Academics

2016 Gateway & Pathways valedictorians Christian and Bella 2

Valedictorians Christian Rossi, Jr. & Bella Ballin

Aspiring doctors, nurses, physicists, teachers and police officers, as well as many teenagers who are the first in their families to attend college, are among the largest dual enrollment graduating class at MWCC.

This year’s graduates of the Pathways Early College Innovation School and the Gateway to College program were recognized during a May 20 ceremony at MWCC. The dual enrollment programs, offered in partnership with the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District, as well as Athol High School, allow students to use school choice funding to earn their high school diploma while simultaneously earning college credits, an academic certificate, or an associate degree.

With 73 graduates from 26 towns and cities this year, the graduating class is the largest ever at MWCC. This year also marked the 10th graduating class of the Gateways program and the fifth Pathways graduating class.

MWCC President Daniel Asquino was the featured speaker, sharing personal anecdotes with the students and the hundreds of family members and friends gathered for the occasion.

When told as a child he couldn’t play sports because he was born with a disability, he persevered until he could. When told he didn’t swim well enough to become a lifeguard, he self-trained and not only became a lifeguard, but rescued three people who were clinging together for survival amid a rough surf.

When told by a high school guidance counselor he “wasn’t college material” he served the country in the Navy, then went on to earn bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degree while simultaneously working and raising a family on modest means. When he wanted to become a college president, he was told he couldn’t because he was on the “wrong track” – an administrative path rather than an academic path. He is now completing his 29th year as president of MWCC.

“If I can do it, you can do it,” he encouraged the graduates. “Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t do it. Conquer the world. Do for yourself, do for your family, and don’t forget to give back to your community.”

Some of the graduates will remain at MWCC to continue their associate degrees, while many who have already reached that milestone plan to transfer to a public and private college or university. Several of the graduates plan to serve the country in the military or directly enter the workforce.

Bella Ballin of Worcester, who earned an associate degree in Liberal Arts: Chemical Science from MWCC two days before receiving her high school diploma, was the Pathways class valedictorian.

“Who would have thought that teens from all different towns and all different backgrounds would come together not only as a cohort or a class but as a family? Right from the start we managed to forge bonds so strong that we didn’t want to stray from each other. As our bonds grew, so did our maturity, adaptability, independence and knowledge,” she said.

This fall, she will transfer to Carnegie Mellon University to continue her studies in chemistry.

Christian Rossi, Jr. of Winchendon, homeschooled prior to enrolling in the Gateway program, graduated from MWCC Wednesday with an associate degree in computer information systems and academic certificates in cyber security and IT support specialist. He plans to transfer this fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

He wryly shared that while he thought he was well versed in many topics before enrolling, he came to realize there’s always more to learn, such as the day a classmate had a pizza delivered to the college for dinner rather than packing food.

“Now why I hadn’t thought of that, I cannot say, but I know that I will remember it in case I ever find myself hungry at my next school.”

MWCC’s partnerships with the public school districts represent “the pillars of support for our students,” said Fagan Forhan, Assistant Dean of K-12 Partnerships and Civic Engagement.

“It is through these partnerships that together, we have built a true community here at MWCC. We have created a place where students feel supported, encouraged and safe. We have built a place where new paths are forged and lives are transformed.”

Pathways Early College Innovation School graduates:

Bella Ballin, Yasmin Barroso, Kaci Bradshaw, Levi Bushnell, Angelique Chaput, Calvin Clinkscale, Holland Crane, Michael Frye, Chandler Giuffre, Sara Khan, Margaret Linzey, Renata Menezes, Emily Perkins, Tea Preston, Michael Racine, Jr., Lucy Rivers, Riley Saisa, Adrian Sanders, Kelsey Schecker, Rachel Stankaitis, Joseph Williams

Gateway to College graduates:

Thayna Aguiar, Kelsey Allaway, Rebekah Amburgey, Arturo Aponte-Cruz, Jacob Bancroft, Taysia Baronowski, Kyle Bates, Katriona Bell, Rene Bergeron, Anders Bigelbach, Nicole Boufford, Shane Carroll, Nicole Cibor, Emanuel Corbeil, Mariah Courtemanche, Emmilly DeMatos, Lyndsey-Leigh Flahive, Bailey Fluet, Coco Fortier, Stephanie Garnhum, Gregory Germagian, Cassandra Gurney, Leshay Hicks, Adoria Kavuma-Winburn, Alyssa Kazanowski, Jamison Lajoie, Lisette Llapa, Rafaela Lopes, Audrey MacDonald, Brianna Martinez, Hayley McAuliffe, Anastasia Panageotes, Camila Pereira, Raul Pereira, Nicholas Powell, Lorena Rocha, Christian Rossi, Jr., Courtney Ruble, Alexander Schilling, Lauren Scioli, Mya Shepard, Milagros Silva Olivera, Constance Tazelaar, Emilia Torres, Pablo Trillas, Jasmine Welch, Beth Winters, Christopher Zukowski

 

Breana Keegan leads nursing pledge

Breana Keegan, president of MWCC’s Student Nurses Association, leads her classmates in the Florence Nightingale Pledge.

Family and friends from as near as Gardner and as far away as Zimbabwe came to celebrate the achievements of Mount Wachusett Community College’s associate degree nursing class during a traditional pinning ceremony held May 19 in the Fitness & Wellness center.

The 43rd graduating class was comprised of students enrolled in the day and evening programs and included LPNs who returned to continue their education through the college’s Bridge to Nursing program.

MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino congratulated the students on their success completing one of the college’s most rigorous academic programs. He noted that the care and compassion of nurses bring tremendous comfort to patients who are often at their lowest moment and in pain.

Summarizing key points made during his Commencement address the evening before, the president encouraged the graduates to move forward in their careers and lives with compassion, empathy and a positive attitude.

Mercy Dhliwayo of Fitchburg and family

Mercy Dhliwayo is joined by members of her family following the ceremony. From left, Jane Dhliwayo, who traveled from Zimbabwe to attend her granddaughter’s graduation and pinning ceremonies; Mercy’s mother, Patience Dhliwayo-Amoakohene, RN, who pinned her daughter; and aunts and MWCC alumni Privilege Dhliwayo, RN, and Patricia Dhliwayo-Kwangwari, RN.

“I can think of no other profession where these are so essential.”

Eileen Costello, dean of the School of Health Sciences and Community Service Programs, also welcomed the graduates and their families.

Dressed in traditional nurse uniforms, the students were welcomed into the profession by having the program’s nursing pin fastened to their lapels by a family member, friend, or an alumnus of the program, or a faculty member, to the cheers of family and friends. The pin symbolizes where the nurses completed their studies to become an RN and distinguishes them from other health care professionals. The eight-star MWCC pin is imprinted with the words “Service to Humanity and the World.”

As part of the ceremony, the students also took a nursing pledge that dates back to Florence Nightingale, who distinguished herself during the Crimean War by coming to the aid of sick and wounded soldiers.

 

President Asquino at podium

President Asquino shared the lessons he learned in 50 years of public service.

The transformative power of service and volunteerism was the resounding theme of Mount Wachusett Community College’s 51st Commencement on Wednesday, May 18, from the 157,000 service hours completed by students this past academic year to the decades-long legacy of President Daniel M. Asquino.

This year, 810 associate degrees and certificates were awarded to 734 graduates. The ceremony will be remembered as the final commencement President Asquino will preside over before retiring early next year.

Tina Sbrega, chair of the Board of Trustees, led a tribute to the president, who received a standing ovation in recognition of three decades at the helm of the college and nearly 50 years in public higher education in Massachusetts.

Since his arrival in 1987, he has established the college as a state and national leader in a number of key areas, from workforce and economic development to K-12 partnerships. Above all, Ms. Sbrega said, is the lasting legacy he will leave in the area of incorporating civic engagement as a hallmark of MWCC.

“He will be remembered most for having brought our community together for the good of all,” she said. “Throughout his 47 year career in public higher education in Massachusetts, Dr. Asquino has been driven by the belief that education is society’s great equalizer and has spent every moment of his career devoted to all of you and the tens of thousands of graduates who came before you.”

In delivering the commencement address, President Asquino reflected the accolades back to the students, faculty, staff and alumni for their hard work and commitment, personally and collectively.

“This is an amazing, transformative, magical college. Lives change here like nowhere else.”

He encouraged the students to enjoy life’s celebrations, and manage challenges and setbacks as an opportunity to “pick yourself up, and move on.”

Among the life lessons he shared, he advised the graduates be flexible to adjust to the ups and downs of life’s circumstances and to be mindful that “life is a merciless reflection of your own attitude.”

