Final-MWCC-Graduation-HatMount Wachusett Community College, the Athol Area YMCA and the Athol Public Library are teaming up to offer “3 for 3 College Readiness,” a series of three free workshops on the third Tuesday of the month from January through March. The sessions are geared toward adult learners of all ages.

The first session, “College Planning 101: Investing in your Future,” will take place January 19 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Athol Area YMCA. In this interactive workshop, participants will learn about the many benefits of earning a college degree, including career advancement, economic stability, and overall wellness.

The next session, “Financing Your Education” will take place February 16 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Athol Public Library. The workshop will guide participants through the process of completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine eligibility for grants, scholarships and student loans to cover the cost of tuition, fees and textbooks.

The third session, “Dive into College: Apply Today,” will take place March 15 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Athol Area YMCA. Students interested in enrolling in summer and fall 2016 courses will receive on-the-spot acceptance for any non-selective program. Students interested in enrolling in a selective program, which includes nursing, dental hygiene, dental assisting, physical therapist assistant and health information management, can obtain information about the application process.

Registration is not required, although reservations are recommended and can be made online at For information, contact the MWCC Admissions Office at or 978-630-9122, or visit


MWCC PN pinning Dec 15 2015Forty-two Mount Wachusett Community College students were welcomed into the nursing profession during a traditional pinning ceremony on December 21.

“As you graduate and take on new challenges, it is important to remember that you have already taken the initial step you needed to build a more promising future,” keynote speaker Michelle Humphrey, RN, a 2006 alumna of the program, told the graduates. “Every class you’ve taken, every lab, paper and certification you’ve earned, have all been preparing you to adapt to change and future challenges. The most powerful tool you will have is the determination to succeed, which has taken you through this program and culminated in this pinning.”

Like many of the graduates, Ms. Humphrey began her healthcare career as a nurse assistant, before becoming a licensed practical nurse and a registered nurse. After earning an associate degree in nursing, she went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, graduating with honors. She was consecutively promoted to her present position, director of nursing services, for Genesis Healthcare’s Pheasant Wood Center and Keene Center in New Hampshire.

“This program brought enormous good into my life, the opportunity to build a career, financial security for my family and a job where I positively impact people every single day,” she said.

Robert LaBonte, Vice President of Finance and Administration, congratulated the students on behalf of the college and President Daniel M. Asquino, and Eileen Costello, Dean of the School of Health Professions, Public Service Programs & Social Sciences, delivered greetings from the academic school.

Graduates Leslie Jele, Barbara Avila and Melissa Gonzalez delivered student addresses, and classmates Rebecca Beirholm, Cynthia Riley, and Terri Stewart led the lighting of the lamp and the Florence Nightingale Pledge.

Each graduate, dressed in a traditional nurse uniform, was welcomed into the profession by having a nursing pin fastened to her or his lapel by a fellow nurse – a family member, friend or faculty member. MWCC’s eight-star pin is imprinted with the words “Service to Humanity and the World” with the nursing symbol in the middle. Professors Kathleen Panagiotes, Kimberly Shea and Collene Thaxton led the ceremony, which took place at the Colonial Hotel while renovations at the MWCC’s Green Street campus continue.

As part of the one-year academic program, the students trained with professionals at 23 clinical sites that partner with the college, including Athol Hospital; Clinton Hospital; Community Health Connections; DaVita Dialysis Center; Gardner Public Schools, Gardner Rehabilitation & Nursing Center; Golden Living Center; GVNA Health Care, Inc. – Fitchburg, Gardner and North Quabbin; Habit OPCO; Heywood Hospital MHU/GPU; Heywood Hospital Maternity Center; HealthAlliance, Leominster Birthing Center; Leominster Public School District; Life Care, the Highlands; Northeast Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Clinic; Quabbin Valley Health Care; St. Peter-Marian Jr.-Sr. High School; St. Vincent Hospital, Seven Hills Pediatric Center; Stetson School; and Worcester Recovery Center & Hospital.



