Daniela Valdivia-Terres and NECC President Lane Glenn

Daniela Valdivia-Terres and NECC President Lane Glenn.

HAVERHILL — Northern Essex Community College journalism student Daniela Valdivia-Terres will be the only student from Massachusetts, and one of just two from New England, heading to The Hague University of Applied Sciences for three weeks.

Their group will connect with students from around the world to study courses based on the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Classes will focus on solving global issues by connecting the public and private sectors.

Valdivia-Terres said she was even more excited to learn that a NECC Foundation scholarship would cover her tuition.

“I am very thankful for this opportunity to study in Europe,” she said. “The possibility to learn a country as one of their citizens. International students mingled with students from all over Europe. I can’t wait for that. This is something that I never expected! Regardless of age, take it from someone who is 46 and very well-lived; we are all here [at NECC] because we want to pursue a dream.”

Valdivia-Terres said she has always had a love for traveling and adventure. But never did Valdivia-Terres imagine when she started community college where it would take her.

Valdivia-Terres was born and raised in Lima, Peru, where she started her own successful travel agency. She ran her business for four years before moving to the U.S with her husband in 2015.

Valdivia-Terres won a small-business grant that year which she used to start Vibra Tours USA, a travel agency in Lawrence. She specialized in crafting full-day tours and getaways to destinations around New England for Spanish speakers.

Valdivia-Terres took a break from the tourism business in 2017 when she became pregnant with her daughter. Unable to spend 12 hours a day on her feet leading tours, she enrolled in a free, four-month NECC program called the Basics of Business.

“It was such a great experience as every faculty member I encountered was so knowledgeable and student-focused,” she said. “They ignited my desire to achieve a degree and convinced me I could pursue the American dream through my studies.”

When the pandemic further sidelined Valdivia-Terres’ travel business, she pivoted to create her own digital marketing agency.

“Over the course of my life, I have had many interactions with people which demonstrated the importance of communication, language, and the way we speak to each other,” she explained.

She used this knowledge, along with skills learned from online tutorials, to help other local businesses with social media, but soon realized she needed more structured classes.

So Valdivia-Terres contacted business professor Sheila Muller, who she first met in the Basics of Business course, enrolled at Northern Essex, and quickly became a leader both in and outside the classroom.

“I had this misconception of community college. People were saying you go to a community college, and it’ll be easy. Once I started, that perception went away,” she remembered. “The professors are very experienced, and they can challenge students. I like to be challenged.”

She is the campus life editor for the student newspaper, the NECC Observer, and a member of the college honors society Phi Theta Kappa. She has won several writing and journalism awards and received the PACE Citizenship Award.

The Pathways to Academic & Career Excellence program helps connect first-generation college students with a variety of services, including scholarships and transfer opportunities.

Valdivia-Terres said PACE Director Kristin Arnold, along with journalism professor Mary Jo Shafer, encouraged her to apply for the highly selective Council for Opportunity: Keith Sherin Global Leaders Program. Only 20 low-income or first-generation undergraduate students from the U.S. are selected for the program to study at The Hague, Netherlands, each summer.

“I thought it was out of my league,” she said. “Come on, 20 spots nationwide. Many people would apply who hadn’t traveled overseas – I thought I wouldn’t qualify.”

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