May 25, 2021

The Community College System of NH recently announced that high school students graduating in 2021 will be offered a free class at any of NH’s community colleges this fall, thanks to a philanthropic effort led by the NH Charitable Foundation in partnership with the Foundation for NH Community Colleges.  This “Gift to the Class of 2021” is a celebration of the resiliency of a class that has had to overcome challenges unique to our time. It is also a reflection of our unwavering dedication to students and the communities we serve.

This year, GBCC celebrated its 75th Commencement.  The college began in 1945 as the State Trade School at Portsmouth and has become one of northern New England’s leading two-year institutions of higher learning, offering degree and certificate programs in the sciences, technical studies, and liberal arts while serving as an educational and career hub for students, businesses, and the community. We have enhanced our offerings as a response to the shifting economic needs of our state and region.

The pandemic tested us, but we will emerge stronger than ever. New Hampshire’s community colleges, including Great Bay, are excited to return to normal operations this fall.  In addition to the free class, GBCC offers an unprecedented level of new scholarships and financial assistance as an incentive for students to retrain and return to work stronger than ever.

Our 2021 Commencement was a celebration filled with pride and optimism. We heard from students about overcoming incredible odds to complete their degrees. They overcame the challenges of remote learning. They maneuvered around serious illnesses, either their own or that of a family member.  They struggled to balance the demands of work and family life with pursuing a degree during extraordinary times.

We also heard stories of resilience and success, of gratitude for the support and adaptability of advisors, faculty, staff and fellow students.   Everyone found ways to connect, and together we discovered workarounds to problems associated with a closed campus.

As students enroll for the summer and fall semesters, we see more and more families recognizing the unique value and benefit of starting an education and career at a community college. Many have had their own financial security threatened by job loss or reduction as a result of the pandemic. Our college has become a solution to many people: an affordable and accessible education with highly successful hiring rates following graduation.  This truly is the right time to take advantage of what an agile and ever-evolving college has to offer.

Students will also see firsthand a number of other reasons why enrolling at Great Bay makes sense:

  • Expanded services to better accommodate student academic support needs such as online advising and tutoring.
  • Allied health programs in addition to Nursing and Surgical Technology, such as LNA, Medical Assistant, and Medical Office Specialist to answer an urgent need for healthcare workers in our region.
  • Short-term programs with a focus on direct-to-career to connect individuals with a growing NH economy.
  • Expanded technical short-term certificate programs at the College’s Rochester campus to support resurgent industrial and manufacturing careers
  • Opportunities to participate in clubs and activities outside the classroom and learn new social and leadership skills
  • The return of intercollegiate athletics and the expansion of our new esports team
  • Continuation of the Curbside Food Pantry program to combat student food insecurity in partnership with Gather, Hannaford, Take Out Hunger, Great Bay’s Student Government Association and the Foundation for New Hampshire Community Colleges

This fall, Great Bay Community College reopens its doors to full on-campus activities.  We will meet people where they are in life and in their career path. I am eager for the day when this new class of incoming students will speak with confidence about how they also made it through, and how they are well prepared for a high demand career or for pursuing an additional degree or credential.

Together, we have tackled today’s challenges and will achieve a triumphant tomorrow.

For more information on the “Gift to the Class of 2021”, please visit

Author: Dr. Cathryn Addy, Interim President, Great Bay Community College