Campus Life

Mount Wachusett Community College art student Amber Martinez created this Thoreau-inspired environmental sculpture as part of the college’s ongoing humanities project.

Mount Wachusett Community College art student Amber Martinez created this Thoreau-inspired environmental sculpture as part of the college’s ongoing humanities project.

While Mount Wachusett Community College professors find innovative ways for their students to examine Thoreau, the author’s lasting influence has also extended into the community.

On Wednesday night, the college held the second event in its ongoing series, “East Meets West in a Cabin in the Woods: Walden and Beyond,” the first year-theme of the MWCC Humanities Project. Approximately 45 people gathered at Levi Heywood Memorial Library for UMass Lowell Associate Professor Susan Gallagher’s presentation on the historic connection between Thoreau and climate-change research.

Thoreau observed the first flowering dates for over 500 species of wildflowers in Concord between 1851 and 1858, and his observations on nature allow scientists to monitor climate change over the last 150 years, she said.

Inspired by Thoreau and his deep appreciation for nature, students in Art Professor Tom Matsuda’s Sculpture 1 course are manipulating sticks, leaves and other natural materials to create temporary environmental sculptures throughout campus. Student sculptures are also reminiscent of those created by Andy Goldsworthy, the renowned British artist who works almost exclusively with natural materials.

“I like sculptures made from nature, and the college’s emphasis on Thoreau inspired me to develop this project,” said Matsuda. “For students, it opens up a different way of thinking about art and an appreciation for what’s around us and encourages creative problem solving. The response from faculty, staff, students and the community has been great.”

Amber Martinez, an art major from Winchendon, arranged leaves into a spiral shape on a rock. The way Thoreau and Goldsworthy connected with nature motivated her to forage for natural materials to create a sculpture, she said. “It was a wonderful experience to get out of the convention of traditional art.”

Fitchburg resident and art major Garrett Watson created the only indoor sculpture, a composition of twigs that is displayed in a skylight of the college’s art wing. “Working with raw materials, such as saplings, is different than many of the other things we’ve done,” he said. Just as Thoreau famously adopted a modest lifestyle while living at Walden Pond, Watson followed “a simple idea and design” to create his sculpture.

The MWCC Humanities Project will continue with five additional October events, beginning next week at the Gardner campus. A film screening of “Into the Wild” will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 7 from 12:30 to 2:45 p.m. in room 127. A lecture titled “Thoreau’s Relevance for Our Time” will run from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in the North Cafeteria.

Further events include a fundraising hike at Wachusett Mountain on Saturday, Oct. 18; a book discussion of “Cabin Fever: A Suburban Father’s Search for the Wild” on Tuesday, Oct. 28; and a performance by Thoreau re-enactor Richard Smith on Thursday, Oct. 30.

The MWCC Humanities Project was established through a 2013 challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. “East Meets West in a Cabin in Concord: Walden and Beyond” will feature a full slate of free events spotlighting various works written or inspired by Thoreau, as well as a campus-wide, interdisciplinary initiative.

For more information and a full list of events, visit http://mwcc.edu/humanitiesproject.

Director of Veterans Services Bob Mayer with student veterans during this fall's orientation.

Director of Veterans Services Bob Mayer with student veterans during this fall’s orientation.

For the sixth consecutive year, Mount Wachusett Community College has been recognized as a top military-friendly school for creating a culture of positive energy and academic support for veterans, active military members and their dependents.

The 2015 Military Friendly Schools list, released by Victory Media, names the top 15 percent of American colleges, universities and trade schools that are doing the most to embrace military students and ensure their success in the classroom and after graduation. Now in its sixth year, the list serves as the primary resource for service members and military families seeking education and captures best practices among schools in supporting military students.

The list features 1,600 institutions and was compiled through research and a data-driven survey of more than 8,000 schools approved for Post-9/11 GI Bill funding. Qualifying campuses will be featured in the G.I. Jobs Guide to Military Friendly Schools, among other Victory Media publications.

“It is our responsibility to foster an environment in which student veterans can thrive, both in the classroom and on campus,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “This award is a testament to our student veterans who courageously serve our country and then make the decision to transition to college life. We also have a wonderful staff in the Center of Excellence for Veteran Affairs and a supportive group of faculty and students.”

“This title we’ve received is not in name only; we’ve earned that status,” said Veterans Services Director Robert Mayer.

