Community Stories

President James Vander Hooven.

James Vander Hooven, Ed.D., has officially stepped into his role as the third president of Mount Wachusett Community College since the school was founded in 1963.

“MWCC has a long history serving as an integral part of the communities of North Central Massachusetts and responds to the region’s ever-evolving needs in order to best serve our students. We plan to build upon that history and create an equally bright and important future for this college at its Devens, Fitchburg, Gardner and Leominster locations,” said President Vander Hooven. “We have an opportunity not only to educate, but to be a conduit for the personal transformation and growth of our students and the ongoing growth of our communities.”

President Vander Hooven has been on campus since February, which allowed for a transition period with Dr. Daniel M. Asquino who announced his retirement last year and served as president at MWCC for over 30 years. President Vander Hooven used this transition time to meet with students, faculty, staff and community members and said he looks forward to continuing the process.

“I have met faculty who strive every day to impart knowledge and support students as well as staff who work tirelessly towards everyone’s success in so many ways. During this time, I have also been able to meet some of our students who persevere in ways both large and small to better themselves through education and personal growth,” said Vander Hooven.

President Vander Hooven has been committed to access and opportunity to higher education since first stepping into a nontraditional classroom, as an instructor, where he was the youngest person in the group. At that point, he began focusing his energy and time on increasing opportunities for students of all ages and backgrounds.

As the president of Tohono O’odham Community College in Tucson, Arizona, President Vander Hooven successfully raised more than $9 million for the construction of the college’s new main campus. He has also served as Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management at Lakes Region Community College in Laconia, New Hampshire, and Regional Dean of Academic and Student Affairs at National American University in Denver, Colorado.

President Vander Hooven attained his Bachelor of Arts degree in English from The Ohio State University. He received his Master of Arts degree in American Studies from the University of Wyoming. In 2009, he was awarded his Doctorate in Higher Education Leadership from the University of Maine, where he focused on student access. His dissertation was titled, “Lessons From Success: The Experience of Women Who Successfully Completed an Associate Degree While Parenting Children.”

He lives in Keene, New Hampshire.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rollstone Bank & Trust’s Chief Operating Officer Arthur Feehan and Linda L. Racine, Executive Vice President Retail Banking and Marketing, present MWCC President Daniel Asquino and Executive Director of the Mount Wachusett Community College Foundation Carla Zottoli with a check for $10,000 to go towards the Dr. Daniel M. Asquino Scholarship Fund.

Rollstone Bank & Trust recently donated $10,000 to the Dr. Daniel M. Asquino Scholarship Fund that is set to provide approximately $15,000 in scholarships annually to students at Mount Wachusett Community College beginning next year.

“We are grateful to Rollstone Bank & Trust for this donation that will have a positive impact on MWCC students for years to come,” said MWCC President Daniel Asquino of the donation.

The donation from RBT was presented to President Asquino and Executive Director of the Mount Wachusett Community College Foundation Carla Zottoli by RBT’s Chief Operating Officer Arthur Feehan and Linda L. Racine, Executive Vice President Retail Banking and Marketing.

“RBT is happy to support MWCC and the Dr. Daniel M. Asquino Scholarship Fund,” said Racine. “MWCC is an asset to our area, and a truly innovative institution. We are proud to help them continue their work.”

The donation will go toward a new scholarship fund in Dr. Daniel Asquino’s name that will begin distribution next year. The goal for the endowed scholarship fund is $300,000, which will allow the Mount Wachusett Community College Foundation to award approximately $15,000 in scholarships to deserving students every year.

asquino-dedication-2Clouds and rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of those who joined Mount Wachusett Community College for a celebration of students, innovation, leadership, and progress. With over 150 guests including Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito and Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance Commissioner Carol Gladstone in attendance with Mount Wachusett Community College staff, faculty, students, trustees, alumni, elected officials, honored guests and community members, the official ribbon was cut on the new Dr. Daniel M. Asquino Science Center, a state-of-the-art 44,000 square-foot addition to the Gardner campus.

In recognition of President Asquino’s 30 years of leadership at Mount Wachusett Community College, the dedication included remarks from a host of lawmakers, students, and colleagues filled with gratitude and well wishes for the so on to retire leader, a science themed DNA strand ribbon cutting at the entrance and the unveiling of the name of the building to a sparkling cider toast to complete the celebration.

The day’s honored guests included the Honorable Mark Hawke, Mayor of Gardner; the Honorable Karyn Polito, Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; Commissioner Carol Gladstone, Commissioner of the Division of Capital Asset Management & Maintenance; the Honorable Anne Gobi, Massachusetts State Senator; the Honorable Stephen Brewer, Massachusetts State Senator; the Honorable Stephen Hay, Massachusetts State Representative; the Honorable Kimberly Ferguson, Massachusetts State Representative; the Honorable Jennifer Benson, Massachusetts State Representative; the Honorable Jonathan Zlotnik, Massachusetts State Representative; the Honorable Stephen DiNatale, Mayor of Fitchburg; the Honorable Dean Mazzarella, Mayor of Leominster; the Honorable Lew Evangelidis, Worcester County Sheriff; MWCC students Ifra Hassan, Josiah Irfan and Liam Scanlon; Tina Sbrega, Chair of the Mount Wachusett Community College Board of Trustees; past and current college and foundation board members; Fitchburg State University President Richard Lapidus; Fitchburg State University President Emeritus Robert Antonucci; Berkshire Community College President Ellen Kennedy; presidents of the area chambers of commerce; Dr. Asquino’s family; and past and present college staff, faculty, and students.

