Campus Life

MWCC Leadership Academy 2015 backpack drive

Community service during the 11th annual Summer Leadership Academy included an outpouring of donations for school children in foster care. Volunteers filled 123 packpacks with school supplies.

Fifty-six incoming Mount Wachusett Community College students learned new skills, met new friends and volunteered in the community during the college’s 11th annual Summer Leadership Academy.

Participants attended educational workshops designed to enhance their academic and leadership skills, took part in team-building activities and completed civic engagement projects. Sponsored by the office of Student Life in collaboration with the college’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement, the two-day program took place August 25 and 26 at the college’s Gardner campus.

Service projects included a back-pack drive to benefit children living in foster care in Massachusetts. Through donations from students, faculty, staff and local organizations and businesses, the drive yielded 123 backpacks filled with an array of school supplies. The drive  exceed the goal of 100 backpacks and broke the program’s previous record of 93.

Leadership Academy participants also volunteered at the Habitat for Humanity of North Central Massachusetts’ ReStore center in Leominster and Cathy’s House, a residential program for women veterans in Winchendon under renovation by the Montachusett Veteran Outreach Center. Volunteers also helped prepare the college’s Fitness & Wellness Center, nature trail and campus grounds for the start of the new academic year on September 2.

The Leadership Academy is designed to give new students a jump start on their first semester, said Associate Dean of Students Greg Clement. College faculty, staff, alumni and current students take part to ensure a meaningful experience for the incoming students, he said.

“This is one of the most exciting times of the year. It’s so rewarding to see new students come in as strangers and gain friends and confidence during the two-day program.”

“Leadership Academy is a great way to become involved in school and a great way to get to know your peers,” said volunteer Carrie DeCosta of Winchendon, president of the Student Government Association.

Student Trustee Tom Berger, also of Winchendon, said the service component provides new students with an opportunity to meet people at the college and in the community.

“It gives people a sense of pride and accomplishment to be able to give back to the community.”

Zoe Hammond of Templeton, who will begin her college degree as a dual-enrolled high school student in the Pathways Early College Innovation School, said she enjoyed the experience.

“It was great to meet people before starting classes.” Hammond said she particularly enjoyed a martial arts exercise that guided each student to break a solid board with their hand during a lesson on overcoming challenges and barriers. 

“It was inspiring.”

 

MWCC Beam signing ceremony group photo

State, local and college officials joined in Mount Wachusett Community College’s beam signing ceremony, signifying the completion of the structural frame of the college’s new science, technology, engineering and math building, slated to open in 2016. Attendees included President Daniel M. Asquino, retired state Sen. Stephen Brewer, Senator Anne Gobi, State Representative Stephen DiNatale, State Representative Susannah Whipps Lee, Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke and MWCC Foundation board member Jim Garrison.

Poised with pens in Mount Wachusett Community College’s school colors of blue and green, state elected officials joined college and community leaders, trustees, foundation board members, students and contractors on Tuesday, Aug. 11 to mark a milestone in the construction of MWCC’s new 44,000-square-foot science and technology building.

This centuries-old tradition of signing the steel beam that “tops off” a building signifies the completion of the structural phase of a construction project. Dozens packed in to MWCC’s North Café to permanently add their signatures to the 10-foot beam, which will be the final and uppermost beam secured to the building frame next week.

“Thank you all for being here on this historic occasion,” said President Daniel M. Asquino. “This is another step forward in the modernization of our campus and a brand new STEM building ready for occupancy a year from now.”

State Senator Anne Gobi, representing MWCC’s Senate delegation, described the new building as an “investment in education and an investment in the future” of the North Central Massachusetts region. “This community college has been a true building block for scores and scores of students,” Gobi said.

Retired Senator Stephen M. Brewer, who was instrumental in securing funding for the $41 million project that also includes renovations to the 40-year-old campus, also shared inspiring remarks during the event. Throughout the commonwealth, public schools, colleges and universities are undergoing expansions and renovations to meet the needs of 21st century students, invigorating the campuses and presenting students with greater opportunities to achieve their academic goals, he said.

