Community Stories

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MWCC Honors Program students Phil Stan and Stevie LaBelle led a panel discussion on suicide awareness, which was attended by approximately 100 students. Pictured, from left, Honors Program Coordinator Sheila Murphy; Michael Ellis, project coordinator of the Men’s Suicide Prevention Program at Heywood Hospital; MWCC student Carrie DeCosta, Stan, former State Senator Robert Antonioni, and LaBelle.

Mount Wachusett Community College Honors Program students Phil Stan and Stevie LaBelle led a poignant panel discussion to promote suicide awareness and discussion and encourage their peers to think past the stigma attached to mental illness.

The three-person panel included former State Senator Robert Antonioni; Michael Ellis, project coordinator of the Men’s Suicide Prevention Program at Heywood Hospital; and MWCC student Carrie DeCosta. Representing three different perspectives on suicide and mental illness, the panelists shared their individual accounts with approximately 100 MWCC students in the college’s North Café.

“Suicide and depression do not discriminate,” said Stan, while introducing the Dec. 2 event. He lamented that suicide represents the second-leading cause of death among young people ages 10-24, yet is still regarded as a “social taboo.”

“Elected officials look for issues to champion. That issue found me in 1999,” said Antonioni, referring to the year he lost his brother to suicide.

“Suicide is seen as a stigma to avoid, but it shouldn’t be. It should be on the forefront of everyone’s minds, and we should look to intervene and help,” he said.

“The way to get around this stigma and provide opportunity for discussion is to have forums” throughout the community, said Ellis. He encouraged students to seek education on suicide and mental illnesses, respond proactively to clear risk factors, participate in prevention training and learn to be accepting and tolerant of mental health issues. “Every single one of us has a role to play.”

“It’s important to share my story because you wouldn’t think by looking at me that I struggled with mental illnesses,” said DeCosta. “I was determined not to be a statistic and beat my illness.”

LaBelle and Stan, MWCC’s Student Trustee, organized the event as an extension of their abnormal psychology course and as a service learning project in the Honors Program.

“The fact that this many people showed up means the conversation has started,” LaBelle said.

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Fitchburg High School seniors complete college applications as part of the school’s first year of participation in Massachusetts College Application Celebration. More than 86 percent of the class completed college applications, exceeding the 80-percent goal set by MWCC Division of Access & Transition. Assisting FHS students, and wearing red t-shirts, are GEAR UP and TRIO staff members.

A majority of Fitchburg High School seniors celebrated Thanksgiving with more than a meal under their belt. By the holiday, more than 86 percent of the class had completed college applications, exceeding a goal set by the high school’s administration and guidance staff and MWCC’s Division of Access & Transition.

MWCC and Fitchburg High partnered to bring the Massachusetts College Application Celebration event to the school for the first time during the week of Nov. 17, with the goal of encouraging 80 percent of the senior class apply to at least one college of their choice by Thanksgiving. This is the third year Massachusetts has participated in the national initiative spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Education’s GEAR UP program. The high school is encouraging 100-percent participation by spring.

“It was a great success,” said Andrew Goodwin, MWCC GEAR UP Director. By encouraging seniors to apply early, they are more likely to apply to several schools and find the best match for their academic goals, he said.

Bringing the application celebration directly to Massachusetts high schools coincides with key state education goals of providing college access to all students and closing achievement gaps, said state GEAR UP Director Robert Dias, who paid a visit during the Fitchburg event.

Damaris Cabrera, who has participated in MWCC’s Educational Talent Search program since middle school, said the application drive is making a big difference for students. The college access programs she has participated in have helped her realize the importance of higher education and the various financial aid programs available to help make that goal affordable, she said.

“I’ve received the information I need to help me prepare for my future.”

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Theater at the Mount and The Arc of Opportunity will offer a sensory-friendly performance of “Annie” for individuals with sensory-input disorders, autism, developmental, cognitive and physical disabilities, and their families.

The customized production continues a weeklong slate of performances and will take place Saturday, Dec. 6 at 2 p.m. at MWCC’s theatre, which offers convenient accessibility and seating for those in wheelchairs. The musical tells the rags-to-riches story of young Annie’s journey from New York orphanage to the luxurious home of billionaire businessman Oliver Warbucks.

In a welcoming and stress-free environment, attendees will benefit from lower levels of sound and lighting, the freedom to talk and leave their seats, and extra support from sufficiently trained staff and actors.

