Community Stories

Summer UP participants at Jackson Playground in Gardner presented a thank you banner to President Daniel Asquino and Mayor Mark Hawke for their continued support of the program.

Summer UP participants at Jackson Playground in Gardner presented a thank you banner to President Daniel Asquino and Mayor Mark Hawke for their continued support of the program.

Over a decade ago, Mount Wachusett Community College’s Summer UP program began to provide safe, summertime activities and employment opportunities to area youth. Since then, thousands of children and teenagers in area cities have benefited from the program.

Now completing its 11th season, Summer Up is a college/community partnership in Gardner, Fitchburg, and Leominster administrated by MWCC’s Division of Access and Transitions.

Recently, MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino joined Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke and Business Administrator for the Gardner Public Schools Chris Casavant at the Jackson Playground site to meet participants and celebrate the program’s success.

“Summer UP is a great program,” said President Asquino. “The best part of the program is it’s not just recreation. The older kids get to develop leadership skills and earn money.”

Mayor Hawke spent a portion of the visit playing basketball with the children. “Every year it’s bigger and better, especially with the new playground and the mural created by the Mount students. I haven’t seen this many kids down here in years, and it’s why we partner with the Mount,” he said.

Mr. Casavant said the program fills a huge need in the community. “We are constantly looking for ways to keep students engaged during the summer months. This is a fantastic opportunity for these kids.”

The sites this year include Jackson Playground and Olde English Village in Gardner, Coolidge Park, Parkhill Park, and Lowe Park in Fitchburg, and Allencrest Community Center in Leominster, which is combined with the Spanish American Center.

Each Summer UP site is staffed by two to three adult supervisors, five to six high school students, and eight middle school students. This year more than 90 student workers, approximately a dozen adult supervisors and several hundred elementary school students are participating at the park sites, said Christina Gonzalez, Community Partnership Manager for MWCC’s division of Access and Transition, who is in her second year overseeing Summer UP.

Middle and high school students complete 20 hours of training through the Commonwealth Corps’ Signal to Success Program, which teaches communication, leadership and employment skills, while younger children enhance social skills though day-to-day interaction in the group setting. On Fridays, the youth workers participate in educational field trips.

Monique Barbosa, who will enter Gardner High School this year as an eighth grader, began attending Summer UP since she was 7, and is now one of the program’s youth workers. X-zavior Ducos, who will be entering the ninth grade this fall, is in his second year as a youth worker. “It’s great. What’s not to like about it?” Ducos said. “You get to play with the kids and go on field trips. The training was fun, too.”

- Katherine Best

Lisa Burns Evening of Excellence 2015

Honors student and MWCC graduate Lisa Burns, a Visions Program participant, will continue her studies this fall at Mount Holyoke College.

Mount Wachusett Community College has been awarded two five-year grants from the U.S. Department of Education totaling $2.99 million to continue support programs that help low-income students, first-generation college students and students with disabilities succeed in college.The grant awards will be used to continue the college’s successful TRIO Student Support Services programs. The goal of each program is to improve student outcomes in the areas of retention, graduation and transfer to four-year institutions to earn a bachelor’s degree.

MWCC will receive $1.1 million over the next five years – $220,000 per year – to support the Student Support Services STEM Health Sciences program, known on campus as the Rx Program. Comprehensive services will be provided to 120 students annually who are majoring in health sciences programs including nursing, practical nursing, dental hygiene, dental assisting, physical therapist assistant, complementary health care, medical laboratory technology, medical assisting, medical office, biotechnology-bio manufacturing, fitness leadership and exercise science, and general studies allied health. Program participants receive wrap-around support services that include tutoring; academic advising; career, personal and transfer counseling; supplemental courses; financial aid advising and workshops; and financial and economic literacy education.