“Everything that we do should be about the next generations, and that will happen here.”

State Representative Stephen DiNatale and State Representative Susannah Whipps Lee, an MWCC alumna, congratulated the college on behalf of the House delegation that represents the college’s service region. “These investments, these kinds of endeavors mean jobs. Education means jobs,” DiNatale said.

Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke, a member of the college’s Board of Trustees and also an alumnus, spoke of the economic significance of the college and the new construction project to the city and region. “We’re ecstatic that this is coming to fruition.”

Lea Ann Scales, MWCC Vice President of External Affairs, Communications and K-12 Partnerships, served as emcee. When the building opens in 2016, it will include state-of-the-art labs and other amenities to enhance the education of all MWCC students, she said.

The building is designed to meet LEED gold certification to tie in with the college’s existing sustainability initiatives. The project is being administered by the Massachusetts Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance. Shawmut Design & Construction serves as construction manager.

Tom Berger MWCC Student Trustee

Tom Berger, right, a business administration major at Mount Wachusett Community College, is welcomed to the board by MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino, center, and Trustee Amanda Landry during a swearing-in ceremony on Aug. 6.

Thomas Berger, a business administration major at Mount Wachusett Community College and a veteran of the U.S. Army, has been appointed student trustee on the college’s Board of Trustees for the upcoming academic year.

The Winchendon resident was elected by his peers to the one-year position during the spring semester and was sworn in on Aug. 6 during a brief ceremony at the college. As student trustee, he serves as a full voting member on the 11-member board.

“We welcome Tom to the Board of Trustees and look forward to his service, insight and dedication,” said board Chair Tina M. Sbrega.

“Tom is highly engaged on campus and in the community, and is a strong advocate for his fellow students,” said President Daniel M. Asquino.

Berger said he is looking forward to serving on the board and being a voice for all MWCC students.

“I thank my family, friends and the faculty and staff at Mount Wachusett for being there for me over the past year and a half of my college experience,” Berger said. “Their support has made a tremendous difference. I enrolled at the Mount to earn a college degree and have gained so much more.”

An active campus leader, Berger has served this past year on the Student Government Association and is a graduate of MWCC’s Leadership for Life program. He currently serves as vice president of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, as a peer mentor with the Students Serving Our Students (SOS) program, and as a member of the Veterans Group, a student club affiliated with the Student Veterans of America. As a first-generation college student, he is also a member of MWCC’s Visions Program, a TRIO student support services program.

This coming year, Berger will serve as vice president of the state-wide Student Advisory Council, an organization that represents all 29 public colleges and universities in Massachusetts.

He has participated in many charitable endeavors including the United Way Day of Caring, the Student Emergency Fund, Habitat for Humanity of North Central Massachusetts, and the SGA Thanksgiving food drive. Earlier this year, he launched a Laptops for Veterans fundraising initiative to purchase new computers for the college’s Veterans Success Center for use by student veterans.

After graduating in May 2016, he plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in business management. Raised in a family with a history of military service, Berger served in the U.S. Army from 1991 to 1998 and was stationed for much of that time in South Korea and Germany.

 

Steve W and Jared S MWCC Fitness Center

Retiring Fitness & Wellness Center Director Steve Washkevich welcomes new Director Jared Swerzenski.

After nearly two decades at the helm of the Mount Wachusett Community College Fitness & Wellness Center, Director Steve Washkevich retired in June. Members of the college and fitness center community paid tribute to his 18 years of service during the Silver Sneakers program’s annual barbecue on June 22. The community also welcomed the center’s incoming Director Jared Swerzenski.

Washkevich, who was appointed a year after the facility was converted into a community fitness center, said the center appeals to patrons of all ages and fitness levels due to its large size, wide variety of program offerings, state-of-the-art equipment, indoor swimming pool, and personalized training.

