Campus Life

Senator Brewer cuts through the red tape ribbon at the naming ceremony for the Senator Stephen M. Brewer Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement. Also pictured from left to right are MWCC Graduate John Day, MWCC Student Trustee Jasson Alvarado-Gomez, his wife Valerie, MWCC President Dr. Daniel M. Asquino, Brewer’s sister-in-law and brother, the Center’s Director Shelley Errington Nicholson and MWCC Student Jana Murphy.

The Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement at Mount Wachusett Community College was named in honor of Senator Stephen M. Brewer on Tuesday, March 7.

The dedication celebration highlighted the impact the Senator had during his decades of civil service in his numerous roles that culminated with his position as the influential Chair of the Commonwealth’s Senate Committee on Ways and Means. The ceremony also detailed the ongoing work of the Center that supports the civic engagement of over 2,800 students at the college with more than 400 community organizations. As a result of the Center, every year MWCC students provide an average of 135,000 hours of service to the community for an economic impact of $3.63 million.

The commitment to civic service and engagement from both Senator Brewer and The Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement make the naming of the center in the senator’s honor an ideal match, said MWCC President Dr. Daniel M. Asquino.

“One can’t become a truly conscious member of society in a democracy unless one has an appreciation for the essence of democracy. That is engagement, compassion, caring, involvement and sacrifice for the common good. These are the qualities epitomized by Senator Stephan Brewer and that is why we are here today,” said Asquino.

In attendance were a number of governmental representatives, some of whom took the stage to speak about Senator Brewer’s wide-ranging influence, commitment to the entire Commonwealth and personal interactions that defined his time in the legislature. The various officials highlighted the Senator’s commitment to truly serve – whether that meant putting large budgetary changes into real terms describing how people would be impacted by cuts or being there when tragedy struck.

State Senator Jennifer Flanagan said Senator Brewer epitomizes public service, while Fitchburg Mayor Steven DiNatale spoke to the Senator fundamentally being a good person and State Representative Jonathan Zlotnik said that the Brewer name is perfect for the Center.

“We have all learned so, so much from Senator Brewer throughout the years,” said Senator Anne Gobi who filled his seat after his retirement. “He took to heart those words of Hubert Humphrey that we take care of those in the dawn of life, in the twilight of life and in the shadows of life. And for the students who are going to benefit from being at this center, if you can keep those things in mind you will pay the right homage to this gentleman right here.”

In addition to those that knew the Senator during his career, three speakers from the college talked about the ongoing influence of the Center and the Senator. Jasson Alvarado-Gomez, Student Trustee at Mount Wachusett Community College, told the story of how a comment the Senator made to him one day, saying that he would be a senator himself someday, in the halls of the school opened his eyes to the vast possibilities the future held.

“I want to tell you something. Someday, when I become a senator, I am going to go back to college and I am going to tell some kid sitting by himself you are going to be a future senator,” said Alvarado-Gomez.

The other two speakers addressed the influence the Center, which helps students not only reach out into the community but connect with other students and the community at the school.

“During my first semester, the Center became my anchor, it became a second home. It is the reason I feel connected to Moun Wachusett Community College and why I am so proud to be a student here,” said Jana Murphy a current student and AmeriCorps VISTA member. “But it wasn’t until I hit my first rough patch that I realized how important it is to feel that kind of connection to your school. It was this connection that kept me from dropping everything when I had a hard time in my classes, or when life in general became overwhelming.”

“The Center is a vital part of this school. It helps those in need. It gives people hope. It shows the student population that we do care about their success. They are not alone,” said John Day who graduated in 2015 and now works part-time at the school while pursuing his Bachelor’s degree at Fitchburg State University.

When Senator Brewer took the stage he talked about the commitment to learning that he sees in the students at Mount Wachusett Community College and how you cannot help but be inspired by the “miracle of learning” while at the school. The Senator said that he hoped the lessons of his life could have an impact on the lives of others.

“We know that none of us can do everything, but each of us can do something,” he said. “Thank you for this honor and responsibility.”

The dedication included a ribbon cutting with red tape standing in for ribbon to represent all the red tape that the Senator cut through during his years in the legislature. The Senator will have an office in the Center and continue his work inspiring and assisting students looking to make an impact on the world.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey will deliver the keynote address during Mount Wachusett Community College’s Commencement on Wednesday, May 17.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey will deliver the keynote address during Mount Wachusett Community College’s Commencement on Wednesday, May 17.