A designated Yellow Ribbon School with a long history of supporting veterans, MWCC was cited for the wrap-around support provided through the Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success and the Veterans Group student club, an affiliate of the Student Veterans of America.

Established in 2010 the veterans success center now serves more than 350 students each year, addressing the unique academic, financial, social and physical needs of veterans, military personnel and military families transitioning to college life.

“The college has an excellent support team for veterans, and Bob is very involved in helping us succeed,” said Tom Berger, a business administration major who served in the U.S. Army from 1990 to 1998. “I enjoy being part of this peer group of students and getting involved in the college and local community.”

In August 2013, MWCC became one of the first 250 higher-education institutions to implement President Obama’s “8 Keys to Success” initiative to help boost academic opportunities and improvement employment outcomes for veterans. The eight keys build on the administration’s work to provide veterans and military families with a high-quality, affordable education and highlight specific ways that colleges and universities can support veterans as they pursue their education and employment goals.

In MWCC’s sixth year of recognition as a military-friendly school and service through the Veterans’ Success Center, and second year of implementing the “8 Keys,” its staff is still poised to increase the breadth of services to veterans.

- Cameron Woodcock

Purity Apiri was one of 200 volunteers who packaged meals for those in need during MWCC’s United Way Day of Caring project on Sept. 18.

Purity Apiri was one of 200 volunteers who packaged meals for those in need during MWCC’s United Way Day of Caring project on Sept. 18.

Capitalizing on its students’ eagerness to participate in community-engagement activities and a successful first year, Mount Wachusett Community College hosted its second annual United Way Day of Caring at its Gardner campus on Thursday, Sept. 18.

Through the leadership of the Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement, more than 200 volunteers packaged 20,736 meals for food pantries and veterans centers in North Central Massachusetts. An additional 200 meals are being made available to MWCC students struggling with food security through the college’s Students Serving Our Students (SOS) program.

“Civic engagement has been the cornerstone of our college for the last two decades, and it is the cornerstone of our democracy,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino, whose educational philosophy and college curriculum have long stressed civic engagement. “As Americans, we have an obligation to give back, and we are thrilled that our students and faculty can confront the major issue of hunger by helping  individuals in North Central Massachusetts.”

MWCC became a Day of Caring host site for the first time in 2013, following years of participation in the program and appeals from students wishing to donate their time. This year, the center organized 75-minute volunteer shifts from 8:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. to accommodate students’ class schedules and maximize the number of meals distributed throughout the community.

“This is a very important undertaking because we are supporting food pantries throughout North Central Massachusetts, most of which have low stocks,” said Fagan Forhan, Director of the Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement. “Volunteer turnout this year has surpassed our expectations, so we made the decision to up the ante from 16,000 meals to 20,000 meals.”

Outreach, Inc., an Iowa-based nonprofit that also operates in the Northeast, provided supplies to create packages of meals consisting of macaroni and cheese and rice and beans.

Forhan credited the increased turnout to MWCC student and AmeriCorps VISTA John Day, who spearheaded the recruitment process. Among the many volunteers, MWCC student Jasson Alvarado Gomez arrived at 7 a.m. and unloaded an entire truck by himself.

“I get to school at 7 a.m. every day, so I was happy that I could help set up before the event started,” said Gomez, who, in his first year of volunteering, worked three shifts. “Helping people gives me so much energy, and I love doing it.”

MWCC participated along with numerous other organizations in North Central Massachusetts, recognizing the 19th Annual United Way Day of Caring.

Gardner resident Phillip Stan, center, was recently sworn in as student trustee on Mount Wachusett Community College’s Board of Trustees. President Daniel Asquino and board Chair Tina Sbrega were among the college officials who congratulated Stan during a ceremony at the college on Sept. 11.

Gardner resident Phillip Stan, center, was recently sworn in as student trustee on Mount Wachusett Community College’s Board of Trustees. President Daniel Asquino and board Chair Tina Sbrega were among the college officials who congratulated Stan during a ceremony at the college on Sept. 11.

Phillip Stan, a Liberal Arts major with a concentration in Music, has been appointed to Mount Wachusett Community College’s Board of Trustees after being elected to the one-year position by his student peers this past spring.

The chamber music enthusiast and father of five was sworn in as the college’s student trustee on the afternoon of Sept. 11 and attended his first board meeting immediately following the ceremony.

