney Joseph C. Edwards Scholarship
Heidy Rosario, Women of NECC Scholarship
Luz Rosario, NECC Foundation, Inc. Scholarship
Monika Saini, NECC Foundation, Inc. Scholarship
Nairoby Sanchez, NECC Student Leadership Development Scholarship
Rachael Sarcione, Deborah Pifer Memorial Scholarship
Jessica Stuckey, NECC Foundation, Inc. Scholarship
Matthew Tascon, Rotary Club of Haverhill Scholarship