“There is no balanced allocation of good fortune or failure. The question then is when you are confronted with disappointment, tragedy, discrimination, how do you handle it? It’s OK to momentarily feel distraught and sad…but then you need to, as difficult as this may be, pick yourself up and move on. Let us be the person who sees opportunity in every calamity, rather than calamity in ever opportunity. That is the Mount way.”

Student speaker Chelsea Garrity, described her journey from being “a small fish in a big pond” to becoming an engaged student leader.

Chelsea Garrity student speaker MWCC 2016 commencement

Student speaker Chelsea Garrity shared her graduation rap song.

“I don’t think that I became a big fish in a small pond because the Mount isn’t a small place and it isn’t a competition for survival. I grew as a person, I challenged myself, and I tried new things. And that is my challenge to you. Class of 2016, I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone. Try something you never though you would like or do….I promise you that it will all be worth it.”

Known for her spontaneous rap songs, she concluded her speech in similar fashion to the delight of the crowd.

“So here’s to the community that raised you up, and here’s to you for never giving up. And when it comes time to throw your cap up, Remember – for the graduates, by the graduates, we the graduates, Word. This is our future, and we will change the world.”

A number of awards were also presented during the ceremony.

The 2016 Service Above Self Award was president to Raymond M. Martino, President and CEO of Simonds International, who spoke of the power of collective volunteerism. The award recognizes those who have made significant contributions to MWCC and the 29 cities and towns that make up MWCC’s service area.

Tom Berger, student trustee for the past academic year, was presented with the Trustees Award for his service, and three graduates were awarded the President’s Key for their academic excellence, Mellissa Richards, Jonathan Inman and Kelly Veautour.

Retiring professors Janice Gearan and Kathleen Panagiotis were awarded emeriti status.

Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke, who received the 2016 Alumnus of the Year Award, lamented that unlike the student speaker, he had no rap song to share, but drew laughter when he spontaneously sang out an operatic “President Asquiiiiinooo.” Mayor Hawke shared his personal story of his academic “ordeals and debacles” as he made his way from a “straight-C” student to college graduate thanks to the direction he received at MWCC. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree and MBA.

“To my soon-to-be fellow alums, when you come to the two roads diverging in the woods, whether you take the one less traveled or not, always remember and be proud that your road began here at MWCC.”

 

SL celebration 2016 Dan Chelse and Stevie

Student leaders Chelsea Garrity and Stevie LaBelle presented President Asquino with a globe representing the far-reaching civic impact of MWCC’s students under his leadership.

It was a quintessential Mount moment. After leading MWCC’s decades-long commitment to civic engagement, President Asquino had an opportunity to pair his pride in student volunteerism with a song by one of his favorite musicians – Elvis – crooning one of his favorite anthems, “America the Beautiful.”

More than 130 students, faculty and staff stood, many singing along, as the music filled the South Café during the college’s annual Service Learning and Volunteerism Celebration. While the event marked the altruism of MWCC students, the Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement paused to reflect on the president’s dedication to the college and to the community as he prepares to retire early next year.

“Fifteen years ago President Asquino declared to this region a Decade of Civic Engagement. It was so successful, after that decade ended in 2011, he declared a subsequent decade,” said retired Senator Stephen M. Brewer. “This incredible advocacy and successful effort resulted in the only endowment given to a community college for civic engagement in the entire nation.”

MWCC Parent Support Group

Members of the Parent Support Group, with club advisor Ann Reynolds, were recognized with the Above and Beyond Award for their many initiatives on campus this academic year.

“There is a value and a virtue for what you do,” Senator Brewer told the students. “We know government cannot do it all – no entity can – but we can do our part. That is the value. The virtue of what you do is as old as the Chinse proverb, ‘Those who sheld light onto others can only have it reflect back onto themselves.’ As leaders of our future, you are lighting the way as you go forward.”

The May 17 event, organized this year by student leaders, recognized a wide range of campus and community service learning and volunteer initiatives throughout the academic year. As of last year, MWCC students annually completed over 157,000 hours of experiential learning, volunteerism, community service, internships, co-ops, practicums and field experience, which carries a value of over $3.6 million to the region, said Fagan Forhan, Assistant Dean of K-12 Partnerships and Civic Engagement.

Dozens of graduating students received pins or medallions to wear during commencement in recognition of their extensive hours of service.

