Alumni Stories

Mount Wachusett Community College student and Worcester resident Jasson Alvarado Gomez was a featured speaker to nearly 300 high school seniors from North, Burncoat, and Doherty High Schools in Worcester on Wednesday October 12 at the Department of Higher Education’s GO HIGHER! event, a partnership with Massachusetts’ 29 public colleges and universities to raise awareness of the growing number of outstanding programs and opportunities available to students at our community colleges, state universities and UMass campuses.

Alvarado Gomez, an aspiring filmmaker studying Media Arts & Technology at MWCC, participated in a student-to-student panel discussion about choosing a college and a major, navigating campus life, and the challenges that undocumented students face. Alvarado Gomez impressed upon students that “there are plenty of financial and support services available to all students in the community college system. You just have to ask.”

At MWCC, Alvarado Gomez has served on the Student Government Association, as president of the ALANA Club, and on the Campus Activities Team for Students and SAGA organizations. He has served as a student ambassador and a volunteer for the United Way Day of Caring and the SGA annual food drive, and is a recipient of the Gateway Community Service Award. He is also an appointed member to the college’s Board of Trustees, following a spring election by his peers. Earlier this fall, the Worcester resident was appointed to the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education as a full voting member representing all students attending the state’s 29 colleges and universities. Upon graduating from MWCC, Alvarado Gomez plans to transfer to a four-year institution to complete a Bachelor’s degree and begin a career in media arts.

According to Mount Wachusett Community College Dean of Admissions and Enrollment Management, Marcia Rosbury-Henne, the GO HIGHER! events celebrate the academic excellence and affordability of not only MWCC, but all public higher education institutions in the Commonwealth. “The financial advantages of attending a community colleges are often more obvious than the academic and social advantages,” according to Rosbury-Henne. “The GO HIGHER! events offer high school students an opportunity to hear firsthand from community college graduates that have transferred.” Rosbury-Henne continued, “And the student speakers today spoke of how their college experience has been enriched by attending two different institutions, as they experience two student bodies, two campuses, and for some even two different geographic regions in the Commonwealth.”

Immediately following the student panel session, all Worcester high school students in attendance had the opportunity to meet Mount Wachusett Community College faculty and staff at a college fair in the North High gymnasium to learn more about academic program offerings, the admission process and financial aid at the Commonwealth’s community colleges.

Sheila Boria and Aurea Carrion

Sheila Boria and Aurea Carrion

Jose Mangual, academic counselor for students enrolled in MWCC’s English as a Second Language program, has a ready answer for prospective students who feel they are too busy, too old or not ready to enroll in courses.

He introduces them to students who once had the same concerns, but now are succeeding not only in the ESL program, but in MWCC academic programs as well.

“If someone says, ‘I’m too old, I’m in my 40’s and I’ll be the oldest student there,’ I say, ‘Have you met Aurea Carrion? She is 81!’ ”

Mangual served as host of the ESL program’s annual year-end celebration, which recognized the achievements of residents new to the U.S. from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Uruguay, Brazil, Egypt, Ghanna, Syria and Vietnam. The festive event, held at the Leominster campus, featured laughter, encouragement, and array of traditional food.

Special recognition was given to students who recently advanced in or completed their ESL courses, as well as to Ms. Carrion, who graduated with an associate degree in Human Services, and Sheila Boria, who earned an academic certificate in Human Services.

Carrion, who previously earned an associate degree from MWCC in 1990 in Secretarial Studies, worked as a liaison between the community and the Fitchburg and Worcester public schools. She retired from the Worcester Public School system in 2006.

Since then, she returned to MWCC to pursue her interest in the human services field and earned her academic certificate in Human Services in 2013. “I never get tired of studying,” she said. Her goal is to continue working in the human services field.

In addition to serving as president of the ESL club, Ms. Carrion has volunteered countless hours at the Leominster campus and most significantly, serves as an inspiration to fellow students. “It’s never too late!”

“I said if she can do it, I can do it. She was my inspiration,” said Ms. Boria, who will continue her studies and aspires to become a lawyer. “This is important to me. This is my future.”

 

 

VFW donation to MWCC scholarship fund

The Ovila Case Post VFW continued its support for student veterans at Mount Wachusett Community College by presenting a $1,000 donation to the MWCC Foundation for scholarships. Pictured from left, Foundation Executive Director Carla Zottoli, President Daniel Asquino, Commander Joseph LeBlanc, past Commander Donald Progen and MWCC Director of Veteran Services Bob Mayer.

The Ovila Case Post 905 Veterans of Foreign Wars recently donated $1,000 to Mount Wachusett Community College Foundation’s Veterans Memorial Scholarship.

President Daniel Asquino, Foundation Executive Director Carla Zottoli, and Director of Veteran Services Bob Mayer accepted the generous donation from VFW Commander Joseph LeBlanc and past Commander and MWCC alumnus Donald Progen, and thanked the post members for their ongoing support of MWCC and student veterans.

The scholarship was established to recognize the important role played by MWCC in ensuring that the sacrifices and service of veterans who served the country will not be forgotten.

Scholarship funds are awarded to new or returning full-time students who were honorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces or are currently serving in the Reserves or National Guard.

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.

 

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.