Campus Life

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.

 

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The state Department of Higher Education will recognize top students from across Massachusetts during the sixth annual “29 Who Shine” award ceremony on Monday, May 9 at noon at the Grand Staircase of the Massachusetts Statehouse.

The ceremony honors an outstanding graduating student from each of the state’s 29 public colleges and universities, as well as each award recipients’ faculty or staff mentor. The honorees, chosen because of their academic achievements and record of student leadership and community service, contribute greatly to the civic life and economic well-being of the state, whether furthering their education or entering careers in Massachusetts in fields as diverse as education, public policy, medicine, creative arts and engineering.

This year’s MWCC recipient is Bella Ballin, a Liberal Arts: Chemical Science major who is enrolled in the Pathways Early College Innovation School. Ballin began her academic studies two years ago at age 16 as a dual enrollment student.

While the Worcester resident enjoyed high school, she chose to tap into the opportunities available through MWCC’s unique Pathways Early College Innovation School, which has allowed her to simultaneously earn her high school diploma and an associate degree at no cost through school choice funding.

“I wanted to get ahead. Not for ambitious reasons, but because through experience, I learned that good health and time are not things that should be taken for granted,” said Ballin, who was diagnosed at age 15 with Multiple Sclerosis. “When I learned about the Mount’s Pathway’s Early College Innovation School, I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

A member of the Commonwealth Honors Program, Ballin is a 2015 recipient of the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s prestigious Christian A. Herter Memorial Scholarship. After earning her associate degree, she will transfer to a four-year school this fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree in science.

At MWCC, she has been named to the President’s List every semester for maintaining a perfect 4.0 grade point average, and this year was named to Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. A mentor to her two younger brothers, she plans to build a career in science in Massachusetts, and at some point in her future, would like to become a teacher.

She enjoys helping peers as a math and chemistry tutor within MWCC’s Academic Support Center, serves as president of the student Math Club, and has volunteered at the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster. Additionally, she participated in MWCC’s Leadership Camp, Leadership Retreat, and Women in Leadership Forum.

She chose Natalie J. Mercier, Academic Counselor in MWCC’s Division of Access & Transition, as her staff mentor.

“I can come to Natalie at any time with anything. I know I can always count on her.”

The 29 Who Shine honorees “represent our future citizenry and workforce and have already made substantial contributions to the Commonwealth,” said Carlos E. Santiago, Commissioner of Higher Education. “I am so proud of what they have achieved and look forward to seeing how they continue to put their talents to work on behalf of our local communities.”

MWCC students named to the 2016 edition of Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities were recognized during a student leadership celebration, held April 28 at the Gardner Museum.

MWCC students enrolled in a range of academic programs and involved in numerous activities have been selected as national outstanding campus leaders and will be included in the 2016 edition of Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities.

The 44 students were selected based on their academic achievement, service to the community, leadership in extracurricular activities and the potential for continued success. They join an elite group of students from more than 1,000 higher education institutions in the United State and several other countries. The tradition of recognizing noteworthy college students in a Who’s Who biographical volume began in 1934.

This year’s honorees are: Alyssa Adoretti, Thayna Aguiar, Joseph Almeida, Marcus Altman, Jasson Alvarado Gomez, Arturo Aponte-Cruz, Bella Ballin, Andrea Bartlett, Thomas Berger, Aleisha Berthiaume, Levi Bushnell, Aurea Carrion, Karen Chapalonis, Michel Cocuzza, Emanuel Corbeil, Elizabeth Cross, Kevin Figueroa, Nelida Figueroa Lopez, Jennifer Gariepy, Trevor Hansen, Thomas Hill Jr., Tatjana James, Alana Jones, Bethany Jones, Sara Khan, Stevie LaBelle, Julia McHugh, Kimberly Mertell, Nathan Morris, Jana Murphy, Hillary Nna, Camila Pereira, Marymar Perez Cruz, Shannen Pimental, Rebecca Pincott, Michael Racine, Christian Rossi, Ellen Smith, Benjamin Spurr, Jari Squire, Cathy Teague, Leah Trudeau, Ashlie Visco, and KellyWilliams.

 

 

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

President Asquino, guest speaker Jim Bellina of the Greater Gardner Chamber of Commerce joined students, staff and faculty for the 26th annual Alpha Beta Gamma induction ceremony.

President Daniel Asquino and Jim Bellina, president and CEO of the Greater Gardner Chamber of Commerce joined MWCC business faculty and college officials to welcome 18 students into the Chi Gamma Chapter of the Alpha Beta Gamma international business honor society.