The United Way of North Central Massachusetts was presented with the Community Partner of the Year Award in appreciation for its efforts to establish MWCC as a “Day of Caring” site, which has enabled students, faculty and staff to volunteer for the annual service day during their free time on campus. During the event this past September, the college community packaged more than 21,000 meals for area residents in need.

Service Learning celebration nurses group photo

Graduating nursing students proudly display their service learning medallions for their hours of patient care.

Service learning scholarships were presented to Tatijana James and Bonnie Veilleaux and Rafaela Lopes was honored in recognition of receiving the national Newman Civic Fellows Award from Campus Compact.

Professor Janice Gearan, who is retiring this spring, was presented with the Civic Engagement Career Achievement award and Assistant Professor Daniel Soucy was presented with a civic engagement medallion. The event also featured a slideshow of murals created throughout Gardner by MWCC art students.

The Above and Beyond Award was presented to the Parent Support Group, an active club that has sponsored numerous events and initiatives to benefit students and families, and students who serve through the Students SOS office and SLiCE program (Student Leaders in Civic Engagement) were also recognized.

 

Bella Ballin and Gov Charlie Baker 3At just 18, graduating scholar Bella Ballin has already reached many milestones. Last week, as MWCC’s recipient of the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s “29 Who Shine” award, she achieved another.

“I fist-bumped the governor and that was the highlight of my day,” she said with a smile.

Ballin, who will graduate from MWCC on May 18 with an associate degree in Liberal Arts: Chemical Science, and on May 20 with her high school diploma through the college’s Pathways Early College Innovation School, was among the 29 public college and university honorees recognized during the sixth annual celebration at the State House. She and her MWCC mentor, Academic Counselor Natalie Mercier of the Division of Access & Transition, were recognized by Gov. Charlie Baker and top education officials during the May 9 ceremony.

“Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito and I congratulate all 29 of the 2016 award recipients and thank them for their substantial contributions to their campuses and local communities,” Governor Baker said. “Each of the 29 Who Shine honorees represent our future citizenry and workforce and have already made a positive impact on the Commonwealth.”

Diagnosed at age 16 with Multiple Sclerosis, Ballin chose to accelerate the pace of her education by tapping into the opportunities available through MWCC’s unique Pathways program, which has allowed her to simultaneously earn her high school diploma and an associate degree at no cost through school choice funding.

At MWCC, she has been named to the President’s List every semester for maintaining a perfect 4.0 grade point average. She served as a math and chemistry tutor within MWCC’s Academic Support Center, as president of the student math Club, and has volunteered at the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster. Additionally, she participated in MWCC’s Leadership Camp, Leadership Retreat and Women in Leadership forum. This spring, Bella was named to Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges and received the MWCC Alumni Award.

She was accepted into numerous four-year institutions and plans to transfer this fall to Carnegie Mellon University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in science, then return to Massachusetts to build a career in science.

“It’s exciting to see how this exceptional group of student leaders have chosen to put their brainpower and civic engagement to work in so many different ways that benefit our state — through STEM, through the arts, and through teaching, and medicine,” said Secretary of Education Jim Peyser. “We wish all of them well in their next steps, whether in their careers or additional scholarly pursuits.”

Dental Hygiene Class of 2016

Dental Hygiene Class of 2016 with their proud professors.

Graduates of MWCC’s Dental Hygiene and Dental Assisting programs were welcomed into the profession during the department’s 10th annual pinning ceremony on May 13 in the South Café.

Executive Vice President Ann McDonald and Cynthia Cadoret, chair of the Dental Programs department were joined by guest speaker Dr. Peter Billia, dental director for Community Health Connections, and program faculty in congratulating the graduates on their achievement.

Over the past year, the dental hygiene and dental assisting students treated more than 800 patients through the college’s partnership with the Community Health Center.

Dental Assisting Class of 2016

Dental Assisting Class of 2016 with their proud professors.

Several students were recognized with awards. Caitlin Riendeau received the Johnson & Johnson Award, Paulette Hachey receive the Hu-Friedy Award, Monica Kwan and Wendy Uribe received the Dental Hygiene Department Award; Alyssa Adoretti received the Dental Hygiene Curriculum Award and the Massachusetts Dental Hygienists’ Association Academic Scholarship; Amanda Melanson received the Dental Assisting Department Award, and first-year students Leah Trudeau and Casey Bedingfield received the Ellen Daly Scholarship.