MWCC’s Student Support Services TRIO program, known on campus as the Visions Program, will receive $378,485 a year over a five-year span, for a total of $1,892,425 million. Now entering its 37th year as an educational opportunity TRIO program at MWCC, Visions serves eligible students enrolled in any non-health services major. The program provides a variety of comprehensive services to 200 students each year, including academic advising, personal, career and transfer counseling, tutoring, seminars, financial aid advising and workshops, financial literacy education, a faculty and peer mentoring program and supplemental courses.

“We are delighted to receive these two, highly competitive TRIO grants to continue programs that provide students with the tools and skills they need to succeed in college and earn a degree,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “These awards are a testament to the outstanding work of our dedicated faculty and staff and to the perseverance of our students. We our most grateful to our federal legislative delegation for their ongoing support of these programs and commitment to our students and the economic health of our region,” he said.

“Mount Wachusett Community College is committed to providing academic support and resources to students who need it the most,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren. “These federal TRIO grants will go a long way toward helping MWCC continue its extraordinary efforts to help every student succeed.  MWCC deserves congratulations for all it is doing.”

“We need to prepare all of our students to compete in the 21st century innovation economy, and these TRIO grants will ensure Mount Wachusett Community College continues to prepare low-income and first generation students with the skills of tomorrow,” said Senator Edward J. Markey. “I congratulate Mount Wachusett Community College for securing this funding and for its commitment to helping students of all backgrounds and abilities achieve their dreams.

“Mount Wachusett received these funds after a rigorous grant process, which speaks to both the quality of their application and the school in general,” said Congresswoman Niki Tsongas. “They exemplify the growing trend of Third District institutions becoming academic leaders in the Commonwealth. I commend this fine institution and look forward to seeing the far-reaching benefits take hold.”

Using federal funds to partner with local institutions to address the needs of the region is a key tool in ensuring all people have the opportunity to pursue higher education, she said. “The significant return on these investments will have ongoing reverberations for many years to come, as more students are encouraged and able to complete their college careers and enter the workforce with the skills necessary to succeed.”

“With these TRIO awards, Mount Wachusett Community College will be able to continue to provide their students with a great education and prepare them for good careers,” said Congressman Jim McGovern. “TRIO has a strong tradition of helping low-income, first generation college students succeed. These awards will directly help students complete their education and pursue good careers in STEM health science fields and many other fields that support our communities, including education, business, human services and public service. Mount Wachusett Community College is a strong partner for North Central Massachusetts and I look forward to continuing to work with them to open new doors of opportunity and grow our local economy.”

News of the federal grants was well received by students and alumni who have participated in the TRIO programs at MWCC.

“Without the Visions Program, I would not have been successful,” said Lisa Burns, a single mother who enrolled at MWCC in 2012 to pursue a new career after a back injury prevented her from continuing her long-standing job as a pharmacy technician. Though initially hesitant to enroll, Burns became a member of the Honors Program, the Alpha Beta Gamma business honor society and the Phi Theta Kappa honor society at MWCC. In May, she became the first in her family to graduate from college when she earned an associate degree in Business Administration. In September, she will transfer to prestigious Mount Holyoke College on a full scholarship through the Frances Perkins Tuition Scholarship program to pursue her bachelor’s degree.

“When you don’t have support on the outside, the support on campus is even more important – to have people telling you that you can do it,” she said.

 

DOL grants Press Conference Group

Celebrating new workforce training programs funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, from left, Jackie Belrose, MWCC Vice President of Life Long Learning & Workforce Development; Melissa Ahola; District Director for Senator Jen Flanagan; Martha Chiarchiaro, Vice President of Human Resources, Clinton Hospital; Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong; State Representative Jennifer Benson; Congresswoman Niki Tsongas; Congressman James McGovern; Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke; Tim Sappington, Executive Director, North Central MA Workforce Investment Board; Theresa Kane, Ph.D., Chief Operating Officer, Polus Center and Social Economic Development; Jeff Turgeon, Executive Director, Central MA Workforce Investment Board; Susan Templeton, District Director; and Kaitlynn Bilodeau Legislative Aide for Representative Jonathan Zlotnik.