Adding to his standing as a student leader on campus, Stan will represent fellow MWCC students on the 11-member board, a role he relishes.

“I want to serve as student trustee for the same reason I want to be involved with campus clubs and organizations. I enjoy being part of something bigger than myself and feel that the students need a strong voice to accurately represent their desires,” he said.

“We are very pleased that Phil will be serving as our student trustee this academic year, as his track record of academic achievement and student engagement is well-documented,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “Phil takes an active role not only in his own success, but in that of others.”

At MWCC, Stan serves in a range of leadership roles. He is vice president of civic and community engagement for the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society, a member of both the Commonwealth Honors Program and the organization’s planning committee and a mentor in the Students Serving Our Students (SOS) program within the Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement. He also previously mentored children in the House of Peace and Education’s afterschool program in Gardner.

In addition, he is president of the MWCC Chamber Players club, an all-encompassing position that sees him arranging events, namely a 2013 trip to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and building a chamber ensemble to stage concerts every semester. MWCC’s new student trustee is also an accomplished pianist, guitar player and singer.

However, Stan’s career goals are not purely musical.

“Ultimately, I’d love to work with autistic children through music instruction and exposure,” said Stan, who plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy from Anna Maria College, his mother’s alma mater, after graduating from MWCC next spring. “I have a child at home with special needs, and I believe that music is a great way to facilitate communication with those who can’t communicate conventionally.”

With a busy college schedule and five children at home, Stan says he owes a great deal of credit to his wife Jennifer, whose enduring support has allowed him to succeed at MWCC.

As student trustee, Stan plans to apply his varied experience in civic engagement and mentorship to help students succeed in college, as well as benefit MWCC.

“I am very outgoing and not afraid to try new things or get people involved in new things,” said Stan, who, on the day of his appointment, fittingly helped freshman students gain signatures for Student Government Association candidacy. “I strongly believe in the importance of civic engagement and college completion, and these two things are a big part of what I would like to bring to MWCC.”

- Cameron Woodcock
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MWCC art major Amber Martinez participates in a Raku firing at Snow Farm Craft Center in Williamsburg, Mass. With funding provided by the MWCC Foundation, the art department will create an area on the Gardner campus for Raku and pit-firing ceramics.

With the start of the new academic year, the Mount Wachusett Community College Foundation has provided funds totaling $46,044 for eight innovative projects conceived by college faculty and staff.

“Current community college funding is such that we are often left wishing we had more resources to experiment with new and innovative pilot programs that have the potential to dramatically alter or create new opportunities for our students and the community,” said MWCC Foundation Executive Director Carla DeFosse. “The Innovation Fund allows us to financially support inventive staff and faculty and give them the opportunity to implement their concepts.”

Dean of Students Jason Zelesky will collaborate with the offices of Disability Services, Student Services and the Visions program to acquire new adaptive technology equipment to support students with documented disabilities. Enhancing the college’s inventory of assistive technologies will enhance academic success and encourage more students with disabilities to attend MWCC. The project will emphasize iOS applications and provide five iPads for student use in the classroom and during tutoring sessions.

Art Professor Joyce Miller received funding to create a program and fundraiser centered on Raku, a pottery tradition dating back to 16thcentury Japan. Available to art majors and non-art majors, as well as credit and noncredit students, the equipment will enhance the college’s art department to further attract prospective students. An exterior area will be designated for Raku and pit-firing ceramics. In addition to supporting the college’s art program, the equipment will support area high school art programs and their students by offering field trip opportunities and chances to participate in pit-firing or Raku firing, which in turn will assist with college recruitment.

Veronica Guay, Assistant Dean of Business, Science, Technology and Mathematics, and Perkins Counselor Shaunti Phillips, Career Vocational/Technical Education, will receive funding to create a new dual enrollment program for Gardner High School seniors interested in graphic and interactive design. Guay and Phillips will partner with Professor Leslie Cullen, chair of the Graphic & Interactive Design department; Natasha Robinson, Recruitment Counselor for the Admissions office; and members of the Gardner High School system.

Interim Director of Admissions Ai Co Abercrombie was awarded a grant to develop a peer-to-peer recruitment program, specifically targeting first-time students from traditionally underrepresented population groups: low-income and minority students and students with disabilities. The Admissions office plans to employ two student recruiters, one of traditional college age and one of non-traditional college age, who will accompany admissions representatives to college fairs, events and community activities and perform additional recruitment tasks.