“Alpha Beta Gamma, the international business honor society. They key word is honor, and it’s an honor for me to be here this afternoon to honor your achievement,” President Asquino said.

The 26th annual induction ceremony was led by Professor Linda Bolduc, ABG advisor and business department chair, with outgoing ABG President Kathy Matson. The celebration included recognition of the chapter’s newly elected and newly inducted officers: Michel Cocuzza, president, Alana Jones, vice president, Bethany Jones, treasurer, and Kimberly Mertell, secretary.

Bellina congratulated the students on selecting MWCC for their academic studies, noting that many of the students are busy balancing work and family responsibilities and volunteering in the community and at the college while earning their degree.

“You will be the type of people that others lean on,” he said. “You are leaders and you have the background of being at Mount Wachusett Community College.”

In addition to the four officers, other inductees are: Donavan Aboal-Caceres, Alexander Batutis, Paula Brown, Angelique Chaput, Joel DeVelis, Katie Dupont, Michelle Francisco, Tammy Goodgion, Jessica Guyer, Sheila Hebert, Lindsay Jamieson, Kevin LeBlanc, Marissa Pitisci and Nicholas Traverna.

Alpha Beta Gamma was established in 1970 to recognize and encourage scholarship among students at two-year colleges, provide leadership training opportunities and career assistance to members. To be eligible for membership into the honor society, students must be enrolled in a business curriculum, have completed 15 academic credit hours in a specific degree program and demonstrate academic excellence by attaining a grade point average of 3.0 or above. At MWCC, the programs include business administration, paralegal studies, computer information systems, graphic & interactive design and medical assisting.

TGN Tea Time April 2016 Group 1

Educators and students from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer community spoke on understanding differences over sexual identity at Mount Wachusett Community College. From left, instructor Jennifer Stephens and student Eden Shaveet watch as student Anders Bigelbach speaks. News staff photos by Andrew Mansfield.

GARDNER – Equal respect and consideration for one another was the takeaway message at Mount Wachusett Community College on Monday, as the school held a panel discussion featuring members of the LGBTQ community.

The acronym stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans¬gender and Queer.

A group of six students and educators, a majority from the Mount, talked to a public audience about their experiences being someone who is not heterosexual, or does not identify with the gender they were born as.

Each panel member touched upon encountering people during their lives who were unaccepting or at least not familiarized with what it means to be LGBTQ – being outside the traditional social norms surrounding sexuality and gender identification.

“A lot of times I get (from other people), ‘I just don’t believe in it.’

I’m not Santa Claus, so whether you believe it or not, it exists. …

If you don’t want me to get married in your church, I respect that.

But I deserve the same civil rights and liberties,” said Catherine Zabierek, a Mount student studying biological sciences who is lesbian.

The other panel members included: Adam Edgerton, an English teacher who has worked in China and is gay; Eden Shaveet, a Mount student who is bisexual; Charlie MacCall, a University of New Hampshire grad working in online marketing who is a transgender gay man; Anders Bigelbach, a Mount student who is bisexual; and Jennifer Stephens, a Mount instructor in the Advanced Manufacturing program who is a transgender woman.

Tea Time April 2016 Group 2

Mount student Catherine Zabierek listens as University of New Hampshire grad Charlie MacCall speaks.

While the politics of LGBTQ rights was touched upon – including the recent North Carolina “bathroom law” requiring people to use the restroom that corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate – the conversation was mostly personal, being affecting in its sincerity. Shaveet is studying psychology in the Mount’s Gateway to College program, which offers dual-enrollment to high-school students, allowing her to achieve college credit prior to graduating high school.

Growing up as bisexual, she spoke about the insulated feeling that comes with not being accepted by peers.

She told the audience about how she switched schools in the seventh grade after being bullied in the hopes she would be treated better at a new school.

“But by the third week I was put into a locker. …The bullying and aggression really took a toll on me,” she said, adding that the environment at the Mount, though, has been accepting.

Bigelbach, also bisexual, is pursuing creative writing in the Mount’s Gateway to College program.

He fielded a question about the notion that being different is a conscious choice as opposed to simply being how one naturally feels.

He said he asks people who believe sexuality is a choice if they chose to be straight.

“You don’t make that choice. It’s not like (choosing) I’m going to have juice instead of water today,” he said.

The panel also took the time to go over some of the positive moments in their lives that have come through their experiences being in the LGBTQ community, particularly the power they’ve found in coming out as who they are and the relationships they’ve formed.

Stephens said she used to be known as a “guy’s guy” before coming out publicly as a transgender woman at the school she used to teach at, leading a transgender student to subsequently come up to her and say “for the first time in my life I have a role model.”

Being open about her gender identity was a huge step forward for Stephens personally.

