Alumni Stories

Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke photoGardner Mayor Mark Hawke has been named Mount Wachusett Community College’s 2016 Alumnus of the Year. He will be recognized during the college’s 51st Commencement on Wednesday, May 18.

“We are extremely proud to honor Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke as our 2016 Alumnus of the Year,” said President Daniel M. Asquino. “Like many of our students, Mayor Hawke discovered his potential while attending Mount Wachusett Community College, and then followed that path to achieve success both academically and professionally. Moreover, he has consistently demonstrated his commitment to public service, to Mount Wachusett Community College, and to our students.”

Created in 1989, the award recognizes a Mount Wachusett Community College graduate who has exhibited exceptional career leadership, service to community and commitment to the college.

“I am deeply indebted to MWCC,” Mayor Hawke said. “While I didn’t know it then, the Mount and its faculty put me on the track to success. As a graduate, I have firsthand knowledge of the college’s positive impact on students. As mayor, I have seen the transformative influence the college has had on our community. Gardner is truly fortunate to be home to MWCC.”

The son of Nancy Hawke and the late State Rep. Robert Hawke, Mayor Hawke is the youngest of five siblings. He attended Gardner public schools and graduated from Gardner High School as a three sport letterman. After earning his associate degree in general studies from MWCC, he went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and a master’s degree in business administration from Anna Maria College.

Since being sworn into office in January 2008, he has continually worked to bring Gardner into a new age through investments in the city’s infrastructure, economic development, playgrounds and other facilities. Under his leadership, Gardner became one of the first communities to sign on to the Baker Administration’s Commonwealth Community Pact.

Prior to his election, Mayor Hawke served as Gardner’s grants administrator for over six years. He previously worked in the private sector as a business analyst for a wireless communications company, as an operations manager for a transportation company, and as a logistics analyst for a waste management company.

Mayor Hawke currently serves as President of the Massachusetts Mayor’s Association and on the Board of Directors for the Massachusetts Municipal Association.

Among his community activities, he serves on the Board of Incorporators of Heywood Hospital; the Board of Directors of Gardner’s downtown association, Square Two; and the GFA Federal Credit Union Board of Directors. Previously, he has served as president of Gardner Square Two; on the Board of Directors of the Greater Gardner Chamber of Commerce, and on MWCC’s Board of Trustees.

He is also an active member of the Acadien Social Club of Gardner, the Napoleon Club of Gardner, the Polish American Citizens Club of Gardner, the Gardner Museum, the Acadien Club Hockey League and City League Softball and an honorary member of the Gardner Rotary Club.

He and his wife, Shelly, live in Gardner with their son, Justin.

MWCC Alumni Network Dine photo

Rick Walton of the Gardner Ale House presents a check for Dine for a Cause proceeds to Briana Nobrega (center), Secretary of the MWCC Alumni Network Board and Carol Jacobson, Associate Director Alumni Relations.

The MWCC Alumni Network held its first Dine for a Cause event, hosted by the Gardner Ale House on March 29, raising $800 for the alumni scholarship fund.

Alumni, members of the college community, supporters and friends enjoyed a delicious meal, and each others company, all in support of student success. The Ale House generously donated 10% of the evening’s dining proceeds to the Alumni Scholarship Fund.

The Alumni Network also hosted a chance table, including a 50/50 cash raffle, and a Wachusett-themed basket valued at approximately $500. MWCC alumnus and member of the alumni board, John Day (’15), won the cash raffle and the basket was won by Paul Geoffroy (’77).

MWCC Alumni Network board member Briana Nobrega (’07) worked with Ale House staff to coordinate the event.

“I was really pleased with the turnout. It was obvious that everyone enjoyed themselves and I think at one point every table was full. There was also a constant flow of guests engaging with our alumni board at the raffle table and quite a few people reconnecting” she said.

“Being a past scholarship recipient myself, I know first-hand how important this fundraising is for the future of our students, so it was great to see so many people come out to support our cause.”

Many MWCC students have a significant financial need, and scholarships help pay for books, laptops or other needed resources that financial aid does not. Without this assistance, many of our students would be unable to attend, or complete their studies. If you are interested in becoming involved in the MWCC Alumni Network, or would like to support student success through a donation to the scholarship fund, visit: http://mwcc.edu/foundation/give/ or contact the Alumni Relations Office at 978-630-9306.

To view photos from the Dine for a Cause event, visit: https://www.facebook.com/MWCCAlumni/

Carol Jacobson

 

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Participants in Mount Wachusett Community College’s Tea Time speaker series event on immigration include from left, MWCC student Mili Silva, Dean of Students Jason Zelesky, Senior Resource Specialist Sharmese Gunn, MWCC Trustee Joana Dos Santos, and MWCC Diversity Coalition co-chair Maria Gariepy.

Whether their relatives relocated to the U.S. generations ago or arrived just recently, participants in Mount Wachusett Community College’s dialogue on immigration realized their family histories share a common theme: Their parents, grandparents, ancestors or even they themselves emigrated for the hope of a better life and greater opportunity.