Director of Student Success Debra Boucher received funding for a new program supporting non-traditional students as they transition to college life. The first portion of this program, a summer bridge session for non-traditional students and students returning to school following a five-year absence, took place in August. Incoming students learned about available resources at the college, while also participating in team-building activities. The program will continue this fall, as students attend two meetings to evaluate their college experiences and participate in leadership-building activities. Boucher is partnering with Student Services, the Visions program, the Advising Center and the Admissions office.

Lauren Mountain, Associate Director of the United Way Youth Venture in the college’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement, received funding to further develop immersive learning opportunities for MWCC students. Along with her colleagues in the Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement, Mountain will use funding to support student ventures that create tangible changes in the community and at the college, similar to the Youth Venture program that has long served middle and high school students. This initiative is designed to promote retention and involvement at MWCC, enhance the educational experience for students, and provide them with community contacts and job skills.

Professor Sheila Murphy will partner with the Admissions office to further promote the benefits of the Honors Program and increase awareness among incoming students. By continuing to shape and market this honors culture, Murphy hopes to attract prospective students to MWCC and motivate them to participate in the many challenging degree programs. Further program goals include emerging as a top destination for students who excel in high school. To increase first-year student enrollment and eligibility for the Honors Program, Murphy will also partner with the Marketing and Communications department and the Dual Enrollment program.

Associate Professor John Little, chair of the Media Arts and Technology department, will receive funds to enlist students to record and produce concert DVDs. The project will build upon previous concert recording initiatives and will serve to promote the academic program, as well as provide service learning and entrepreneurship opportunities for students. Little will collaborate Theatre at the Mount as well as the Graphic and Interactive Design, Media Services, and Marketing and Communications departments.

 

 

Yasmin Barroso, Jasson Alvarado, Anne Nash, and Mariah Courtemanche

Back-to-school activities included the 10th annual Summer Leadership Camp held in late August. Fifty incoming students participated in a variety of workshops and community service projects, including filling 77 backpacks of donated school supplies for Massachusetts children in foster care. Additional service projects took place at the Cleghorn Neighborhood Center in Fitchburg and Many Hands organic farm in Barre. Pictured, from left, Yasmin Barroso, Jasson Alvarado Gomez, Anne Nash and Mariah Courtemanche.

Many changes and new initiatives marked the start of the 2014-2015 academic year. Not only are the college’s campuses filled with thousands of new and returning students, but several faculty and staff members have joined the college community or stepped into new roles.

Approximately 950 new students participated in day, evening and program-specific orientations, marking a dynamic start to the academic year. The orientation sessions provide students with an opportunity to learn about college life and MWCC programs, support services, and activities.

A majority of the new day students attended orientation on Sept.2, which included seminars and other activities. Students met with faculty, deans and advisors, toured the campus, received information about college resources, and attended a student club expo. President Daniel M. Asquino and college administrators greeted the incoming students and encouraged them to become involved with campus activities and tap into college resources to make the most of their experience at MWCC.

Campus changes include several changes in the Division of Academic Affairs. Dr. Vincent Ialenti is serving the Interim Dean of Liberal Arts, Education, Humanities, and Communication through the academic year, and Missi Sargent has been appointed Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs. Veronica Guay, former Director of Dual Enrollment, has taken the position of Assistant Dean of the School of Business, Science, Technology and Math. Staff Associate Cheryl Oliveri has moved to the Office of Development, Planning and Research and Michelle Brennan has been appointed staff associate for the Division of Academic Affairs.

In the area of Student Services, long-serving adjunct instructor and Army veteran Bob Mayer steps into a new role as Director of Veteran Services, and will oversee MWCC’s Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success.

Among the faculty changes, Cynthia Cadoret has been appointed assistant professor and chair of the dental hygiene and dental assisting programs, and Lisa Gendron has been appointed assistant professor in the associate degree nursing program. In addition, Maryjo Bowie was appointed professor and chair of the new Health Information Management program.

In the Division of Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development, Michael Watson was appointed an instructor with the Manufacturing and Quality Systems program, and Gretchen Ingvason was appointed senior learning specialist. In addition, Timothy Friend joined the MWCC Campus Police department as an officer.

 

 

 

Thoreau quote sign

Along the trails at Walden Pond in Concord.