Bionostics Floyd 2Mount Wachusett Community College is recruiting adults of all ages, experience and education for training in the growing field of advanced manufacturing. Full scholarships are available for eligible students who enroll in an upcoming six-week day program, which begins on January 19 at MWCC’s Devens campus.

Manufacturing accounts for nearly 25 percent of the workforce in North Central Massachusetts, employing more than 14,000 people in the region. The demand for skilled workers continues to grow as a result of new opportunities and the retirement of older workers.

The Industry Readiness Training (IRT) Program is a short-term intensive non-credit training program developed with industry employers to prepare students for entry to mid-level jobs in the local, diverse advanced manufacturing industry. The program is designed especially for unemployed or underemployed adults, veterans and recent high school graduates. The program provides students with training in skills required for entry-level employment as technicians in manufacturing, validation, quality control, documentation, process operations and more.

Students who successfully complete the program will earn an MWCC Certificate of Completion, an OSHA 10-hour Safety Certification and the National Career Readiness Certificate, while learning about working in the fast-growing manufacturing field.

The six-week program will take place Tuesday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The course includes hands-on, lecture-based material as well as self-paced KeyTrain curriculum leading to the National Career Readiness Certification.

Students must possess a minimum of a high school diploma or equivalent. Students will have access to staff members who will assist them with the registration process, facilitate access to support services, and help them with their search for employment when they have completed the certificate program successfully. Tutoring and job search support is also available.

The training program is made possible through a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration. Tuition support is provided by a Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund grant awarded through the North Central Massachusetts Workforce Investment Board by Commonwealth Corporation on behalf of the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.

For more information about enrolling in the training program, visit, contact the Devens campus at 978-630-9883, or email Career Development Coach Christian Reifsteck at


Police and criminal justice officials throughout the region recently provided internship opportunities for a number of Mount Wachusett Community College students majoring in criminal justice.

Student interns completed a minimum of 120 hours over a 15-week semester at different sites throughout the region including the Gardner, Clinton, Shirley and Winchendon police departments and the North Central Correctional Institution in Gardner.

“The internships are a great way for students to gain experience while making connections that can lead to jobs,” said department chair Reed Hillman, former commander of the Massachusetts State Police.




Mary-Ann Nkongchu of Worcester, Andrew Wegiel of Leominster and Alexander Ramos Jr. of Leominster were among a class of 26 dual enrollment students completing English Composition I in December through the Commonwealth Dual Enrollment Partnership at Mount Wachusett Community College.

High school and homeschooled students interested in saving money while getting a head start on their college education can choose from several upcoming courses available through the Commonwealth Dual Enrollment Partnership (CDEP) at MWCC. The three-credit courses are being offered at the grant-funded price of $30, including textbooks, for the spring semester beginning January 20. 

Managed and supported by the Massachusetts departments of Higher Education and Elementary and Secondary Education, CDEP provides opportunities for high school students to take college-level courses at a discounted price and earn credit toward their high school diploma and future college degrees.

In September, MWCC was awarded a $50,000 CDEP grant from the Department of Higher Education, which has set a goal of increasing statewide dual enrollment from 2,000 to 3,400 each year. More than 500 high school students are concurrently enrolled at MWCC throughout the college academic year. In addition to CDEP, MWCC’s academic programs are available to high school students through traditional full-time and part-time dual enrollment, the Gateway to College program and the Pathways Early College Innovation School.

CDEP provides meaningful and challenging academic experiences to qualified students who otherwise may not have access to an early college experience, and strives to increase the population of high school graduates who are college-ready. The program aims to serve students who are underrepresented in higher education, including first-generation college students and students who come from low income families.

Upcoming spring semester CDEP courses include Digital Imaging (Photoshop) on Mondays from 3 to 6:30 p.m. at MWCC’s Gardner campus; Introduction to Sociology on Tuesdays from 3:30 to 6 p.m. at the Gardner campus; English Composition 1 on Tuesdays from 5:15 to 7:45 p.m. at MWCC’s Leominster campus; Introduction to Psychology on Tuesdays from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at Leominster High School; Introduction to Criminal Justice on Wednesdays from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at Fitchburg High School; Strategic Management on Thursdays from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School; and Introduction to Psychology on Thursdays from 3:30 to 6 p.m., also at Monty Tech.