“You can get personal training, you can swim, play basketball, and racquet ball. It’s a great family place, where parents can work out while their children are at the indoor playground or doing other activities.”

Prior to coming to Mount Wachusett, Washkevich was the director of athletics at Anna Maria College for over 20 years. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Health and Physical Education and his master’s degree in Education Administration and Leadership from Bridgewater State University. In retirement, Washkevich plans on spending more time with his family, which includes his wife, three daughters and a grandchild.

“It’s been a great experience for me and hopefully everybody else feels the same. The members have been great and I’ve built a lot of friendships.”

Incoming director Swerzenski most served as the director of intramurals and assistant director of facilities at Framingham State University. Previously, he was the athletic director at North Central Charter Essential School in Fitchburg, now the Sizer School, and associate director of East Coast Field Admissions at Post University in Waterbury, CT.

Swerzenski attended Clark University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in Communications and Culture and Urban Development, and a master’s degree in Professional Communications. He also played varsity soccer for four years.

MWCC’s 60,000-square-foot facility includes a six-lane, Olympic sized swimming pool; more than 40 fitness programs; a nursery; summer sports camps; three full-size, indoor basketball courts; outdoor tennis and basketball courts; a 200-meter outdoor track; two regulation racquetball courts; and state-of-the-art weight training and cardiovascular equipment.

Programs are available for people of all ages and abilities and include personalized nutrition classes, body composition testing, weight training, massage therapy, personal training and yoga. In addition, the center’s group exercise programs are free to members and offers more than 50 classes a week led by certified trainers, including Zumba, Centergy, water aerobics and yoga.

MWCClaptopsForVets

Rollstone Bank & Trust is the first major sponsor of the new Laptops for Veterans program. From left, Thomas Berger, MWCC Student Trustee-elect and an Army veteran; Linda Racine, Executive Vice President of RBT; MWCC President Daniel Asquino; and Robert Mayer, MWCC Director of Veteran Services

With a donation of $3,000, Rollstone Bank & Trust became the first major sponsor of the new, student-initiated Laptops for Vets program at Mount Wachusett Community College, which is aimed at helping veteran students succeed in their studies. The Veteran Success Center at MWCC was created five years ago to meet the unique needs of veterans transitioning from soldier to veteran. The laptops that were part of the initial program have become outdated, so student trustee and Army veteran Thomas Berger initiated this fundraising program.Martin F. Connors, Jr., President & CEO of Rollstone Bank & Trust, said, “The Rollstone Charitable Foundation’s mission is to strengthen our communities and enhance the academic lives of area students. The veteran students at MWCC have served our country proudly; there is no one more deserving of our help.”

“We are tremendously grateful to Rollstone Bank & Trust for this generous donation to support our student veterans,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “Rollstone’s gift provides an immediate jump-start to this initiative.”

Berger’s goal is to equip the Veterans Success Center with 25 new laptops. 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.

 

Dean Eileen Costello pins Fortunate Munhutu May 2015

Fortunate Munhutu receives her pin from Dean Eileen Costello during MWCC’s 42nd nurse pinning ceremony.

Ninety eight graduates of MWCC’s day, evening and LPN to ADN  nursing programs celebrated  a  milestone during the 42nd annual Nurse Pinning Ceremony held May 21 at the Fitness & Wellness Center.

Each graduate, dressed in a traditional nurse uniform, was welcomed into the profession by having a nursing pin fastened to her/his lapel by a fellow nurse—a family member, friend or faculty member. The eight-star pin is imprinted with the words “Service to Humanity and the World” with the nursing symbol in the middle.

“This is a big night for our nursing students,” Executive Vice President Ann McDonald told the gathering of hundreds of friends and family members, current students and alumni. “I see first-hand, every day the dedication our nursing students have to their studies and profession.”

Eileen Costello, Dean of the School of Health Professions, Public Service Programs and Social Sciences led the ceremony with the assistance of faculty members.