TAM and The Arc will also provide social stories and plot summaries to prepare attendees for the performance; listening devices available on a first-come, first-served basis; and a designated quiet room.

“This sensory-friendly performance is an opportunity for families to go to the theatre without anxiety or fear of judgment,” said The Arc President and CEO Mary Heafy. Theatre at the Mount Director Gail Steele adds, “Many parents struggle to find events like this one and we are so proud to offer it here at Theatre at the Mount.  In “Annie,” Daddy Warbucks takes the orphan Annie into his home, opening the door to opportunities she never imagined. We hope that this performance opens the doors to the magic of live theatre for families who face the challenges of autism, sensory processing disorders and other cognitive and developmental issues.”

“Annie” will star 12-year-old honor student Mary Mahoney of Leominster. The evil Miss Hannigan will be played by Athol’s Julie Capone-Smith. The cast will also feature Jeff Garber as Oliver Warbucks, Cassie Blanchette as Grace Farrell, Keith Wolosz as Rooster, Joyce Baldwin as Lily St Regis, Robert Thomas as F.D.R. and Dash Riprock Twiss as Sandy.

Tickets for this performance can be purchased for $10 at mwcc.edu/tam/shows. Financial aid and printed copies of the social story are available through The Arc at 978-343-6662 extension1023. To download the social story, visit arcofopportunity.org/events.

 

“Godspell,” originally performed in 1976 as Theatre at the Mount’s first musical, will be one of four productions during the 2015 season.

Mount Wachusett Community College’s Theatre at the Mount will offer a full slate of four productions during the 2015 season.

Based on the popular 1988 film, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” kicks off the 2015 TAM season. Two shameless con men and a hapless American heiress are locked in an uproarious dance of disguise, deception and deceit against the luxurious backdrop of the French Riviera. With $50,000 and territorial rights going to the winner, all bets are off as masochistic German doctors are impersonated, live goldfish are eaten, and “love sneaks in” unwittingly on even the cleverest of cons. But who ends up conning whom? Performances of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” are Feb. 27 and 28, as well as March 6 and 7, at 8 p.m. and March 8 at 2 p.m.

Take out your dictionaries when “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” opens in May. This six-time, Tony-nominated musical tells the story of five quirky kids vying for 1st prize, bragging rights, and most importantly, a trip to the National Spelling Bee Championship. The misfit contestants are joined by 3 or 4 guest spellers from the audience as they learn that a spelling bee is one place where they can stand out and fit in at the same time, win or lose. Can you spell i-r-r-e-s-i-s-t-i-b-l-e? Show dates for Spelling Bee are May 1, 2, 8 and 9 at 8 p.m. and May 3 at 2 p.m.

Theatre at the Mount will reprise the very first musical ever performed on the TAM stage in 1976, with a new production of the musical “Godspell.” Stories of the Bible are brought to life through mime, music, song and dance in a brand-new, up-to-date musical circus. Enjoy all the good gifts in this exuberant, rocking, rolling and riveting musical. Come sing about love! Performances of “Godspell” are Oct. 9, 10, 16 and 17 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 18 at 2 p.m.

Kris Kringle takes on the cynics among us in a heart-warming musical adaptation of the classic holiday film, “The Miracle on 34th Street.” In his inimitable style, Meredith Wilson (The Music Man) tells the story of a charming, white-bearded gentleman who claims to be the “real Santa Claus.” Filled with humor, spectacle and great songs like “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” the show reminds us that miracles really do happen. Share the holiday spirit when Miracle on 34th Street takes the stage on Nov. 27 and 28, as well as Dec. 4 and 5, at 8 p.m. and Nov. 29 and Dec. 6 at 2 p.m.

Season Tickets for all 4 shows are only $60.00 and are on sale now. To purchase tickets or request a season brochure, call the Theatre at the Mount box office at 978 630-9388. Tickets may also be purchased online at http://theatre.mwcc.edu

 

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Students representing the world’s poorest shared meager bowls of rice and water, while a much smaller group, representing the world’s wealthiest, dined on a full meal. This exercise took place throughout the Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement’s hunger banquet, which raised awareness about poverty and income inequality.

A hunger banquet hosted by the Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement raised awareness of world poverty and affirmed Mount Wachusett Community College’s status as a lead institution in an American Association of State Colleges and Universities initiative. MWCC and Keene State College announced Nov. 18 that they will co-lead 31 participating institutions in a three-year initiative on economic inequality.