Congressman James McGovern and Congresswoman Niki Tsongas visited the North Central Chamber of Commerce on July 21 to announce new federal grants to support workforce training programs in North Central and Central Massachusetts. Mount Wachusett Community College is a key partner in the grant programs as a provider of training programs.

“Investing in strong workforce training programs is key to helping our local economy and community thrive,” Congressman McGovern said.

“I’m proud to join Congresswoman Tsongas and all of our local leaders to celebrate this new funding and the opportunities it will create for our local manufacturing companies and workforce, especially people with disabilities. This partnership will open new doors to members of our community who have the skills to succeed and are eager to work. I am grateful to the U.S. Department of Labor for being a strong partner and investing in our community.”

The North Central and Central Massachusetts Workforce Boards will receive $534,154 for a Sector Partnership National Emergency Grant as part of the state’s $3.2 million dollar grant award from the U.S. Department of Labor. The boards will partner on the training with Mount Wachusett Community College and the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP). MWCC will offer its new Industrial Readiness and Quality Control trainings and MassMEP will offer its CNC (computer numerical control) operator training. The goal of the two-year grant is to train 80 eligible unemployed individuals in advanced manufacturing skills to meet the local industry demand.

The North Central and Central Mass Workforce Boards also recently received $1,140,000 in Disability Employment Initiative grants from the DOL. The grants will provide training funds and support for eligible individuals with disabilities interested in full-time employment. The North Central Workforce Board received $640,000 and will be offering training in healthcare, manufacturing, hospitality and finance for this three-year project. The Central Mass Workforce Board received $500,000 for its initiative and will offer training for career pathways in human services, healthcare, and customer service.

The Sector Partnership National Emergency Grant will allow both regions to provide a skilled workforce for local manufacturing companies that meets local demand, and the Disability Employment Initiative grants will allow the boards to provide enhanced services to people with disabilities under the new Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act. The grants also connect employers to this untapped talent source of qualified, skilled individuals who happen to have a disability, said Workforce Board Directors Tim Sappington and Jeff Turgeon.

TAM Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

A scene from Theatre at the Mount’s production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, one of several productions nominated for DASH Awards this year by the Eastern Massachusetts Association of Community Theatres.

The Eastern Massachusetts Association of Community Theatres (EMACT) recently announced the nominees for the 2014 – 2015 “DASH” Awards (Distinguished Achievement and Special Honors). Of the 118 productions entered in the competition, Theatre at the Mount received nominations in 20 categories including:

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Best Production of a Musical

Best Ensemble for a Musical

Best Director of a Musical – Chris Casello

Best Costumes for a Musical – Caitlin Spain

Best Lighting Design for a Musical – Doug Darrigo

Best Sound Design for a Musical – Devin Vaillancourt

Best Set Design for a Musical – Chris Casello

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical – Shani Farrell

DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS

Best Production of a Musical

Best Director of a Musical – Rob Houle

Best Choreography – Alison Laverdiere

Best Stage Management – Gail Allen

Best Costumes for a Musical – Julia Whalen

25th ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE

Best Ensemble for a Musical

Best Musical Direction – Joanne Landry

Best Choreography – Rob Houle

Best Actress in a Musical – Lynne Dumais

Best Actor in a Musical – Doug Dame

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical – Kyle Carlson

SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK LIVE, JR.

Best Youth Actor in a Musical – Bryan Landgren

Winners will be announced at the DASH Gala on Saturday, August 29 at the Arsenal Center for the Arts in Watertown. A complete list of the nominees can be found at www.emact.org

 

Three Murdock High School seniors are earning MWCC academic certificates through the Robinson-Broadhurst Career Tech Scholarship program. Pictured, from left, Andrew Phelps, Amber Dignan, Melanie Cranfill, and CVTE Transition Counselor and student advisor Shaunti Phillips.