The graduates also lit electronic candles and recited the Florence Nightinigale Pledge, an oath originally composed in 1893 and named for the founder of modern nursing.

052015075

Student Government Association President Cathy Teague leads the Class of 2015 to their Commencement ceremony.

Unlike Mount Wachusett Community College’s first commencement in 1966, when 71 graduates received associate degrees in six academic programs, the college this year awarded 842 associate degrees and academic certificates to 785 graduates enrolled in nearly 50 program options.

During the college’s 50th commencement on May 20, President Daniel M. Asquino asked the graduates to reflect on their accomplishments and their journey ahead.

“Lives change here like nowhere else. Over the past 50 years, tens of thousands of students have crossed this stage and they are now contributing members of our communities,” he said. “I challenge you to go forward and use your skills and the education that you received to continue these pursuits and to improve your life, that of your family and friends and that of our community, your state and your nation, and that you manifest an overall behavior that generates happiness, goodwill and contagious optimism.”

Kevin Berg

Kevin Berg

Keynote speaker and 2015 Alumnus of the Year Award recipient Kevin Berg urged the graduates to embrace change, persist toward their goals with drive, determination and desire, and accept the help and support of others as needed.“To me there can be no greater honor than being asked to give the Commencement address at the institution that started me on my path in becoming the person I am today,” said Berg, who grew up in Gardner and is now executive vice president of production for CBS Network Entertainment in Los Angeles. “My path clearly had its genesis right here at Mount Wachusett.”After studying broadcasting and communications at MWCC, he worked for six months at a news station in Boston. In the summer of 1984, he moved to LA, where he landed a job in television production and quickly moved up the ranks working with award-winning director Marty Pasetta and then at CBS.

 

Jim Garrison and President Asquino

Long-serving Board of Trustees chairman Jim Garrison received an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters and the 2015 Service Above Self Award for his leadership and generosity. In appreciation, he also received a standing ovation.

MWCC also presented business leader, philanthropist and college advocate James O. Garrison with an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters and the 2015 Service Above Self Award. The award recognizes those who have made significant contributions to MWCC and the 29 North Central Massachusetts cities and towns that make up MWCC’s service area. In addition to extensive community service, Mr. Garrison is a former chair of the college’s Board of Trustees and benefactor of the Garrison Center for Early Childhood Education and Early Childhood Education scholarships.“His philanthropic endeavors have resulted in countless improvements and changes to MWCC that have enhanced the learning environment for college students and children and the vital role the college plays in the community,” President Asquino said.

Student speaker Yasmine Kanaan of Still River, a Business Administration major, shared her poignant story of how MWCC helped her overcome obstacles, redirect her life and discover her potential.

Yasmine Kanaan

Yasmine Kanaan

“My rise was not easy, and my journey continues as I work hard to better myself and put the pieces of my life back together,” she said. “I have gone from a lost young adult with no goals and no identity, to a student with a high GPA, an associate’s degree in business that I was able to complete in one year, and an acceptance to the University of Massachusetts Lowell. This was all possible because this college embraced me and opened so many doors for me. We all owe this day and our success to the Mount for creating that stepping stone, that opportunity for each of us to be able to have a better and brighter future, for creating an environment that makes it easy to transition back into school, and for faculty who are very willing to help and advise us in any way they can.”

Student Trustee Phillip M. Stan was presented with the Trustees’ Award. Bryce Bodley-Gomes of Ashburnham and Cindy Caron of Jaffrey, N.H. received President’s Keys. John Day of Gardner was presented with this year’s Dean’s Key.

Five retiring professors were awarded emeriti status: Joel Anderson, Media Arts & Technology; Paul Laverty, Mathematics; John McNally, Health Sciences, Fitness & Wellness; Elena Natalizia, Criminal Justice; and John Reilly, Business Administration.

Garrisons with Dan and Tina

Peggy and Jim Garrison, with Board of Trustees Chair Tina Sbrega and President Asquino, were recognized for their generous contributions to the college and its students.