More than 80 students, faculty, staff and community members turned out to discuss “Immigration and the Undocumented Student.” The March 28 Tea Time Speaker Series event was sponsored by the college’s Diversity Consortium and Gateway to College program, through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, in partnership with the American Association of Colleges & Universities.

The forum was moderated by MWCC Senior Resource Specialist Sharmese Gunn, who developed the Tea Time series as a way to create a dialogue around diverse issues that engages the college community and members of the greater community.

MWCC Trustee Joana Dos Santos, executive director of the United Neighbors of Fitchburg/Cleghorn Neighborhood Center, opened the discussion on a personal note, describing her experience moving from Uruguay to Fitchburg at age 14 when the U.S. had a waiver agreement with Uruguay. While in high school, she realized how expensive college would be as an undocumented student.

Through scholarships, community service programs and support through MWCC, she earned her associate degree. Her immigration status was resolved while she was in college when her green card was granted, and she continued on for a bachelor’s degree at Fitchburg State University.

Realizing the process for others can take decades and entail even greater struggles and obstacles, she has become a strong advocate for immigration reform. Her 40-minute presentation included an overview of the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) programs, now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Following her presentation, participants broke out into small group discussions, sharing a bit of their family history and their thoughts on the national debate on immigration reform. MWCC student Mili Silva, who was involved with planning the event, stood to thank the crowd for attending and asked for their support on this issue.

“I just hope the outcome of this event helps people become well informed on the issue.”

MWCC alumna Joan Mellanson of Gardner was among the community members attending. She shared in her group discussion that although she speaks with an accent, she was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands and is a U.S. citizen. More than four decades after moving to Massachusetts as a young teenager, she said she still encounters judgment.

“I still feel like an alien at times.”

 

 

The Blarney Brainiacs, winners of the second annual Mount Wachusett Community College Alumni Network quiz night, accepts the trophy from Greater Gardner Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jim Bellina, who served as one of the event’s three judges. Team members, from left, are Jessica Connors, Jennifer Welch and Ramon Gonzalez of MWCC’s Division of Access & Transition, and Brian Scales of RCAP Solutions.

The Blarney Brainiacs, winners of the second annual Mount Wachusett Community College Alumni Network quiz night, accepts the trophy from Greater Gardner Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jim Bellina, who served as one of the event’s three judges. Team members, from left, are Jessica Connors, Jennifer Welch and Ramon Gonzalez of MWCC’s Division of Access & Transition, and Brian Scales of RCAP Solutions.

Trivia buffs from Mount Wachusett Community College and the greater community made a spectacular showing at the MWCC Alumni Network’s second annual “Quiz Night” scholarship fundraiser, held March 16 at the Gardner campus.

In a dynamic game of question and answer, 17 teams tested their knowledge related to a variety of topics. Teams were encouraged to give themselves humorous names and to come dressed in costume. Many did, adding to the amusing atmosphere. Complementing the levity of the evening was Master of Ceremonies, Mayor Mark Hawke, whose quick wit kept the crowd entertained. 

“It’s very exciting to see the enthusiasm around this event growing,” said Carol Jacobson, Associate Director Alumni Relations at MWCC. “The number of teams participating nearly doubled this year from last, and we are thrilled with the level of support and enthusiasm we received from members of the community and within the college.”

The event raised $4,300 and proceeds will fund student scholarships through the Mount Wachusett Community College Foundation.

The Blarney Brainiacs, comprised of team members Jessica Connors, Jennifer Welch and Ramon Gonzalez of MWCC’s Access & Transition division, and Brian Scales of RCAP Solutions, took first place for answering the most questions correctly, and also won the award for best costume.

“To participate in an event so fun and engaging while raising money for the alumni scholarship fund was a win-win,” said Connors, the team’s captain. “We were looking for redemption after a close two-point loss last year and could not have been more excited by our victory this year.  It was a true team effort.”

 

 

MWCC nurse trip to Haiti Jan 2016A weeklong medical mission in Haiti gave a team of Mount Wachusett Community College students and faculty a close-up look at poverty in one of the world’s poorest countries, and an opportunity to do something about it.

The students and educators traveled to Fonfred, Haiti in January with MWCC nursing alumna Paula Mulqueen, who with her husband, Dr. John Mulqueen, founded the nonprofit Forward in Health to bring much-needed medical care to the Les Cayes region of Haiti. This past fall, the Gardner couple’s dream came to fruition when its Fonfred Klinik opened its doors after more than a decade of fundraising, construction and medical missions in temporary clinics.

The MWCC volunteers included nursing students Cassandra Pateneaude, Amy Moisan and Jessica Lugudde; Interdisciplinary Studies – Health majors Tiffany Cunningham and Isabella Smith; nursing professors Katherine Pecorelli and Donna Tully, and Marianne Stoy, administrative assistant for MWCC’s School of Health Professions, Public Service Programs & Social Sciences. This is the second consecutive year that Paula Mulqueen, a 1994 graduate of MWCC’s nursing program, brought a group from her alma mater.