Four Murdock High School seniors earned MWCC academic certificates through the Robinson-Broadhurst Career Tech Scholarship program during the past academic year. Pictured, from left, Andrew Phelps, Amber Dignan, Melanie Cranfill, and CVTE Transition Counselor and student advisor Shaunti Phillips. Missing from photo: Samantha Strong

A career-oriented dual enrollment program that allows high school seniors from Winchendon to simultaneously earn their diploma and an academic certificate while enrolled full time at Mount Wachusett Community College, is among three early college partnerships lauded in a newly released report from the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy.

The Rennie Center policy brief, Early College Designs: Achieving College- and Career-Readiness for all Massachusetts Students, explores successful early college models as part of the center’s Roadmap to Expanding Opportunity series. The Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation Career Tech Scholarship program, a one-year, full-time dual enrollment program for seniors at Murdock Middle/High School, prepares students for a variety of careers including information technology, allied health, auto technology, cybersecurity, accounting, bookkeeping, analytical laboratory and quality systems, and small business management.

The program was established in 2012 through a grant from the Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation to assist low-income, first-generation college students, and accepts up to six students each year. By the end of a full academic year attending college courses, the students earn credentials to enter the workforce and complete the first year toward an associate or bachelor’s degree. Students are provided with scholarships from the Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation to cover the costs of the college courses.

The programs highlighted in the policy brief “demonstrate that early college offers an innovative – and viable – solution to persistent problems of college access and persistence,” Chad d’Entremont, Executive Director of the Rennie Center, notes in a letter announcing the new policy brief.  “By allowing participants to accumulate college credits and complete foundational courses before leaving high school, early college helps put students on a trajectory toward degree attainment.”

In its brief, the Rennie Center notes the MWCC-Murdock partnership includes a variety of support services for students, including weekly meetings with an advisor, and three hours each week of professional tutoring and peer tutoring. In addition, students retain their connection with their guidance counselor at Murdock.

The program, which begins its fifth year this fall, is an innovative partnership between the college, the Winchendon school system and the private community foundation, said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “We are most grateful for the continued support of the Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation. This program not only helps student achieve their goal of obtaining a college education without accruing tremendous loan debt, but ultimately supports the region’s economy by preparing young people with skills they can directly apply in the workforce.”

“The dual-enrollment program allows Murdock students an amazing opportunity to earn college credits for free,” said Principal Joshua Romano. “Any advantage our students can get to become competitive with students from other schools just helps more of our students succeed in college and beyond.”

Being in the Robinson-Broadhurst dual-enrollment program was “a life-changing experience,” said Dakota Wood, a 2014 graduate who went on to earn an associate degree from MWCC in allied health in anticipation of continuing on for a degree in nursing. “I graduated high school with a free year of college under my belt. It’s absolutely the best thing I could have done.” Wood said the flexible schedule allowed him to still participate in high school activities, including music classes, band, chorus and theater productions.

In addition to the Commonwealth Dual Enrollment Program, also cited in the policy brief, Mount Wachusett offers two other signature dual enrollment programs open to Massachusetts students, The Pathways Early College Innovation School and the Gateway to College program, in partnership with the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District.

An early college program between Amesbury High School and Northern Essex Community College, and a dual enrollment program between Marlborough High School and Framingham State University, were also highlighted by the Rennie Center’s policy brief.

The Rennie Center was launched in 2002 by then-Secretary of Education Paul Reville as a division of the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth (MassINC). In 2005, the Cambridge-based center became an independent non-profit organization committed to addressing the critical challenges of reforming education in Massachusetts. For more information, visit www.renniecenter.org.

Linda Coyne

The Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts supports MWCC student scholarships.

The Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts has awarded a $67,000 grant to the MWCC Foundation to support student scholarships. To qualify for a scholarship, students must live in North Central Massachusetts, demonstrate financial need, and be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Award amounts will vary.