Prior to MWCC’s 50th Commencement ceremony, college and local officials paid tribute to Jim and Peggy Garrison for their generous support over the past several decades to the college and students.

Named in their honor, the Garrison Center for Early Childhood Education on the Gardner campus serves as an educational setting for college students as well as a preschool in collaboration with the Montachusett Opportunity Council. The center will be adorned with a plaque commemorating their gifts.

“Jim and Peggy Garrison epitomize the essence of what it means to be caring, engaged citizens in a democratic society. They give freely of their time, talent, and resources to philanthropic efforts that advance humankind,” the plaque reads.

“This Center is named in recognition of their generous gift toward the construction of the facility and their additional gift of $1,000,000 for scholarships to students who study in the field of early childhood education. It is their belief that those who care for our precious children deserve to have all barriers to higher education eliminated. Further, they correctly believe that the foundation to success and compassion begins in the early years and that children have the right to be supported by parents and caregivers who are keenly interested in their development.

Jim and Peggy Garrison will be forever instrumental in the success of our city, our community, and our nation by their efforts to nurture the development of compassionate and engaged human beings from their formative years forward.”

Visions & RX awards May 15 2015

Visions and Rx program award winners Rhonda Albert, Renee Chandler, Kimberly Mertell and Stevie LaBelle with Rx senior advisor Catherine Maddox-Wiley, Executive Vice President Ann McDonald, and TRIO SSS Programs Director Gaurav Khanna.

During its annual awards ceremony, MWCC’s Visions and Rx programs celebrated the achievements of graduating and continuing students, welcomed back a program alumnus, and bid a tearful farewell to a longserving staff member who has taken on a new role at the college.

“We have a bumper crop of graduates this year,” said Gaurav Khanna, Director of  the TRIO Student Support Services Programs at MWCC. Many of the graduates are continuing on for bachelor’s degrees, with this year’s graduates transferring to Mount Holyoke College, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, UMass Amherst, UMass Lowell, Fitchburg, Worcester and Westfield state universities, Nichols College, Hampshire Colleges and others.

Edwin Encarnacion, who participated in the Visions program in the mid 1990s shortly after moving to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic, shared how the program and supportive staff were instrumental in helping him excel academically, professionally and personally as he transitioned to life in a new country.  After earning a degree in media arts, Encarnacion went on to earn a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in communciations and instructional technology from Fitchburg State University. He now works as a test engineer for Image Stream Medical.

“I would not be where I am today without the visions Program. I knew I had the drive to succeed, but they made the road a lot easier.”

The Visions Program, which has been offered at MWCC for more than three decades, assists eligible students enrolled in any non-healthcare major. The Rx program, which focuses on supporting students pursuing healthcare majors, is graduating 35 students with associate degrees and certificates.

The programs, funded by the U.S. Department of Education TRIO grants,  help guide participants throughout the college experience and assist those who wish to transfer to a four-year institution by offering a variety of services, including intensive academic advising, transfer and personal counseling, professional tutoring and supplemental instruction. The Visions and Rx programs support income-eligible students, first-generation college students, and students with disabilities.

During the May 15 awards ceremony, graduating Visions Program students who collectively earned 55 associate degrees and certificates were recognized with a number of achievement awards. The President’s Award was presented to graduating Human Resources major Renée Chandler, who will continue studies at Fitchburg State University, and the Visions Award was presented to continuing student Stevie LaBelle, who is pursuing a degree in Criminal Justice. Each will receive a $250 scholarship.

The Rx Award for a continuing student was presented to Kimberly Mertell, who plans to continue studies in Healthcare Information Management. The President’s Award was presented to Rhonda Albert, who is graduating with an associate degree in Human Services and transferring to Anna Maria College to earn a bachelor’s degree in Social Work.

Program mainstay Gloria Correa expressed her admiration for the staff and students, and explained she will continue supporting students in her new position within MWCC’s Financial Aid office.