The initiative calls for institutions to develop curricula and hands-on learning opportunities that will encourage students to confront the complex causes of economic inequality. MWCC’s hunger banquet mirrored those run by Oxfam International and provided students varying meals and levels of service, based on the distribution of income and on chance – very often the sole determinant of one’s economic standing.

“This is a small glimpse of some of the economic inequality worldwide,” said Shelley Errington Nicholson, director of community learning in the Center, while introducing the Nov. 20 event. Nicholson also described hunger as “a problem rooted in injustice,” and one that is solvable, though doing so is no easy task.

MWCC participants representing the 20 percent of high-income individuals were served a pasta entre with vegetables and rolls, though much of the food went uneaten. Middle-income participants, who comprise 30 percent of the population, served themselves rice and beans. Finally, students portraying the 50 percent of low-income individuals sat on the floor and received one ladle of rice, no silverware and a cup of water.

While students ate, faculty and staff speakers highlighted a range of statistics on world poverty and hunger, as well as avenues toward the suppression of both epidemics, including Oxfam and Feeding America. An estimated 2.5 billion people live in poverty, while 870 million suffer from chronic hunger.

Each ticket contained a persona of an individual helped by Oxfam, and several participants read their descriptions to the group. The Center donated all funds to the Students Supporting our Students (SOS) Office to assist MWCC students in need.

Students also engaged in a philosophical discussion on hunger led by Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Center Chair Daniel Soucy.

“We hope not to leave you in a state of despair, but to empower you by showing what we all can do,” said Associate Professor of Psychology and Sociology Julia Capozzi, who showed two clips from The Hunger Games to emphasize the growing power of the top one percent of income earners. “We try to pretend we’re all in the middle class and that poverty isn’t a problem, but [this situation] is not just a recession.”

Following the banquet, students from each income group reflected on the experience.

“I felt bad for the lower class because I had more food than them,” said Ruth Robertson, a dental hygiene major and a member of the high-income group. “I wanted to give them my food. That’s why I didn’t eat much of it.”

“I was happy with the middle class, and I would have felt guilty if I got in the higher class,” said Rebekkah Dietz, a liberal arts major, who said she was happy to receive a sufficient amount of food without wasting any.

“You feel like a leper, really,” said Stephanie Needle, a human services major and a member of the low-income group. “This is a fair depiction of how we treat people living in poverty in this country and why not a lot of people want to admit where they’re at.”

- Cameron Woodcock

State Senator Jennifer Flanagan speaks to representatives of local nonprofits during a workshop on the generational transfer of leadership. Senator Flanagan encouraged baby boomers to be mentors to millennials.

State Senator Jennifer Flanagan speaks to representatives of local nonprofits during a workshop on the generational transfer of leadership. Senator Flanagan encouraged baby boomers to be mentors to millennials.

State Senator Jennifer Flanagan joined Mount Wachusett Community College’s Center for Civic Engagement and local nonprofits for a workshop on the ongoing, universal transfer of leadership from baby boomers to Generation X and millennials. The Nov. 19 event in MWCC’s North Café was part of Enterprise Bank’s Non-Profit Collaborative and added to the 145 organizations previously trained by the Center.

Led by MWCC Director of Community Learning Shelley Errington Nicholson, the forum also included remarks from President Daniel M. Asquino and Director of Experiential Learning Opportunities and Civic Engagement Fagan Forhan.

To promote smooth leadership transitions and the inclusion of new voices, Nicholson explained the subtle differences between the three generations, including their core values, attributes, work ethics and values, and preferred work environments. Representatives also brainstormed potential strategies for integrating employees from different generations and shared effective methods introduced by their own organizations.

“If we’re going to be fair and provide leadership, we need to structure our environment so that people from different generations and cultures can succeed. This is what we try to do at MWCC,” said President Asquino, who also praised Enterprise Bank for its commitment to civic engagement. “We have to understand the people we work with and how they respond to situations and environments.”

“Baby boomers need to be mentors and help with institutional knowledge,” said Senator Flanagan. “The top people in companies need to be thinking forward – Who’s going to be part of this company in five years?”

Senator Flanagan also referenced the value of her internship under former State Representative Mary Jane Simmons and encouraged attendees to view colleges as “a pool.”

“The dynamic in our office has changed a lot by having student staff,” said Forhan. “It has grounded us in a different way and changed our perspective, and they feel ownership over their decisions.”