“We are delighted to welcome Attorney General Maura Healey to our campus as this year’s Commencement speaker,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “Her passion and ongoing work for justice for residents across the state aligns with our ongoing commitment to civic learning and fostering community engagement among our students. AG Healey is an outstanding example of how this year’s graduates can continue to be active members of their communities and greater society as they transition out of their time here at Mount Wachusett Community College.”

“I’m honored that President Asquino has invited me to speak at Mount Wachusett Community College’s Commencement this spring,” said AG Healey. “MWCC has a rich legacy spanning over 50 years as a school that prepares young adults to lead a life focused on serving a community that’s bigger than themselves. As your Attorney General, I’m proud to be speaking at a school that places such high value on ensuring that its graduates give back to their communities.”

Healey was sworn in as Attorney General on January 21, 2015. Since taking office, she has tackled issues touching the lives of residents across Massachusetts including the heroin and prescription drug abuse epidemic, escalating health care costs, workers’ rights and student loan costs. She has focused on strengthening consumer protections and on improving our criminal justice system.

Prior to her election, Healey helped lead the Attorney General’s Office as head of the Civil Rights Division and as Chief of the Public Protection and Business & Labor Bureaus. Healey graduated from Harvard College in 1992 and was captain of the women’s basketball team. She played professional basketball in Europe before returning to Massachusetts to attend Northeastern University School of Law. Early in her career, Healey clerked for Judge David Mazzone in the United States District Court in Massachusetts. Prior to joining the Attorney General’s Office in 2007, Healey was a junior partner at the international law firm Wilmer Hale (formerly Hale and Dorr), where she represented clients in the financial services, pharmaceutical, medical device, software, energy, biotechnology and professional sports sectors. She is a former Special Assistant District Attorney in Middlesex County, where she tried drug, assault, domestic violence and motor vehicle cases.

Steve Alves is the director and producer of the film “Food for Change.”

The director of the movie “Food for Change” will screen portions of his film and facilitate a discussion about the positive impacts of community involvement as well as his educational beginnings at a community college on March 2 at Mount Wachusett Community College.

“I want to encourage students and the general public to attend this screening. This film is a story of what can be done when people come together and are engaged with their community, which aligns with Mount Wachusett Community College’s ongoing commitment to service learning and volunteerism,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino.

“Food for Change” is a documentary film focusing on food co-ops as a force for dynamic social and economic change in American culture. The project began when filmmaker and co-op member Steve Alves was asked to make a film for the Franklin Community Co-op, located in Greenfield, Massachusetts. What resulted is a film detailing the history of co-ops and their influence.

At the free screening, Alves will show clips from the film as a means to spur discussion, stressing the impact that students can have if they work hard for their communities.

“As a group, we can come together to create pantries, create co-ops and community gardens and do a lot to not just deal with the food issues but deal with the structural issues that keep us away from each other and don’t let us become aware, active citizens,” Alves said.

But Alves’ appearance will not just be about the impact that students can have on their communities, but on their own lives. As a former community college student himself, Alves plans to discuss how this prepared him to be a film maker and how students can be bold and successful even if they do not have a lot of resources.

“I want to hold myself up as an example to the students of how I went into film making and by extension if you have a drive and a plan… you can go for it,” Alves said.

The screening and discussion will take place on Thursday, March 2 at 12:30 p.m. in the MWCC multi-purpose room. The public is encouraged to attend. The presentation is funded in part by Mass Humanities.

Kimberly Jones will speak at MWCC on Monday, Feb. 27 from 12 to 1:30 p.m.

Mount Wachusett Community College’s Tea Time Speaker Series will be celebrating Black History Month with the presentation “Woman in Power: A multicultural perspective” on Monday, Feb. 27 from 12 to 1:30 p.m.

Kimberly Jones, Esq will discuss barriers of woman of color in the workplace, education, and politics. Jones serves as the Vice President for Public Policy and Communications at the Council for Opportunity in Education. Jones maintains various professional memberships, including the Committee for Education Funding, of which she served as President in 2014; the National Bar Association, for which she chaired the Legislation Standing Committee in 2014-2015; Women in Government Relations; and the Washington Government Relations Group.