New CDEP students are required to attend a mandatory orientation with completed dual enrollment application and transcript. Parents or guardians are encouraged to attend. Orientation sessions will take place Tuesday, Dec. 29 from 2 to 3 p.m. and Thursday, Jan. 7 from 6 to 7 p.m. in the North Café at MWCC’s Gardner campus, and Thursday, Jan. 14 from 6 to 7 p.m. at MWCC’s Leominster campus.

All students must meet Accuplacer/Placement requirements, attend or have attended a dual enrollment orientation session, complete a dual enrollment application, provide a high school transcript and payment.

Alexander Ramos Jr. of Leominster said he enrolls in dual enrollment courses to get a head start on his career goal of becoming an attorney. “I want to earn college credit while in high school and I want to challenge myself,” he said.

For more information about enrolling in CDEP courses, contact Melissa Bourque-Silva at or the Division of Access & Transition at 978-630-9248. Additional information about dual enrollment programs can be found online at


STEM College Day at Devens

Leominster High School senior Jonathan Nunez, maneuvering equipment used in advanced manufacturing, joined classmates from LHS and the Leominster Center for Technical Education Innovation at a STEM College Day at Mount Wachusett Community College’s Devens campus

Dozens of seniors from Leominster High School and the LHS Center for Technical Education Innovation explored career options in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields during a STEM College Day at Mount Wachusett Community College’s Devens campus.

More than 60 students who participate in the Math Modeling program at the schools attended the half-day event, which included demonstrations and hands-on activities ranging from capturing their own DNA to 3D printing, mechatronics, quality assurance and quality control.

“The Math Modeling Program has meant so much for our students,” said CTEi Director David Fiandaca. “For many years we struggled with our students not being prepared to do college math upon graduation from CTEi. We were actually contemplating a software program to help students improve their test scores on the Accuplacer Test. Then, we had an opportunity to collaborate with folks from MWCC, shared our concerns with them, and began to investigate how we could work together to solve this problem.”

“The rest is history. We could not be more grateful for the efforts of both faculties at MWCC and LHS/CTEi for the tremendous success of the Math Modeling program. A much greater percentage of our students are now able to begin their college course work with the math skills that enable them to be successful with college level math,” Fiandaca said. “This helps to keep our students in school and moving forward to a successful attainment of a college degree.”

“Mount Wachusett Community College, Leominster High School and Leominster Center for Technical Education Innovation have formed a wonderful collaboration to develop the Math Modeling programs,” said Christine Davis, MWCC STEM Starter Academy recruiter. “The goal of Math Modeling is to ensure that seniors in high school are college and career ready in mathematics. As part of their math studies, we expose them to the hands-on applications of what they are learning in class. MWCC’s Devens campus is the ideal place to showcase this.”

Math Modeling was developed by faculty and staff from MWCC and Leominster Public Schools in 2013. The program expanded the following year to include seniors at Fitchburg High School and Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical High School. The Math Modeling cohort now exceeds 500 students with the addition of seniors at Gardner, Athol and Murdock high schools.

“Seeing the opportunities what each class has to offer – all of it can help me with deciding on a major,” said Zach Oldham, a senior at LHS/CTEi. “I like the DNA necklaces experiment. Seeing what makes ‘you’ is pretty cool.”

laptops for vetsThrough the generosity of corporations and individuals, student veterans at Mount Wachusett Community College have 16 new laptop computers readily available for their use while pursuing their college degrees.

Donations to the Laptops for Veterans program have topped $20,350, which has allowed the Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success to replace five outdated computers and acquire 16 new ones that veterans and active military personnel can borrow as needed. The fundraising initiative was launched by MWCC Student Trustee and Army veteran Thomas Berger.