While in Haiti, the MWCC team of volunteers helped organize supplies at the Fonfred Klinik, with assistance from University of Massachusetts Lowell civic engineering students and other volunteers. They toured the region’s nursing school and taught multiple classes of CPR. They also held a mountain clinic where they assessed approximately 100 patients, visited an orphanage run by the Sisters of Charity, and provided children with lessons on health and dental hygiene. Professors Pecorelli and Tully also led a discussion on depression and treatment with nurses and a doctor at the clinic.

Without access to health care, even the most common of ailments than can be cured with over the counter medicines in the U.S. can become full-blown health issues in Haiti when left untreated, such as respiratory illness and skin infections. Klinik Fonfred is a primary care clinic providing life-saving healthcare to a community of 18,000 poor adults and children from birth through adulthood in the Fonfred area.

 

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.

 

 

ECE alumni event Nov 2015MWCC’s Early Childhood Education program recently hosted its fourth annual alumni event at the Garrison Center for Early Childhood Education. It was an evening full of friendship, inspiration, and networking. More than 80 current students, faculty, staff, Garrison teachers, alumni and their families attended the Seuss-inspired event.

Alumni events, such as this one, are an important opportunity for current students to make connections with alum who may work in the field.

“These connections not only provide career opportunities but more importantly, set the foundation for a supportive network” said current student Andrea Bartlett.

Emily Wuoti, a December graduate and Leadership in Early Childhood Education student, spearheaded this year’s event. “I wanted to create an event to help inspire current students who are new or may be doubtful that this is the right field for them.” She invited alumni to share their success stories about their journeys and offer advice to current students who may not know where their journey will take them.

This particular event posed a question to all who were involved: Where do you see yourself going from here?

“This was a great opportunity to really think about goals and plans” said current student Kelly Winship.

Additionally, Student Life Coordinator Sandy Arsenault, a long-time friend of the Early Education Club, was honored at the event.

MWCC Early Childhood Education faculty Dr. Rosanne Morel, Dr. Maryann Kane and Professor Maureen Provost “are so very proud of the exceptional work, leadership, professionalism and passion” Emily exhibited throughout her time at Mount Wachusett Community College, Professor Provost said. “She exemplifies the expectations we have for our students and we are looking forward to seeing ‘the places SHE will go’ as she continues her journey. Children and families are fortunate indeed to have Emily in the field.”

Emily Wuoti and Maureen Provost

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 jmeagher@mwcc.mass.edu. To learn more about Laptops for Vets, visit mwcc.edu/laptopsforvets.

Go Higher Oct 14 2015

MWCC alumnus CJ Husselbee, right, joined fellow students at the Department of Higher Education’s Go Higher! presentation in Worcester.

Mount Wachusett Community College alumnus Charles “CJ” Husselbee was among the featured speakers during a Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s Go Higher! event held Oct. 14 at North High School in Worcester.

The event, attended by several hundred teenagers from five Worcester public high schools, provided students with information about the state’s 29 public college and university campuses, with topics ranging from paying for college to living with roommates.

Mr. Husselbee shared how he enrolled at MWCC during his senior year in high school through the Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation Career Tech dual enrollment program for Winchendon students. He went on to serve as president of the college’s chapter of the Alpha Beta Gamma business honor society, secretary of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and served on the Student Government Association.

“Get involved. I cannot stress this enough,” he told the assembly. “It’s the best way to integrate yourself into the community.”

After graduating in May 2014 with an associate degree in Business Administration, Mr. Husselbee transferred as a junior to the Isenberg School of Management at University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

He will earn his bachelor’s degree in accounting this December at age 21, then plans to teach English in Albania as a volunteer with the Peace Corps.

CJ Husselbee

2014 graduate CJ Husselbee, who began his studies as a high school student, is featured in the DHE’s video on dual enrollment.

As nearly 300,000 students return to Massachusetts’ community colleges, state universities and University of Massachusetts campuses this week, the Department of Higher Education (DHE) awarded competitive grants to increase access to college by students across the Commonwealth.

Twenty-five campuses, including Mount Wachusett, were awarded grants through the Commonwealth Dual Enrollment Partnership (CDEP). The program expands the state’s dual enrollment programs, which allow high school students to take college courses and earn credit for free or at a reduced cost. CDEP funding increased from $750,000 in FY15 to $1 million in FY16. MWCC was awarded a $50,000 grant.

The DHE has set a goal of increasing dual enrollment from 2,000 to 3,400 students and is using a new dual enrollment video, outreach to high schools, and social media to promote opportunities on campuses. MWCC alumnus Charles “CJ” Husselbee, who is completing his bachelor’s degree in accounting this semester at UMass Amherst’s Isenberg School of Management, is among the featured students in the video.

“Increasing collaboration between high schools and higher education is important to making a college education more affordable and creating more opportunities for students across the Commonwealth to succeed in college and their careers,”  Governor Charlie Baker said when announcing the grants. “These awards also present opportunities for college campuses and their regional partners to focus creatively on boosting college completion rates and advancing more students from diverse and underserved populations.”