 

Honors Program grads with Dan Soucy

Honors Program graduates with Assistant Professor Dan Soucy.

MWCC celebrated the academic achievements of extraordinary students during its annual Evening of Excellence awards dinner May 12 at the DoubleTree by Hilton, Leominster. Students were recognized for their academic performance as well as for their contributions in the community.

President Daniel M. Asquino congratulated the honorees on their accomplishments. “You are humble, you’re engaged, you care, you’re involved. I am really inspired and encouraged about where you are going in the world.”

In addition to college curriculum and outstanding achievement awards, the MWCC Foundation also presented a number of memorial awards and scholarships during the ceremony. The foundation has awarded more $300,000 in scholarships this year.

The following awards were presented:

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS

All USA Academic Team Nominees: Chelsea L. Garrity and Jana C. Murphy

Visions Program Award: Megan E. Bernard and Michel L. Cocuzza

RX Award: Elizabeth J. Fogle

Best of Mathematics: Chandler Guiffre

Sandy Signor Award: Meaghan K. Bruce

Sharyn Rice Award: Michel L. Cocuzza

Jean Tandy Award: Alannah M. McDonald

2016 Newman Civic Fellow Award: Rafaela O. Lopes

Service Learning Scholarship: Bonnie Veilleux and Tatjana I. James

CURRICULUM AWARDS

Accounting Concentration: Silvana Sosa

Automotive Technology: Bjarne W. Hansen

Biological Science Track: Benjamin Spurr

Biotechnology/Biomanufacturing: Sarah S. Tuomala

Business Administration Career: Angelique Chaput

Business Administration Transfer: Mellissa S. Richard

Chemical Science: Bella Ballin

Communications Track: Melissa Bobka

Computer Information Systems: Jonathan Inman

Complementary Health Care: Diane Polewarczyk

Criminal Justice Corrections: Emily S. Jillson

Criminal Justice Law Enforcement: Jared Racette

Dental Hygiene: Alyssa B. Adoretti

Early Childhood Education Career: Emily C. Wuoti

Early Childhood Education Transfer: Elizabeth Hart

Elementary Education: Chelsea M. Gentile

Exercise and Sports Science: Ashley Hamel

Fire Science Technology: Michael J. Gadbois

General Studies: Lorraine S. Desjean

Graphic & Interactive Design: Thomas P. Hill Jr.

Health Information Management: Linda G. Coyne

Human Services: Amanda D. Favreau

Interdisciplinary Studies: Christopher Stefanski

Interdisciplinary Studies – Allied Health: Amanda L’Ecuyer

Legal Studies: Denise A. White

Liberal Arts & Sciences: John Blombach

LPN to ADN Bridge: Rebecca A. Daniel

Media Arts & Technology: Jacob M. LaFreniere

Medical Assisting: Kristen M. Mauro

Medical Laboratory Technology: Rebecca M. Gleason

Natural Resources: Rebekah Amburgey

Nursing: Casandra L. Brisson and Mercy T. Dhliwayo

Physical Therapist Assistant: Sandra C. Lefferts

Physics or Pre-Engineering Track: Chandler Giuffre

Theatre Arts Track: Kevin W. Figueroa

MWCC FOUNDATION, INC. AWARDS

Alumni Scholarship: Bella Ballin

Barbara Chaplin Memorial Scholarship: Ashlie Visco

Barnes & Noble Scholarship: Dillon T. Hammond and Benjamin Spurr

Carl Tammi Award: Andre Berberena

Carrie Progen Memorial Scholarship: Kayla Arianna Shabo and Tiana L. Bean

Craig Hamel Scholarship: Breana L. Keegan

Ellen Daly Dental Hygiene Scholarship: Casey Bedingfield and Leah Trudeau

Father Adamo Scholarship: Amanda D. Favreau

James D. Murphy Scholarship: Thomas Berger

Jonathan C. Craven Scholarship: Kimberly A. Cook

Joseph Baldyga Scholarship: Jason R. Catalano

Joseph B. Ruth Scholarship: Robin A. Wead

Keith Nivala Award: Kyle M. Morneau

Marilyn Kiosses Scholarship: Cassandra R. Pateneaude

Melissa Herr Marsh Scholarship: Stacy L. Riel-Rigiero

Michael & Christine Greenwood Business Scholarship: Angelique Chaput

Mount Observer Scholarship: Stevie LaBelle

MWCC Veteran’s Memorial Scholarship: Nicholas A. DePaula

MEMORIAL AWARDS

Aspasia Anastos Award: Edward J. Santos

Judge Moore Award: Chelsea Garrity (Academic Excellence) and Emily Lemieux (Excellence in Writing)