This month, Mount Wachusett Community College launches “East Meets West in a Cabin in Concord: Walden and Beyond,” the first year of a multi-year, college and community project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The MWCC Humanities Project will begin with a book discussion on Walden, or Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau, famed Massachusetts author and the focus of this year’s initiative. Led by MWCC English Professors Michelle Valois and Susan Blake, the discussion will take place Wednesday, Sept. 17 from 6:30 to 8p.m. in the Commons Area of the college’s Gardner campus and is the first in a full slate of free events taking place this fall at venues throughout North Central Massachusetts.

Other upcoming events include a fundraising hike at Wachusett Mountain, a performance by a Thoreau re-enactor, and additional lectures and book discussions on the lasting relevance of Thoreau. Established through a $500,000 challenge grant the college received from the NEH,  the project will continue through 2019 with a new theme each academic year.

In late May, 30 MWCC educators spent a day walking the trails at Walden Pond in Concord, where Thoreau lived in a cabin for two years writing Walden, one of his most famous works. The visit was part of a week-long academy to prepare for the multi-disciplinary learning project devoted to the author’s influence and relevance to today’s students.

“Thoreau considered himself as much a scientist as a poet,” said Professor Valois, chair of the college’s Liberal Arts and Sciences and General Studies department and coordinator of the NEH project. “Thoreau’s scientific observations and inquiries are still relevant today and have given rise to the ‘citizen science’ movement. And as the creator of the modern concept of civil disobedience, Thoreau provides a perfect vehicle for examining the power and responsibility of the individual citizen in a healthy democracy.”

The program will continue with: “What Thoreau Can Teach Us about Climate Change,” a lecture led by Susan Gallagher of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell on Wednesday, Oct. 1 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Levi Heywood Memorial Library in Gardner; a screening of the film Into the Wild on Tuesday, Oct. 7 from 12:30 to 2:45 p.m. in Room 127 of MWCC Gardner campus; “Thoreau’s Relevance for Our Time,” a lecture led by writer and independent Thoreau scholar Corinne Smith, on Thursday, Oct. 9 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in the North Cafeteria at the Gardner campus; A Hike for the Humanities matching grant fundraiser on Saturday, Oct. 18 at 9 a.m., reenacting Thoreau’s 1842 hike at Wachusett Mountain; a book discussion of Tom Montgomery Fate’s Cabin Fever: A Suburban Father’s Search for the Wild on Tuesday, Oct. 28 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Athol Public Library; and a performance by Thoreau re-enactor Richard Smith of the Thoreau Society on Thursday, Oct. 30 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in the theater at MWCC’s Gardner campus.

Fall events will continue with a book discussion of Ken Ilgunas’Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom on Nov. 6 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Leominster Public Library; a lecture on “Thoreau: Eastern Philosophy and Non-Violence,” by Michael Frederick, Executive Director of the Thoreau Society, on Tuesday, Nov. 18 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in the North Cafeteria at the Gardner campus; and an exhibit with student presentations on Thursday, Dec. 4 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., also at the Gardner campus.

Spring activities will include additional book discussions and a poetry reading. For more information about the program and upcoming events, visit http://mwcc.edu/humanitiesproject.

Johnny Appleseed bench project

President Daniel Asquino and Art Professor Tom Matsuda pose in the East Wing Gallery with art students who participated in the Johnny Appleseed Country project. Seated: Jenifer Porcine, Corinne Goodrich and Michelle Gangnon; Back row: Tom Hill, President Asquino, Ben Mikels, Leandro Lopez and Professor Matsuda.

“Take a Seat in Johnny Appleseed Country” is a community project aimed at increasing foot traffic in the cities and towns that make up North Central Massachusetts. The Johnny Appleseed Trail Association met with the Wachusett Mountain Ski Resort and rather than throw away inoperative ski lift chairs, both organizations decided to use them as a promotional opportunity.

Six chairs were delivered to Montachusett Regional Technical School where they were refurbished and converted by students into functional benches. Then, they were delivered to Mount Wachusett Community College this summer, where they were painted by art students. MWCC Professor Tom Matsuda, chair of the art department, said he the students were excited to participate.  The chairs will be distributed in the region this fall.

Corinne Goodrich, a student involved with the project, said painting the bench was a challenge she enjoyed. “I think the project is honoring someone who was a remarkable person.”

