Hall, DeMerchant join NMCC student support

6 years ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — When students begin college, they’re undertaking a life shift that can often come with unexpected challenges. At Northern Maine Community College, two new staff members are joining the team in an effort to minimize those challenges and help students succeed despite obstacles.

Ashley Hall and Kent DeMerchant both started work at NMCC this fall and although both work to help students, they each help in different ways.

Student navigator Ashley Hall has a background in human services and started her education at NMCC, where she earned her liberal studies degree. After graduation, Hall went on to UMPI, where she earned a degree in social work. After UMPI, Hall continued her education by earning a master’s degree at Kaplan University.

Hall helps students navigate the school, their lives, and the services available outside of NMCC.

“The majority of students are doing great in school, but life happens. It’s important to make connections so that they know what is available to them,” she said.

“It’s been amazing to come back,” Hall said of her experience joining NMCC years after graduation. “This school holds a special place for me. It’s a community, a small community. It’s been great to be able to be here for these students and share their success.”

Working alongside Hall is Kent DeMerchant, the new student support/career specialist. DeMerchant also guides and advises students, but focuses additionally on career placement.

Explaining his role, DeMerchant said, “I work providing advising and academic counseling, outside referral for resources, and also help with career placement and career planning.”

DeMerchant also makes referrals for tutoring and works closely with students with disabilities. “We’re all about getting the students the support and resources they need so that they can be successful while they’re here,” he said.

Like Hall, DeMerchant also earned a social work degree from UMPI, but actually started his career in the trades with automotive school at New Brunswick Community College in Moncton. He spent 20 years in the Army National Guard and was deployed to Iraq in 2004. Upon returning from Iraq, he worked with a mental health agency providing counseling and case management, servicing those with chronic mental illnesses.

After spending years doing social work, DeMerchant came to NMCC as a student and enrolled in the Building Construction Technology program, from which he graduated in 2016. Before being hired at NMCC, DeMerchant utilized his trade education to teach shop class to middle school students in Caribou.

“I love this job,” he said. “It’s a really good mix between social work and still being connected to the trades. It’s a good atmosphere here; I believe in the programs and I think we have some of the best students in the state.”

NMCC Dean of Students Bill Egeler said, “We are so pleased to have Ashley and Kent join our student support services team.  Each of them brings knowledge and experiences which will benefit our students. Ashley’s experience working in human services will definitely help us bridge the gap between student needs and available external resources.  Kent’s prior military experience, his teaching experience, his background in human services, and work in a non-traditional career field all add to the real life experiences our students can draw upon and learn from.

“All of the college’s student support staff work to intervene and address student problems before they become too disruptive to the student’s educational objectives,” Egeler said.

Submitted by the Development and College Relations Office of Northern Maine Community College.