Peter J. Trainor Leadership Award: Michel L. Cocuzza

Roberts Scholar: Kimberly A. Cook

HONORS SOCIETY RECOGNITION

Alpha Beta Scholarship: Michel L. Cocuzza and Kimberly L. Mertell

Honors Program Graduates: Kwadwo D. Acheampong, Victoria R. Allen, John D. Blombach, Jamie J. Grant, Stevie LaBelle, Yanjun Li, Jenna M. McCann, Diane Polewarczyk and Calvin C. Seppala

 

left to right: Vice President Lea Ann Scales, Director Fagan Forhan, Honoree Jana Murphy, State Representative Jon Zlotnik, Honoree Chelsea Garrity, and her parents

Pictured left to right: MWCC Vice President Lea Ann Scales, Assistant Dean Fagan Forhan, Honoree Jana Murphy, State Representative Jon Zlotnik, Honoree Chelsea Garrity and her parents

Two Mount Wachusett Community College students, Jana Murphy and Chelsea Garrity, were selected for the All-Massachusetts Academic Team of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society today at Nurses Hall of the State House in Boston in recognition of their academic excellence. The celebrations included a speaking program, presentation of awards, and lunch. Secretary of Education Jim Peyser delivered the special keynote focusing on the value of students who strive for excellence.

Jana Murphy has been a member of Phi Theta Kappa for two years. This year, she served as the student representative for the Honors Program, the President of Phi Theta Kappa, and as a Student Leader in Civic Engagement. Jana always strives to make sure that programming she is involved with is student-centered and community focused, with the unusual ability to be unreservedly honest but always respectful.

Chelsea Garrity is a first generation college student who has worked at least two jobs at a time over the past three years to put herself through college. She serves as a Student Leader in Civic Engagement at MWCC, where she coordinated this year’s Day of Caring event and recruited over 100 volunteers to package over 20,000 meals in just a few hours.

The Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and community college presidents co-sponsor the All-State Academic Team, where high performing Phi Theta Kappa members are selected for nomination and ranking on the team is determined by each student’s score in a national competition.

“We are so proud of our students and the hard work that brought them to the State House today to be recognized,” said Lea Ann Scales, Vice President of External Affairs, Communications & K-12 Partnerships.

Students are eligible for nomination by their College president if they have earned a minimum cumulative 3.5 GPA and have significant community service. Once selected they are eligible for additional scholarships provided by the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation.

PTK officers group photo cropped

From left, PTK advisor Fagan Forhan, assistant dean of K-12 partnerships and civic engagement, Stevie LaBelle, Lindsay Jamison, Thomas Berger, Jana Murphy, Lisa Barry, Kimberly Cook, John Bombach and Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke.

MWCC’s Phi Delta Chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa international honor society inducted 61 new members and presented donations to community organizations from funds raised through a variety of events this academic year.

During the May 5 induction ceremony, the chapter presented checks of $500 each to the Gardner Community Action Council, the Winchendon Community Action Council, and the student-run Students Serving Our Students (SOS) mentor program at MWCC. PTK officers also recognized MWCC staff member Gardner Wood for his volunteer support building creative, fanciful props for the PTK annual Character Breakfast.

Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke, an MWCC alumnus and honorary PTK member, was the keynote speaker.

“Coming to the Mount was truly the best decision I ever made,” he said after confessing to being a “straight C” student in high school. “It gave me the direction I needed and showed me what hard work would help me achieve. My professors gave me encouragement and inspiration to carry on.”

After graduating from MWCC in 1994, Mayor Hawke went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in political science from UMass, Amherst, and an MBA from Anna Maria College.

“If Mount Wachusett Community College had not been here, if Mount Wachusett Community College had not had the caring and professional professors and staff, I wouldn’t be here. And if I’m not here, just imagine what condition the city of Gardner would be in,” the five-term mayor quipped.