Earlier this year, Rollstone Bank & Trust donated $3,000, followed by Wayne Canty and the Canty Family Charitable Foundation, with a $5,000 donation. MWCC alumnus and 2015 commencement speaker Kevin Berg sent six laptops valued at $9,000. Additional donors include Heywood Healthcare President and CEO Winfield Brown, George and Mary-Beth Jones, Pat Dakota and Janice Kulig.

“We now have 16 laptops that are either in use or readily available for use, with the potential to replace them as needed,” said MWCC Veterans Services Director Bob Mayer. “We are grateful to all who have contributed to this initiative.”

The Veteran Success Center at MWCC was created five years ago to meet the unique needs of veterans transitioning to college.

Tax-deductible donations may be made payable to MWCC Foundation with “Laptops for Vets” in the memo line, and mailed to MWCC Foundation, 444 Green Street, Gardner, MA 01440, or contact Jo-Ann Meagher at To learn more about Laptops for Vets, visit

ICEI logoMount Wachusett Community College and four public school districts have been awarded a $20,000 grant from the Baker-Polito Administration to plan an Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment program that will enhance academic opportunities for high school students with severe disabilities.

The partnership includes the Gardner, Fitchburg, Leominster, and Ayer-Shirley school districts and the Central Area Programs and Services (CAPS) Collaborative, a Westminster-based regional educational collaborative.

“We are excited about this new partnership and the opportunities it will create for students with intellectual disabilities,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “Students will grow personally from their experiences participating in college courses and campus activities, and gain knowledge and skills that will help them flourish in the workplace.”

MWCC administrators and high school principals, special education coordinators and community partners held their first planning meeting on Nov. 23 to begin building a program that could be implemented in fall 2016.

Administered by the state Executive Office of Education, the Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative (ICEI) offers grants to fund programs supporting public high school students with severe disabilities, ages 18 to 22, who have not passed MCAS, the opportunity to participate in inclusive, credit and noncredit college courses to increase their school and work success.

Research shows that students benefit academically and transition to young adulthood more readily when they have the opportunity to engage in all college-related activities rather than staying at high school. Student participation in this grant program may be incorporated into a student’s transition program, as determined through the school district’s special education process.

“Increasing the diversity of our workforce to include more young adults with intellectual disabilities complements our administration’s commitment to developing economic vitality,” said Governor Charlie Baker said. “The Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment initiative is a national model for building learning experiences and academic achievements for lifelong success.”

The grant will facilitate a planning partnership led by Mount Wachusett in conjunction with educators from partnering public school systems. The partnership is intended to create a program that gives students access to college academics and other college related activities.

“Developing clear career pathways that are built on strong partnerships between schools and community colleges for all students, including those with intellectual disabilities, is an important priority,” said Secretary of Education James Peyser. “Collaborative partnerships such as these are critical to streamlining productive enrollment-to-career pathways that are essential to a vital and diverse economy.”

Massachusetts is one of the few states to provide college and university opportunities for young adults with intellectual disabilities while they are still in high school. Funded by the Commonwealth since 2008, the Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment program has grown to 14 public two-and four-year institutions supporting over 800 students. One hundred and thirty students are enrolled in the program this academic year.



Jesse Derleth with Carolina Silvera and Whitney Bailey

Jesse Derleth, center, Mount Wachusett Community College student activity officer for GEAR UP, assists Fitchburg High School seniors Carolina Silvera, left, and Whitney Bailey with their college applications during the Massachusetts College Application Celebration coordinated by the college and the high school’s guidance department.

A majority of Fitchburg High School seniors will celebrate Thanksgiving with more than a meal under their belts. By the holiday, more than 92 percent of the class will have submitted their college applications for fall 2016.Mount Wachusett Community College and Fitchburg High partnered to bring the Massachusetts College Application Celebration to the school this week. This is the fourth year Massachusetts has participated in the national initiative spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Education’s GEAR UP program and the second year the event has been held at FHS.

By the morning of Day 2, the class had exceeded the event’s 90-percent goal and was well on its way to reaching the high school’s 100-percent goal.

