It's long been said that Haverhill and its residents are lucky to have Northern Essex Community College.

The school provides an affordable education to people who otherwise might not go to college.

It allows people just out of high school a place to explore their college interests, rather than going away to a four-year school only to find they made a mistake — and become deep in debt.

Yosmarlin Infante knows this better than most. She's living it.

The 20-year-old Haverhill woman was uncertain what kind of career she wanted to pursue after she graduated from Haverhill High School in 2012.

So she took the NECC route famous for giving young people that chance to breathe a bit and take their time making one of the biggest decisions of their lives.

During her relatively brief time at Northern Essex, Infante has figured it out. She's decided to pursue film making and will be transferring at one point to another college which offers classes in that major field of study. (See story, Page 1.)

"I didn't want to go to a four-year school until I knew what I wanted to be," Infante told reporter Sara Brown. "Plus, the first two years of school are pretty much the same everywhere and Northern Essex is affordable. College isn't cheap." 

Indeed.

And although NECC is more affordable than most colleges, making financial ends meet can still be difficult there for some students.

Infanta is among them. But NECC's financial aid program has made it possible for her to be the first person in her family to attend college. She also got some other help.

She is the first recipient of the school's John Guarino Scholarship, named in memory of a longtime teacher there.

So NECC is known for its affordability and offering other ways to help its students financially.

But there's more, according to Infanta.

"Even if you feel stuck, there is always somebody there to help and guide you,'' she said of the NECC staff. "You've just got to ask for it. Everyone there is so friendly.'' 

Haverhill and the region are indeed lucky to have Northern Essex Community College.

Here's hoping countless other students find the kind of success there that Yosmarlin Infante did.

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