“We are very grateful to the Community Foundation for this award and for its ongoing support for students as they pursue their academic and career goals,” said President Daniel M. Asquino. “The vast majority of our students remain in the area after graduating to live and work, so this funding ultimately helps strengthen our local communities and enhance the economic vitality of our region.”

The foundation announced 30 new grants totaling nearly $500,000 from its general endowment funds and field of interest funds during an event June 11 at Apple Hill Farm. The grant to support student scholarships at MWCC comes from the Community Foundation’s Educational Access Fund.

The Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts is a nonprofit, community, corporation created by and for the people of greater North Central Massachusetts. The Community Foundation General Endowment Education Access Fund supports community development, environment, animal welfare, arts and culture, as well as health and human services. Since its inception, the Community Foundation has awarded over $40 million in grants and distributions from 160 funds that have been established by individuals, families and organizations.

Frankenstein image - JPG

An image of Frankenstein’s creature created by MWCC Graphic and Interactive Design alumnus Dylan Safford to illustrate the MWCC Humanities Project second-year theme.

Like many great works of science fiction, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, explores what it means to be human in a rapidly changing world.

Published nearly 200 years ago when Shelley was just 20 years old, the novel’s influence extends well beyond the literary domain into film, science and politics, making it an ideal theme for the Mount Wachusett Community College Humanities Project.

Myths, Monsters, and Modern Science: Frankenstein’s Legacy has been selected as the second year theme for the MWCC Humanities Project. The project, an interdisciplinary and community study, is funded through a multi-year, matching $500,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to deepen and sustain quality and humanities programing and curriculum throughout North Central Massachusetts.

The impact of Shelley’s 1818 story has prevailed into the modern era, spawning countless interpretations, retellings, and inspirations, yet it bears little resemblance to the Hollywood adaptions that have dominated popular culture for decades, said Professor Michelle Valois, chair of the MWCC’s Liberal Arts & Sciences programs and coordinator of the Humanities Project. Frankenstein continues to raise important questions about science and community, family and education.

“If, when you think Frankenstein, you think only of a grotesquely disfigured giant of a man who grunts and groans, then you only know half the story,” Valois said. “Mary Shelley’s novel – though a work of the imagination – offers an approach to these philosophical and ethical questions: Can science go too far?  What does it mean to play God?  How do we tolerate difference?  Who are the real monsters?  Our world is witnessing rapid scientific and technological advances – how do works of the imagination help society cope with these changes?”

As he becomes obsessed with his experiments, Dr. Frankenstein cuts himself off from his family and friends. In this self-imposed isolation, he brings to life a creature that he can’t stand to look upon and which he rejects. “This question of responsibility and control is central to many discussions about the new science that our contemporary society faces in the area of biotechnology and artificial intelligence,” Valois said.

Other ideas and themes that the novel explores include the social outcast, nature vs. nurture, the effects of abandonment on children, beauty, good and evil, the limits of science, the responsibility of science, the fact and fiction behind many new scientific and technological developments, rationality vs. intuition, faith vs. reason, and, most of all, the power of a good story to invade our imagination and transform how we see ourselves and our world, Valois said.

During a recent three-day workshop, MWCC faculty from various disciplines met to discuss the tale and its significance today, and plan ways to integrate themes into the curriculum for the upcoming academic year. This cross-college team included attendees from the fields of English, philosophy, sociology, graphic and interactive design, art, computer information systems, biology, biotechnology and natural resources.

Participating faculty and staff members include: Julie Capozzi, Paula Pitkiewicz, Paul Swerzenski, David Wyman, Lara Dowland, Donalyn Schofield, Kathryn Smith, Candace Shivers, Tom Montagno, Kenneth Roy, Shelley Nicholson, Maureen Provost, Wanda Pothier-Hill, Daniel Soucy, Lorie Donahue, Susan Blake, Michelle Paranto, Constance Porter, and Jess Mynes.