“The Massachusetts College Application Celebration has been a great opportunity to motivate and excite our students about a crucial part of the college success process,” said High School Principal Jeremy Roche.  “The ultimate goal of having 100% of our seniors apply to college before graduation reinforces the high expectations we have as a school community. This event highlights that college and career readiness is the goal for every FHS student,” he said. GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) is administered by MWCC’s Division of Access & Transition in partnership with the high school through a grant  from the U.S. Department of Education. The majority of students in the graduating class of 2016 have received intensive college access and success services since middle school. With so much preparation behind them, students were eager to participate in the application challenge this year, said MWCC GEAR UP Director Andrew Goodwin.

Specific services include academic counseling, tutoring, homework support, after school academic and social activities, college awareness and financial aid workshops MCAS, PSAT/SAT preparation, and college admissions assistance.

By encouraging high school students to apply to college early in their senior year, they are more likely to apply to several schools and find the best match for their academic goals, said Lea Ann Scales, MWCC Vice President of External Affairs, Communications and K-12 Partnerships.

“We’ve been doing a lot of good work to help them succeed in middle school and high school, and we’re coming to the point where it all pays off. They have a lot of milestones this year – applying to schools, being accepted and receiving financial aid packages, and ultimately enrolling. We’re extremely proud of these students,” she said.

Damon Thammalangsy, who plans to study business at the University of Texas, said GEAR UP has helped him navigate through the steps of applying for college, financial aid and scholarship while developing leadership skills. “It opened a lot of opportunities for me.”

Inspired by her mother, Jaelyn Sanchez, plans to study psychology and ultimately earn her master’s degree and pursue a career working with children with autism. While earning her degrees, she is also following in her grandfather’s footsteps, serving in the U.S. Army Reserves.

Carolina Silvera is preparing to enroll in MWCC’s Pre-Healthcare Academy, which leads students directly into the college’s nursing program following a year of co-requisites. The GEAR UP program not only helped her transition to college, but transition to the U.S. after moving from Uruguay a year ago.

The GEAR UP team “was there for me every step of the way,” said Whitney Bailey, an aspiring attorney. “They are more than staff, they become mentors.”

MWCC hunger banquet 2016

Students representing the world’s poorest shared meager bowls of rice and water, while a much smaller group, representing the world’s wealthiest, dined on a full meal during a hunger banquet hosted Nov. 19 by Mount Wachusett Community College’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement and Green Street Café.

Students representing the world’s poorest shared meager bowls of rice and water, while a much smaller group, representing the world’s wealthiest, dined on a full meal during a hunger banquet hosted Nov. 19 by Mount Wachusett Community College’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement and Green Street Café.

The event aims to raise awareness of world poverty and economic inequality by providing students with varying meals and levels of service, based on the distribution of income and on chance – very often the sole determinant of one’s economic standing. Participants representing the 20 percent of high-income individuals were served a pasta entre with vegetables, rolls and soda. Middle-income participants, who comprise 30 percent of the population, served themselves rice and beans. Finally, students portraying the 50 percent of low-income individuals sat on the floor and received one ladle of rice, no silverware and a cup of water.

While students ate, faculty and staff speakers highlighted a range of statistics on world poverty and hunger. An estimated 2.5 billion people live in poverty, while 870 million suffer from chronic hunger.

“The issue is not a shortage of food,” explained Assistant Professor of Philosophy Daniel Soucy. “There is plenty of food to feed the world now.” War, economic inequality, and place of birth are among the factors that determine one’s station in life, he said.

Following the banquet, students from each income group reflected on the experience.

“The least we can do is feed people,” a young woman from the middle bracket called out. “I feel it’s the least we can do to make this world just a little bit better.”

Tickets to the banquet were sold for $1 and the money raised was donated to MWCC’s Students Supporting our Students (SOS) office food assistance program to help students in need.

The event is incorporated into a national initiative on economic inequality spearheaded by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. MWCC and Keene State College are co-leading more than 30 participating colleges and universities in the three-year initiative.

“It’s active learning,” said Shelley Errington Nicholson, MWCC Director of Community Learning. “I don’t think you can make this point in any better way than to do something like this.”