“How are you going to know what good customer services looks like if you don’t have those young voices?” said Nicholson. “We all have a dedication to work, but it looks different.”

- Cameron Woodcock

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DClogoThe American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) is spearheading a national effort to engage students in the topic of economic inequality and its impact on democracy through a three-year initiative. Leading the 31 participating institutions in this effort are Mount Wachusett Community College and Keene State College. All participants are members of AASCU’s American Democracy Project (ADP) or The Democracy Commitment (TDC).

Participating institutions will invite students and community members to confront the complex causes of economic inequality through the development of curriculum that will be applied to many areas of study and hands-on learning opportunities. Specifically, students will study the relationship between public policy, economic inequality, economic opportunity, and social mobility. These strategies, including the introduction of a course in economic inequality for students at two- and four-year schools, will be designed for further adoption by campuses across the country.

“AASCU is excited to assemble this group of two- and four-year institutions that together will examine and address the growing economic inequality in this county, a trend that poses a serious threat to our democracy,” remarked George Mehaffy, AASCU’s vice president of academic leadership and change.

MWCC’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement and The American Democracy Project at Keene State College will spearhead national efforts, which also promote community outreach, civic pathways for student success, and prepare undergraduates for lives of informed civic engagement. Most activities will take place on participating campuses, with the two lead institutions providing support and networking by hosting national conference calls and webinars.

“We are proud to partner with AASCU, Keene State College, and colleges and universities across the country on this timely initiative,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “More than ever before, our students are graduating into a global society that is stratified across lines of economic class and political ideologies as much as they always have been across issues of gender, culture and religion. As educators, it is our responsibility to ensure that our students have the opportunity to think critically and creatively about these issues—and discover their own abilities to initiate change in areas of public policy, economic opportunity and inequality, and social mobility,” he said.

MWCC faculty participating in the initiative include Julie Capozzi, Elmer Eubanks, Shane Martin, Yvonne Noyes-Stevens, Maureen Provost, Tom Montagno, Kate Smith, Dan Soucy and Michelle Valois. They will join Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement staff members Fagan Forhan and Shelley Errington Nicholson.

“I am thrilled that Keene State College and MWCC are partnering with AASCU to involve students in discussions and experiences that demonstrate the ways that economic inequality affects our society—this issue is urgent and relevant to every state in our nation. The approach we are taking on this topic leverages critical thinking, community engagement, and academic preparation, which will make a real impact on our students now and in the years to come after graduation,” said Keene State College President, Dr. Anne Huot.

National Network of Participating Schools

In addition to Keene State College, four-year institutions include Buffalo State (SUNY); California State University, Chico; California State University, Monterey Bay; Cleveland State University; Dalton State College (Ga.); Ferris State University (Mich.); Indiana University Northwest; Missouri State University; Northeastern Illinois University; Northern Kentucky University; Richard Stockton College of New Jersey; Salisbury University (Md.); Slippery Rock University (Penn.); St. Cloud State University (Minn.); SUNY Cortland; Texas A&M University-Central Texas; University of Houston Downtown; Weber State University (Utah); Western Carolina University (N.C.); and Wright State University (Ohio).

In addition to MWCC, participating two-year institutions include Allegany College of Maryland; De Anza College (Calif.); Kirkwood Community College (Iowa); Lone Star College, Kingwood (Texas); Manchester Community College (Conn.); Monroe Community College (N.Y.); Moraine Valley Community College (Ill.); Santa Fe College (Fla.); and Tarrant County College, Southeast Campus (Texas).

ADP and TDC, representing four- and two-year schools, respectively, create a variety of civic-engagement and academic-enrichment initiatives that encourage graduates to become informed, engaged participants in our democracy. TDC is modeled after ADP, and both organizations are sponsored by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

 

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MWCC’s Center for Entrepreneurship Business Plan Competition, created to recognize National Entrepreneurship Month in November, is open to North Central Massachusetts innovators.

Area residents are invited to submit to the Mount Wachusett Community College Center for Entrepreneurship’s 2014 Business Plan Competition for an opportunity to win prizes valued at more than $7,000. The competition, launched in November to coincide with National Entrepreneurship Month, supports MWCC’s mission to stimulate the entrepreneurial spirit in North Central Massachusetts.

The competition gives the region’s innovators in the business and nonprofit sectors the opportunity to submit business plans and vie for cash and in-kind prizes. Five finalists and a single grand-prize winner will be selected.