Jones is a graduate of Yale University and the Georgetown University Law Center. In 2016, she was named one of the “40 Under 40 Nation’s Best Advocates” by the National Bar Association and received the organization’s Excellence in Activism Award.

Created this past spring by MWCC Gateway to College Senior Resource Specialist Sharmese Gunn, the Tea Time Speaker Series fosters conversation among the college community and greater community on social and cultural issues and awareness. The Tea Time Speaker Series is a recipient of the 2016 MWCC Foundation Innovation Grant and will be sponsored by: Gateway to College, Mount Wachusett Community College’s Diversity Consortium, Massachusetts Education Opportunity Association (MEOA), New England Opportunity Association (NEOA), and TRIO alumni.

The event will take place at MWCC’s Gardner campus in the North Café. The event is open to the public and registration is available at mwcc.edu/teatime.

Mount Wachusett Community College will be holding special FAFSA Friday workshops on Fridays throughout February, March and April at the school’s Gardner and Leominster campuses.

These workshops will allow participants to get help with the completion of the 2017-2018 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) ahead of the state’s May 1 deadline.

The workshops run every Friday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on the Gardner campus at the Advising Center from Feb. 24 through April 28. Workshops will be held on Feb. 24, March 10 and 24, April 7 and 21 from 1 to 3 p.m. in Room 111 on the Leominster campus.

Registration for each event and a list of pertinent documents that participants must bring are available online at calendar.mwcc.edu.

Work from “Sculptures” by Mark Burnett includes this torso crafted out of bronze.

Mount Wachusett Community College’s East Wing Gallery is currently hosting an exhibition of sculptures by Leominster resident Mark Burnett who will discuss his work at a free gallery talk on Thursday, Feb. 16.

Burnett’s exhibition entitled “Sculptures” features bronze works of art from the sculptor who works in mediums as varied as stone and fruit.

In his artist statement, Burnett recounted his first encounter with carving was with apples, in the third grade, a project in which his mother proudly saved for years. Burnett lives in Leominster, Massachusetts, works as a firefighter and hopes to further his art education and continue to demonstrate his artistic ability and exhibit his pieces to a public audience.

All are welcome to visit the gallery, attend the reception on Friday, Feb. 24 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and participate in the free gallery talk that will take place on Thursday, Feb. 16 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. The exhibition is currently underway and will run until March 9.

The East Wing Gallery, housed in the Raymond M. LaFontaine Fine Arts Center on the Gardner Campus, is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. In addition to the exhibit from Burnett, a number of student works are shown in the space.

Mount Wachusett Community College will host over 15 area nonprofits for a resource and career fair this Thursday.

Beginning at 10 a.m. and running until 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 2, a gathering of area nonprofits will take place at the college’s South Cafe. Representatives of over 15 groups will be on hand to discuss both volunteer opportunities within their organizations as well as the resources and services they offer. These organizations include the Gardner Community Action Committee, Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center, the Seven Hills Foundation, United Way of North Central Massachusetts, YWCA of Central Massachusetts and Warmer Winters. It will be an opportunity for students to connect with these organizations.

The general public is encouraged to attend, whether they are seeking volunteer opportunities or want to better understand the nonprofit resources within the community. The event will take place at the South Café at Mount Wachusett Community College’s Gardner campus and was organized by the college’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement.

Bamidele Dancers & Drummers leads a drum circle in the cafeteria at Mount Wachusett Community College.

Mount Wachusett Community College is set to celebrate Black History month with a series of five events that include speakers, performances and screenings to educate and engage students at the college.

The month of programming begins with the Bamidele Dancers & Drummers (BD&D) leading a drum circle of celebratory African rhythms on Feb. 1 at 12:30 p.m. The BD&D are art educators, composers, musicians, dancers and choreographers from Africa, the Americas and the Caribbean who are dedicated to the preservation of African and African rooted cultures through dance, music and song. They will lead an interactive drum circle.

A screening of the film Race, which explores the story of Jesse Owens, will take place on Feb. 8 at 12:30 p.m. The THINKFAST: Black History Month Game Show will take place on Feb. 9 and ask students to test their knowledge of Black History Month. On Feb. 22 at 12:30 p.m., the PBS film Underground Railroad: The William Still Story will be screened telling the story of the African-American abolitionist who was a conductor on the Underground Railroad, writer, historian and civil rights activist.

