By Alex Lippa
---- — HAVERHILL — Just around this time last year, Everson Taveras found himself at a crossroads.
He had been a nomad for the last several years, living in three different states and two different countries. When deciding what he wanted the next step of his life to be, he was presented with an intriguing opportunity. His mother was moving to Lawrence and Taveras had a decision to make.
He could continue living in New York and commute to his low-paying job in Stamford, Conn., or he could take a risk and move to Massachusetts, a place he had never been and knew very little about.
Taveras chose the latter.
Just one year later, he has already accomplished more than he could have imagined. Last month he was honored with the Barney Gallagher Journalism Scholarship Award, given to a top journalism student at Northern Essex Community College.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” Taveras said about receiving the scholarship. “I never thought that I would be in a position to receive an award like this.”
The scholarship, given annually by The Haverhill Gazette to a Northern Essex student, was renamed in memory of Gallagher, longtime Haverhill Gazette and Eagle-Tribune writer and photographer, after he died earlier this year. The award, which is sponsored by The Eagle-Tribune, is for $750. The amount was increased from $500 to $750 this year by Eagle-Tribune Publisher Al Getler.
“Barney leaves a legacy behind as a true on-the-street reporter,” Getler said at the time of the scholarship name change. “You don’t get great stories sitting at your desk on the phone staring at a screen. The best journalists a
re there in the middle of it all asking why or why not.”
Gallagher covered Haverhill since 1936 as a reporter, photographer, editor and columnist until his health began to fail just over a year ago. He was known for his commitment to the job, never missing a story, even if it was happening at 3 in the morning.
It was said that he slept with a police scanner under his pillow.
The college chose Taveras as the scholarship recipient.
It was a long road for Taveras, 20, to get where he is now. He was born in New York and lived there until he was 10. He then moved to Georgia, where he attended middle school. After finishing middle school, he went to boarding school in Florida for two years and then a bilingual school in the Dominican Republic for two years after that.
After graduating, Taveras moved back to New York and started working what he described as “sketchy businesses,” such as telemarketing. He then received an invitation from his mother and decided to move to Massachusetts on a whim.
“I didn’t know anything about it,” he said. “I didn’t have anything to lose, so I went with her.”
During the move, Taveras had a big realization about his life. He had lost sight of what he wanted to accomplish earlier. He decided the first thing he needed to do was to go back to school and get his college degree.
Taveras wasn’t sure where he wanted to do that. He had been living with a cousin in Lawrence for a month, and the impressions he had of Northern Essex’s Lawrence campus were generally negative. Then he learned there was a Haverhill campus as well.
“The only thing in Massachusetts that I had known was Lawrence,” Taveras said. “I thought the whole state was like that. Then I saw the Haverhill campus and it was like a light at the end of the tunnel. I knew that this is where I wanted to stay.”
Taveras and his mother moved out of their cousin’s home and to Haverhill after he enrolled at NECC. At the Haverhill campus, Taveras knew he wanted to get into writing, but he wasn’t quite sure what kind of writing he liked.
“I had done a lot of creative writing in the past,” he said. “But an opportunity presented itself to get into journalism at Northern Essex.”
Taveras had only briefly written for one of his high school papers when he was 15, but he decided to explore it more and joined the NECC Observer school newspaper at the beginning of his second semester last January. He served as a news editor last year and will be a copy editor this year.
“It was a hard transition because I was so used to being a creative writer and using interesting words, and journalism tends to be more straight to the point.” he said.
Taveras was quick to credit his teachers and staff, especially Mary Jo Shafer, the advisor to the Observer.
“He’s really dedicated and a hard worker,” Shafer said of Taveras. “He’s curious about the field. He has an innate talent both journalistically and in creative writing. He’s very descriptive. It’s nice to see a student with that natural ability who has the motivation that he does.”
Taveras’ first article in the Observer will likely stick in his mind for a long time. He wrote a review of the Johnny Depp movie “The Rum Diary” — in which, ironically, the protagonist is a journalist.
Taveras isn’t quite sure what he wants to do after he gets his associate’s degree from Northern Essex. While the opportunity to w
ork at a newspaper intrigues him, a bachelor’s degree may be what he wants to pursue.
If he does succeed in becoming a journalist, Gallagher will be one of the reasons why. Although Taveras never met Gallagher, he is still appreciative of all the work he did in his profession.
“I have too much to be grateful for,” Taveras said. “He paved the way for future journalists to make contributions to the field.”