She didn’t do so until she was in her fifties after watching an episode of Oprah Winfrey’s show called “Born in the Wrong Body.”

“I actually didn’t like myself. I thought I was an awful person who wanted to dress in women’s clothes,” she said.

The role of parents in the process of coming out and living as one’s true self was also touched upon by the panel, with some good and some bad family reactions being mentioned.

Edgerton shared a fairly new anecdote regarding his mother and North Carolina’s “bathroom law,” which has come under heavy criticism from the LGBTQ community and its supporters.

He is originally from North Carolina and his mother still lives in the state.

He said she hasn’t normally been a political protester over the course of her life, but she joined a protest demonstration of North Carolina residents recently in the state’s capital of Raleigh.

He said when they spoke over the phone about it, she explained herself by saying, “Well, you’re my son and they (the state) hurt my son, and that’s why I’m out here.”

He compared Massachusetts – which he described as being more open-minded – and his home state that he said is “not a very good place to be a gay man.”

He also spoke about how he notices attitudes toward LGBTQ people have improved overall during his lifetime, but there is still progress that can be made.

That theme of continuing progress through open dialogue and further understanding was the overarching theme of the panel, the idea that a common humanity should trump divisiveness over personal differences.

Andrew Mansfield, The Gardner News, April 26, 2016

Week of the Young Child Art Show 2016

Students and family members involved with the 10th anniversary art exhibit include Graphic and Interactive Design major Tom Hill, and education majors Terri Evan, with son Alden, Kelly Williams, with daughter Ashley, Kendyll Knight and Samantha Goodale.

Mix paintings, sculptures and other assorted artwork created by dozens of children, add cupcakes, some glitter, and heaping scoops of commitment and enthusiasm from MWCC’s Early Childhood Education faculty, students and community partners, and what do you get?

The 10th anniversary celebration of the Week of the Young Child Art Exhibit at MWCC’s Garrison Center for Early Childhood Education. This year, the event was also paired with an information session about MWCC’s early childhood education and elementary education academic programs for prospective teachers, sponsored by the Admissions Office.

 

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Commissioner of Higher Education Carlos Santiago met with Mount Wachusett Community College students during his tour of the college.

Continuing his mission to spend a full day at each of the state’s public colleges and universities, Commissioner of Higher Education Carlos Santiago took a whirlwind tour of Mount Wachusett Community College on Thursday, April 14.

The day began at MWCC’s satellite campus in Devens – which rekindled fond memories for the commissioner, who spent several years there as a child when his father was stationed at Fort Devens – and ended at MWCC’s main campus in Gardner with a meeting with the Board of Trustees.

In between, he met with students, faculty, staff, administrators, K-12 partners and business and community leaders, exchanging thoughts and ideas on a wide range of topics including an enhanced K-16 approach toward education, college accessibility, transfer pathways to four-year schools, industry partnerships, MWCC’s new science and technology building under construction and student support services. By late afternoon, he had this to say to college leaders:

“You’re innovative. You are getting it right here,” he told the trustees. “Now we’ve got to learn from your success and scale it up. I need this campus to spread the word about the work you are doing here.”

Under the leadership of President Daniel Asquino, MWCC’s ground-breaking work in dual enrollment, civic engagement, unique K-12 and industry partnerships and wrap-around services have grown into model programs, Dr. Santiago said.

“The campus is well positioned on a number of fronts, he said. “The support services that are provided to students on this campus are superb. The students feel well-served by everyone.”

Earlier in the day, the commissioner met with Mahar Regional School Superintendent Tari Thomas and Mahar administrators for a discussion on the continued success of the Gateway to College program for at-risk students, now in its 10th year, and the Pathways Early College Innovation School, now in its sixth year.

He also met with Fitchburg Schools Superintendent Andre Ravenelle, Fitchburg High School Principal Jeremy Roche, members of MWCC’s Access & Transition team and math faculty for a detailed discussion on college-readiness programs, including MWCC’s Math Modeling program, now offered in several area high schools to help reduce students’ need for math remediation in college.

At lunchtime, the commissioner dined on sandwiches, fruit and potato chips with a group of students that included teenagers in dual enrollment programs, career changers, student leaders and parents juggling family responsibilities, work and academic studies. He listened intently as they shared stories about unique challenges, as well as their career aspirations, and how the college is helping them reach their goals.

“No matter who you are or where you’re coming from, you really find your place here,” said student leader Stevie LaBelle.

During his session with business leaders, the commissioner discussed the significant role community colleges, like Mount Wachusett, play in the state’s economic and civic landscape. Two-thirds of all college students in Massachusetts attend the state’s public institutions, and 90 percent remain in the state after graduating.