Business plans from individual applicants or teams will be accepted through an extended deadline of midnight, Wednesday, Dec. 31. Five finalists will be selected and invited to participate at an awards dinner in January. During the awards dinner, all five finalists will present to a panel of judges. Each applicant will provide a 90-second business plan pitch, followed by a 10 minute presentation.

Qualified entrants are encouraged to start or grow a business or nonprofit organization within the college’s service area, which includes Ashburnham, Ayer, Ashby, Athol, Barre, Clinton, Fitchburg, Gardner, Groton, Hardwick, Harvard, Hubbardston, Lancaster, Leominster, Lunenburg, Oakham, Orange, Pepperell, Petersham, Phillipston, Princeton, Royalston, Rutland, Shirley, Sterling, Townsend, Templeton, Westminster and Winchendon.

The prize package provides over $7,000 in cash awards, advertising and consulting opportunities, including a cash award; $1,000 in print and digital advertising in the Sentinel & Enterprise; a free three-credit academic course at MWCC valued at $600; a free noncredit class at MWCC valued up to $150; a full-page profile or advertisement in upcoming MWCC publications; graphic design services from a professional graphic designer; a free consultation with a marketing vice president; a free one-hour consultation with an attorney, 2,000 free business cards and more.

The competition’s premier sponsor is the office of Ronald M. Ansin, and the Sentinel & Enterprise is the media sponsor. Additional sponsorship opportunities are available.

Competition judges and sponsors are Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella, Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong, Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke, Ken Ansin, Community Bank Director at Enterprise Bank, Tina Sbrega, President and CEO of GFA Federal Credit Union, Greater Gardner Chamber of Commerce President Jim Bellina, North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce President David McKeehan, Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce President Melissa Fetterhoff, and Linda Racine, Executive Vice President of Rollstone Bank &Trust.

For more information about the Business Plan Competition and to submit an application, go to http://mwccbusinessplan2014.istart.org.

 

Mount Wachusett Community College is offering a two-week Quality Systems Intensive Training Program for adults with prior work experience and/or college credits who wish to join the growing workforce of quality professionals in North Central Massachusetts. bionostics equipment

To provide accelerated training and expand career possibilities for area job seekers, MWCC will offer the two-week program Dec. 8 through Dec. 18 at its Devens campus, 27 Jackson Rd. The program is ideal for unemployed or underemployed adults and veterans. The program is also ideal for incumbent workers who would like expanded career potential within their current companies.

The skill set of a quality professional has become increasingly marketable, as job opportunities exist not only in the manufacturing industry, but also in the fields of healthcare and finance. Specifically, quality professionals work at diagnostic labs and banks, as well as insurance, mortgage, pharmaceutical, medical-device, and plastics companies.

Students will receive exposure to regulated and international quality systems, continuous improvement techniques, and the tools used toward the benefit of an organization’s bottom line.

The 32-hour program meets Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The program cost is $1,200 and scholarships are available for eligible students.

For registration information, contact Meghan Koslowski at mkoslowski@mwcc.mass.edu, or Christian Reifsteck at creifsteck@mwcc.mass.edu, or call 978-630-9144. Additional program information is available through Gretchen Ingvason at gingvason@mwcc.mass.edu or 978-630-9576.

 

 

Mount Wachusett Community College students and faculty welcomed Thoreau Society Executive Director Michael Frederick for a Humanities Project lecture on Thoreau’s influence on contemporary nonviolent reformers. Civ_Dis_Medal_175

While Thoreau’s essay, “Civil Disobedience,” and guiding philosophies served as inspiration for Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., Frederick noted fundamental differences between Thoreau and his more passive disciples.

Published posthumously, “Civil Disobedience” was originally titled “Resistance to Civil Government,” and Frederick said the original was more consistent with Thoreau’s viewpoints.

Thoreau was also “consistent on the use of force” in opposing government and supported abolitionist John Brown, who sought to arm slaves and bring about their violent rebellion, said Frederick.

Finally, Frederick said, “Our concept of civil disobedience [and that of Gandhi and King, Jr.] is one of collective action. Thoreau’s was one of individual action.”

The final Humanities Project event of 2014 will take place Dec. 4 and feature student presentations and exhibits. For more information about the MWCC Humanities Project and a full schedule of events taking place this spring, visit http://mwcc.edu/humanitiesproject.