Art student Tom Hill said he is new to creating art that will be seen by the public. “It’s been pretty fun. I don’t think I’ve ever done a project quite like this.” Student Ben Mikles said he likes any reason to have to create art. Any art created for the public is nice because it gets the artist’s name out in the open, he said.

“People like public art and this is really functional public art that can be sat on,” said Matt Myers, marketing and communications specialist for the Johnny Appleseed Trail Association. “As art students, one of the best things to do is get your work out there,” he said. ”All the students will have there names on the back of the chairs that they designed.”

Myers wanted the students to have their own individual style on the chairs, so he left the theme open for interpretation.

“The only guidelines given to the artists was to make it something relatable to North Central Massachusetts, whether that means a Johnny Appleseed themed bench or one that serves to represent the four seasons that are such a major part of life in the northeast,” Myers said. “I wanted to keep a general theme, that way the artists imagination would be given an opening to really express who they are and their connection to the area.”

From Wachusett Mountain, which has been a staple in the area for over 50 years, to students at Monty Tech and MWCC, the  Take a Seat in Johnny Appleseed Country project incorporates layers of community involvement to create ”something special,” Myers said.

- Alexander P. Moore

 

MWCC ice bucket challenge

President Daniel Asquino is doused by Executive Vice President Ann McDonald during MWCC’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in memory of colleague Glenn Roberts.

Twenty-four MWCC employees, including President Daniel M. Asquino, lined up for the ice bucket challenge in memory of beloved colleague Glenn Roberts, who died a year ago on Aug. 12, 2013 after a courageous battle with the disease. The effort, organized by Access & Transition Staff Assistant Jessica Connors on behalf of “Glenn’s Friends,” raised more than $2,600 for the Massachusetts chapter of the ALS Association in honor of Roberts, who worked as an advisor and dean at the college for 21 years.

One by one, participants were drenched by a friend, colleague or family member who bid highest for the opportunity to tip a bucket. After being soaked by her young son, Executive Vice President Ann McDonald had the privilege of dousing the president.

“I’m challenging the other community colleges to get involved and raise just as much for ALS,” President Asquino announced.

In addition to President Asquino, Executive Vice President McDonald and Connors, other volunteers included Vice President Bob LaBonte, Vice President Lea Ann Scales, Kerrie Griffin, Kyla Holland, Jo-Anne Cronin-Fors, Scott Farris, Julie Crowley, Sue Guartafierro, Eric Johnson, Charity Cooley, Kate Smith, John Walsh, Michele Levasseur Goderre, Jim Halkola, Peggy Dow, Brenda Bourgeois, Lawrence Nfor, Chrystal Voorheis, Denise Whitney, Maryann Kane and Lexie Stewart.

To view the video, click here.

Summer UP 2014 Gardner

MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino, Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke and Gardner Superintendent Denise Clemens are thanked by members of MWCC’s Access & Transition staff, camp counselors and participants at the Jackson Playground site.

Summer UP, an MWCC Access & Transition program that began a decade ago to provide safe, summertime activities and employment opportunities to area youth, enhanced this year’s program with new career and college preparation training opportunities.

Now completing its 10th season, Summer UP this year provided 110 of area high school and middle school students with jobs as camp counselors at eight park sites in Leominster, Fitchburg, and Gardner. The counselors, who earn a stipend, worked with MWCC staff to provide supervised recreation activities for approximately 500 area school children of all ages, who attend the free activities.

“We’ve made a lot of modifications this year,” said Patrice Lincoln, Dean of Access and Transition. Among the changes for the program’s counselors, high school juniors and seniors enrolled in free summer dual enrollment courses, and the Commonwealth Corps’ 20-hour Signaling Success employment training program is now incorporated into the counselor training, along with park safety training, college preparation opportunities, and field trips.

Visitors during the five week program included Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke and Gardner’s new Superintendent of Schools Denise Clemens at the Jackson Park site, as well as town and school officials in Leominster.

In operation since the summer of 2005, Summer UP is a collaborative effort between MWCC’s Division of Access and Transition, the Mayors’ offices of the cities of Fitchburg, Leominster and Gardner, as well as various community based agencies. While providing safe recreational spaces for five weeks each summer, the program was designed to lower risky behavior and increase employment opportunities for area students. The objectives are to increase leadership, citizenship and college readiness skills for students and to ensure a safe, healthy, summer experience for at-risk children. MWCC staff assists youth employees in implementing daily craft, sports, and reading activities at each park site.