Events will include a panel discussion on “Frankenscience – The Myths and Realities of Contemporary Science,”  a Halloween hike for the Humanities at Wachusett Mountain, a book discussion with Elizabeth Young, author of Black Frankenstein: The Making of an American Metaphor, and lectures by visiting professors Sonia Hofkosh of Tufts University, Robert Schwartz of Mount Holyoke College, and Shelley Errington Nicholson of MWCC and Springfield College. 

Films will include Kenneth Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, James Whales’ 1931 classic Frankenstein with Boris Karloff and  Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein as well as a monster movie marathon with Fitchburg State University Professor Joe Moser.

The study follows the MWCC Humanities Project first-year theme, East Meets West in a Cabin in Concord: Walden and Beyond, which provided students and the community an opportunity to examine Henry David Thoreau’s lasting relevance through lectures, films, and book discussions. During the past academic year, students studied Thoreau’s Walden: Or Life in the Woods, not only in English courses, but in science, business, philosophy, art, sociology, graphic design, and history courses as well. MWCC sponsored 12 community events held at the college and at local libraries.

VA Secretary Urena and Bob Mayer

Massachusetts VA Secretary Francisco Urena with MWCC Veteran Services Director Bob Mayer.

Mount Wachusett Community College welcomed Massachusetts Secretary of Veterans Affairs Francisco A. Urena to its Gardner campus on June 23. The secretary’s visit included a meeting with President Daniel M. Asquino, a tour of the college’s Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success with MWCC Veteran Services Director Bob Mayer, and an opportunity to meet with a coalition of state educators who were on campus to discuss services for student veterans.

Secretary Urena, who was appointed to the position by Gov. Charlie Baker in January, said he was impressed with the college’s array of support services for veterans, commitment to academic success, and construction and renovation projects underway. He is touring the state’s community colleges with Steven R. Sullivan, Director of Grants and Workforce Development for the Massachusetts Community Colleges Executive Office.

MWCC Transfer Counselor Limari Rivera was among the MWCC administrators and staff to greet the secretary. Rivera was Secretary Urena’s first academic advisor when he was a student at Northern Essex Community College.

“I knew he was going places the minute I met him,” Rivera said.

After earning an associate degree, Secretary Urena went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, and is pursuing a master’s degree from UMass Boston. Prior to his appointment as secretary, he served three years as Commissioner of Veterans’ Services in Boston and five years as director of veterans’ services in Lawrence. A recipient of the Purple Heart, he served eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps guarding US embassies in Syria and Kyrgyzstan and was a tank commander during operation Iraqi Freedom.

 

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.

Otaku Club at Waterford St School (1)

Following a successful club fundraiser, the Otaku United club at Mount Wachusett Community College donated more than 600 books to Waterford Street School children. Pictured in the back row behind the elementary school students, from left: Waterford Assistant Principal Melissa McDonald; Jonathan Cohen (club vice president); Eric Rothwell; Heather Chandry (president); Rebekah Cohen (treasurer); Andrea Bartlett; Mary Ann Ernst; Cassandra Cohen; first grade teacher Peter Pianka; and Guidance Counselor Terry Burnham.

Hundreds of kindergarten and first grade students at Waterford Street School will end the school year with fun summertime reading, thanks to a donation from a group of Mount Wachusett Community College students.

Members of Otaku United, a club that celebrates Asian culture, including art, language and anime, raised more than $1,000 during the spring semester by conducting a silent auction of a wide range of gift cards and items donated to the club to support the cause. Proceeds from the auction were used to purchase age-appropriate books for the students from the Scholastic Reading Club.

Each kindergarten and first grade student received two books and a book mark.

“We’re pleased they want to promote early childhood literacy and we’re so appreciative that they thought of our school,” said Waterford Guidance Counselor Terry Burnham. “The children will be thrilled to have two books to keep.”

The club donated an additional 50 books to the Garrison Center for Early Childhood Education at MWCC, said club president Heather Chadsey. “Our club has a tendency to do what we put our minds to,” she said.