As a first-generation college student, Northampton Community College (NCC) alum Thomas Hackman was not sure if college was in the cards for him. With three other siblings living in a single-mother household, “My family did not have extra money to put towards our schooling. My mom was working nights as a bartender to support us, but I was pretty independent,” says Hackman. He devoted his time to his studies growing up. He stayed late in after-school programs and got himself tutoring help when he struggled in school, determined to succeed.
Sold on the fact that he had more to learn, Hackman was ready to head to college after high school. “Even though no one in my family went to college, I knew I liked learning and thinking about things in a unique way.” Living in the Lehigh Valley, he investigated NCC as a prospective student in 2014 after graduating from Easton High School.
With the help of the financial aid team at NCC, Hackman found that he qualified for the PA State grant and Pell Grant, both of which afforded him the opportunity to attend college. “Thankfully NCC had wonderful people who sat down with me and explained how it all works. From how to apply for aid, to what aid I would receive, they coached me that first year I was at NCC, which made it so much easier when I did the process in the following years.” During his time at NCC, Hackman worked full-time to support himself. “I can honestly say that without the financial aid that was provided to me, I never would have considered college.”
Once enrolled, Hackman found guidance and assistance everywhere at NCC. He used the Learning Center and leaned on his professors to make his way through some of his classes. His advisor helped him find his way as he tried different courses in areas of interest until he landed on something that suited him. “My advisor, Professor Javier Ávila, helped me to navigate and find direction. Without the guidance of Professor Ávila, I may not have completed my degree as he made sure to sit down one-on-one with me to figure out my passion.”
In 2016, after two years at NCC, Hackman transferred to Kutztown University to earn a bachelor’s in marketing. He qualified for the same assistance he had at NCC, and he is thankful that the financial team at Northampton taught him how to qualify for the most aid possible.
Now, he is back at NCC as a financial aid officer, helping students in the same ways he received counsel. He also uses his marketing degree to get the word out on how the financial aid team can give the students tools they need for success.
When asked how Hackman serves students who are having difficulty with the financial aid process, he makes sure to leave no stone left unturned. “I have been in their shoes; so, I can direct them in the best way possible, pointing out all the resources at their disposal. As a result, they feel more comfortable and calmer about the process. Even if you do not qualify for one piece of aid, something else may be out there for you.”
Since grants and loans were available, Hackman was able to complete his degree and achieve his dream of graduating college. Now sitting in his office only eight years after starting at NCC, he feels privileged to assist students as they move towards accomplishing their own dreams.
To learn more about financial aid at NCC, visit www.northampton.edu/financialaid.