Chapter officers during the 2015-16 academic year were recognized for their service: President Jana Murphy; Vice President Thomas Berger; Secretary Stevie LaBelle; and Treasurer Lindsay Jamison. Officers installed for the upcoming academic year include Jana Murphy, for her second year as president; Lisa Barry, vice president; Kimberly Cook, secretary; and John Blombach, treasurer.

Founded in 1918, Phi Theta Kappa recognizes and encourages the academic achievement of two-year college students and provides opportunities for personal, academic and professional growth through participation in honors, leadership, service and fellowship programming.

The new inductees are: Donovan Aboal-Caceres, Kwadwo Acheampong, Terri Alden, Rebekah Amburgey, Linda Anderson, Sophia Andrews, Lisa Barry, Alexander Batutis, Sheila Boria, Amanda Boudreau, Romina Cabrera, Micaela Canessa Giorello, Matthew Casaubon, Karen Chapalonis, Sarah Chatigny, Kimberly Cook, Melanie Cranfill, Rhonda Cutler, Colleen Demboske, Simon Dufresne, Tara Dugan, Jaclyn Esparza, Amanda Favreau, Michelle Francisco Pimentel, Gregory Germagian, Samantha Goodale, Kristin Grantz, Zoe Hammond, Antonina Herbst, Michele Higginson, Nhat Hoang, Inna Kalfayan, Francis Koina, Rose LaFargue Joseph Leblanc, Christopher Lerew, Valerie Maloney, Yemni Mendez, Anne Nash, Matthew Niles, Hillary Nna, Cassandra Pateneaude, Lindsey Paul, Shannen Pimental, Marissa Pitisci, Dawn Marie Placentino-Olen, Crystal Pratt, Melissa Raggi, Kelsey Rayner, Brian Richard, Katelyn Schreiber, Rhonda Scoville, Benjamin Smith, Silvana Sosa, Michael Soto, Sarah Soto, Grace Stafford, Hollace Stevens, Casey Thoel, Rachel Vargeletis and Elizabeth Walsh.

 

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The state Department of Higher Education will recognize top students from across Massachusetts during the sixth annual “29 Who Shine” award ceremony on Monday, May 9 at noon at the Grand Staircase of the Massachusetts Statehouse.

The ceremony honors an outstanding graduating student from each of the state’s 29 public colleges and universities, as well as each award recipients’ faculty or staff mentor. The honorees, chosen because of their academic achievements and record of student leadership and community service, contribute greatly to the civic life and economic well-being of the state, whether furthering their education or entering careers in Massachusetts in fields as diverse as education, public policy, medicine, creative arts and engineering.

This year’s MWCC recipient is Bella Ballin, a Liberal Arts: Chemical Science major who is enrolled in the Pathways Early College Innovation School. Ballin began her academic studies two years ago at age 16 as a dual enrollment student.

While the Worcester resident enjoyed high school, she chose to tap into the opportunities available through MWCC’s unique Pathways Early College Innovation School, which has allowed her to simultaneously earn her high school diploma and an associate degree at no cost through school choice funding.

“I wanted to get ahead. Not for ambitious reasons, but because through experience, I learned that good health and time are not things that should be taken for granted,” said Ballin, who was diagnosed at age 15 with Multiple Sclerosis. “When I learned about the Mount’s Pathway’s Early College Innovation School, I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

A member of the Commonwealth Honors Program, Ballin is a 2015 recipient of the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s prestigious Christian A. Herter Memorial Scholarship. After earning her associate degree, she will transfer to a four-year school this fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree in science.

At MWCC, she has been named to the President’s List every semester for maintaining a perfect 4.0 grade point average, and this year was named to Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. A mentor to her two younger brothers, she plans to build a career in science in Massachusetts, and at some point in her future, would like to become a teacher.

She enjoys helping peers as a math and chemistry tutor within MWCC’s Academic Support Center, serves as president of the student Math Club, and has volunteered at the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster. Additionally, she participated in MWCC’s Leadership Camp, Leadership Retreat, and Women in Leadership Forum.

She chose Natalie J. Mercier, Academic Counselor in MWCC’s Division of Access & Transition, as her staff mentor.

“I can come to Natalie at any time with anything. I know I can always count on her.”

The 29 Who Shine honorees “represent our future citizenry and workforce and have already made substantial contributions to the Commonwealth,” said Carlos E. Santiago, Commissioner of Higher Education. “I am so proud of what they have achieved and look forward to seeing how they continue to put their talents to work on behalf of our local communities.”