On Monday, Feb. 27, a keynote speaker will discuss barriers of woman of color in the workplace, education, and healthcare. The Tea Time Speaker Series presentation will take place from 12 to 1:30 p.m.

All events are open to the public.

President Daniel M. Asquino (center) stands with Kennedy Owino of Fitchburg, Diversity Committee Co-Chair Maria Gariepy, Rebecca Schlier of Westminster, Diversity Committee Co-Chair Carla B. Morrissey, Gemini Walter of Leominster, and Rachel Adams of Fitchburg after presenting the students with their President’s Commitment to Diversity Scholastic Competition awards.

Four MWCC students have been honored in the fifth annual President’s Commitment to Diversity Scholastic Competition that sought out poems, essays and artwork highlighting the value diversity brings to learning and working.

This year’s winners are Rachel Adams of Fitchburg, Kennedy Owino of Fitchburg, Rebecca Schlier of Westminster, and Gemini Walter of Leominster. Each will receive a free, three-credit academic course for use during the spring or summer semesters.

The competition was developed by MWCC’s Diversity Committee to highlight the value of diversity to work and educational environments. Students are encouraged to submit papers, posters, essays, research work, art work or other original, creative work related to issues of diversity or identity, such as those involving disability, race, socio-economic status, veteran status, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and national origin.

Adams, a business administration student, wrote an essay entitled “I am invisible” with the goal of showing what it is like to be someone with an invisible disease. Not every struggle is seen and it is important to celebrate even the smallest victories, she said of her piece.

“Some people have a ball and chain around their ankle and it’s called an invisible illness,” Adams wrote in her essay. “It’s time to look at someone and really look at them. It’s time to celebrate small achievements of the day and be proud.”

Owino, a pre-engineering student, was honored for an essay entitled ‘When will it happen’ that explores the difficulty of making choices and being brave in an uncertain world.

“I champion that diversity should bring us together, not tear us apart,” he wrote. “Diversity is appreciating others for who they are.”

Schlier, a Gateways to College student, created a painting called “Mask” that depicts a multi-colored figure removing a theater-style mask. The piece embodies the experience that Schlier has undergone at Mount Wachusett Community College, where she has been able to remove her own mask.

“The mask represents how I had to be at my old school; I had to bottle up stress and sadness in order to fit in,” she wrote in her explanation of the piece.

Walter, a Human Services major, is the competition’s first three-time honoree, following up on his winning essay on what it means to embrace diversity with a free form literary piece designed to get people thinking about the impact of their words.

“When you last said goodbye to a child,” he writes, “did you let them know they are part of the chain of humanity, that they make a difference in this world?”

Walter’s piece asks the reader what message they are giving to children; encouraging the reader to empower children to accept diversity in all its forms and create a more accepting society as a result.

In addition to the awards and free academic course, the students’ work was displayed on MWCC’s campus.

Parent Support President and Student Michel Cocuzza and PSG Club Advisor Ann Reynolds stand in front of tables of donations gathered in the North Café at Mount Wachusett Community College Monday.

Parent Support Group President and Student Michel Cocuzza and PSG member Angela Celley stand in front of tables of donations gathered in the North Café at Mount Wachusett Community College Monday.

The second annual Holiday Toy Drive organized by the Parent Support Group at Mount Wachusett Community College distributed presents to 52 families this week.

The toy drive was hosted by MWCC’s Parent Support Group that collected donations since Dec. 1 from faculty, staff, and students. According to PSG President and MWCC Student Michel Cocuzza, the donations came flying in and quickly filled two storage rooms. The gently used or new toys, books, games, and holiday decorations were then distributed on Dec. 19 and 20 to families within the MWCC community.

“I am so pleased to see students helping students, especially in the middle of finals and the holidays,” said MWCC President Dr. Daniel M. Asquino. “This is just one example of the generous spirit of support that students, faculty, and staff at Mount Wachusett Community College share every day.”

These donations can be a huge help during the holidays, according to Cocuzza, especially to student parents.

“Being a student parent is a difficult task. Most of us go to school full time and struggle financially,” Cocuzza said. “With the help of PSG and our advisor, we were able to assist 52 families.”

PSG Club Advisor Ann Reynolds said that it was the hard work of the PSG team that made the event possible.

“It would be remiss of me to not give a shout-out to Michel and all our dedicated PSG members for their hard work on making this event such a success,” Reynolds said. “We hope the Toy Drive will be a MWCC tradition.”