“The future of the Commonwealth really is going to rest on campuses like this.”

 

 

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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.”

 

 

Robert Putnam Dan Asquino book signing

Political scientist Robert D. Putnam pens a note to MWCC President Daniel Asquino during a book signing that followed the author’s presentation.

The growing divide between the haves and have nots in America is “the most important domestic problem facing our country today,” renowned political scientist and bestselling author Robert D. Putnam told an attentive audience of students, educators and community leaders gathered at Mount Wachusett Community College on March 25.

Over the past four decades, “America has become a more segregated society in terms of education. Our country has become more divided and split among social lines than it used to be. This is a crucial matter for the future of our country and our economy,” Putnam, a Harvard University professor, said during an hour-long presentation filled with staggering statistics, tragic anecdotes and sporadic humor.

The event, sponsored by MWCC’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement, was made possible through a grant the college received from the National Endowment for the Humanities in partnership with the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

“Bowling Alone,” one of Putnam’s 14 books, was the inspiration behind President Daniel Asquino’s drive to make civic engagement a cornerstone of an MWCC education. President Asquino was joined by Fagan Forhan, Assistant Dean of K-12 Partnerships and Civic Engagement, in welcoming the guest speaker. A booksigning and public dialogue followed the presentation.

Using examples from his latest book, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis,” Putnam explained that when he graduated high school, 80 percent of his classmates had achieved a higher level of education than their parents. As he and his peers went on to raise families of their own, they did so with the expectation that their children would do even better.

Those, like Putnam, who pursued a college education, did indeed forge a path that enabled their children and grandchildren to have greater opportunities, including access to higher education, extracurricular activities and personal enrichment. Meanwhile, classmates who did not attend college at first fared well in the local workforce, but then the economy tanked, factories closed and stores boarded their windows. Subsequently, their children and grandchildren are now worse off, and the condition is similar throughout the country.

“We’ve been here before,” Putnam said, reflecting on the class divide during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The movement over a century ago to make public high school education free and accessible led to the national ethos of the American Dream – the belief that through hard work, everyone has the opportunity to succeed.

“That turned out to be the best decision that Americans have ever made because it raised the productivity level of all Americans,” Putnam said. “Everyone was better off, and it leveled the playing field.”

Similar to the investment the nation made a century ago in public high school education, a renewed commitment to invest in education is needed to solve the class gap of the 21st century, Putnam said.

Solutions, he said, include greater support for early childhood education from birth to age four, and an investment in public education that provides equal access to sports, arts and other enrichment activities, rather than only to those who can afford to “pay to play.”

He also advocates for criminal justice system reforms, higher pay for teachers who work in low-income schools, more intensive mentoring for children, and encouraging stable, caring families by boosting wages.

Expanding access to higher education is also part of the solution he said, explaining that community colleges are like highway “on ramps” that lead to a better life.

“A shared investment in everyone’s kids was key to American growth in the past, and it is key to restoring the American Dream today.”

 

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Mentors recognized by MWCC students during this year’s Women’s HerStory Project include, from left: Michelle Contey, Amy LaBarge, Sue Blain, Joyce Kulig, Maryann Kane, Sara Williams, Eveliz Rivera-White, Susan Guartafierro, Emily Carr, Denise Whitney and Lea Ann Scales. Missing from photo: Melissa Manzi and Donna Tully.

Faculty and staff members who play an instrumental role in the lives of MWCC students were recognized on March 24 during the college’s annual Women’s Appreciation Day. The celebration capped a month-long of activities and events in celebration of Women’s History Month.

For the eighth year, students in Professor Susan Goldstein’s Journalism I class have interviewed and written feature articles on women who are making a difference in the lives of others. The mentors recognized through the Women’s HerStory Project are nominated by MWCC students.

This year’s honorees are: Sue Blain, Advisor; Emily Carr, Adjunct Professor, Graphic & Interactive Design; Michelle Contey, Academic Counselor; Susan Guartafierro, Admissions Office Clerk; Maryann Kane, Early Childhood Education Professor; Joyce Kulig, Retention Specialist with the Visions Program; Amy LaBarge, Academic/Disabilities Counselor; Melissa Manzi, Mental Health Counselor; Eveliz Rivera-White, Financial Aid Advisor; Lea Ann Scales, Vice President of External Affairs, Communications & K-12 Partnerships; Donna Tully, Associate Professor of Nursing; Denise Whitney, Administrative Assistant in the Division of Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development; Sara Williams, Management Assistant with the Visions and Rx programs.

Their photographs and inspiring stories are on display in the South Café throughout the month.