asquino-dedication-3“President Asquino has built deep and meaningful partnerships that have resulted in a college that is extremely relevant and connected to the students and community it serves. Dr. Asquino has been driven by the belief that education is society’s great equalizer and has transformed this college into what you see here today. His legacy will pay dividends for our students and our communities for years to come,” said Tina Sbrega, Chair of the MWCC Board of Trustees.

Dr. Daniel M. Asquino has served as President of Mount Wachusett Community College since August 1987 and is currently the longest-serving public higher education president in Massachusetts.

“This is about access to quality higher education and opportunities for all. It is about the economic and workforce development of this region, the Commonwealth and our nation. It is about equality and diversity,” reflected President Daniel M. Asquino, speaking about the long planning and construction process culminating in this dedication. “These new Anatomy and Physiology, Biology, Chemistry, Microbiology, Earth Science and Physics Labs will replace 45 year old labs which were showing their age. These new spaces which rival those found even in the best elite universities – all combined with our outstanding faculty – allow us to continue a tradition of service and excellence.”
asquino-dedication-1

The event would not have been complete without students telling the story of the college through their own perspectives and experiences. Student speakers included Josiah Irfan, who attended Fitchburg High School, and then began at MWCC through the STEM Starter Academy summer program. He discovered his love for computer engineering and hopes to go on the UMass Amherst after completing his Computer Information Science degree at Mount Wachusett Community College.

Liam Scanlon, of Princeton, decided to attend Mount Wachusett Community College as a smart economic decision after having a positive experience with the STEM Starter Academy. He plans to pursue engineering or physics after completing his degree in Liberal Arts.
Ifra Hassan studies Biology at Mount Wachusett Community College and is also a STEM Starter Academy graduate. She recently traveled to NASA headquarters to participate in a scholarship program utilizing Mars rover replicas and hopes to attend Brown University after completing her degree at MWCC.

Mr. Irfan, Ms. Hassan, and Mr. Scanlon all have the opportunity to complete coursework in the Dr. Daniel M. Asquino Science Center and work towards their educational goals in new classrooms on cutting edge technology and lab equipment.

They were joined by several other outstanding MWCC student leaders including Student Trustee Jasson Alvarado Gomez who also serves on the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education and the Massachusetts State College Building Authority and Student Government Association President Faith Kurtz.

“Through science classes at Mount Wachusett Community College I discovered my great passion for Biology. Now, I plan on becoming a doctor and that wouldn’t have been possible without the amazing program here at MWCC,” said Ms. Hassan in her remarks to the capacity crowd.

After more than 18 months of construction and extensive renovations, the anxiously awaited opening of the new science center went off without a hitch as guests enjoyed conversations with student ambassadors, faculty, and staff while touring the new facilities. In addition to the 44,000 square-foot Science Center wing, tours had a clear view of the new 2,300-square-foot greenhouse and renovations throughout the existing Arthur F. Haley Academic Center.
Many construction milestones were celebrated along the way leading up to this momentous day in the 50 year history of the college. On August 11, 2015, the centuries-old tradition of a beam signing was observed to commemorate the completion of the structural phase of a building. During the ceremony, President Daniel Asquino, students, staff, college, community leaders and members of the construction team signed the steel beam that was placed as the uppermost beam as the new building began to take shape overlooking Green Street.

Designed by Boston-based Architerra, Inc. to meet LEED Gold certification for efficiency and sustainability, the new building contains energy-efficient features reinforcing the college’s commitment to sustainability. Over the past 15 years, MWCC has been the recipient of top state and national sustainability awards, including the American Association of College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Wildlife Federation. Shawmut Design & Construction, also based in Boston, acted as construction manager.

MWCC received $37.9 million in state capital funds for the project, as well as a $500,000 grant from Massachusetts Life Sciences for laboratory equipment. The project completed on-time and on-budget.

For more information about the college’s commitment to students, sustainability, and Dr. Daniel M. Asquino’s legacy, please visit mwcc.edu.

As Veterans Day approaches, Mount Wachusett Community College proudly continues serving veteran students, validated with additional recognition as a military friendly institution by the 2017 Military Friendly® School designation. Just last week, the college also ranked number four across the country in the Best for Vets: Colleges 2017 rankings for 2-year colleges conducted by Military Times.

First published in 2009, the Military Friendly® Schools designation is determined by Victory Media, publisher of G.I. Jobs®, STEM Jobs SM , and Military Spouse. Each year, the list of Military Friendly® Schools

Military Friendly Designation for Mount Wachusett Community College, 2017

Military Friendly Designation for Mount Wachusett Community College, 2017

is provided to service members and their families, helping them select the best college, university, or trade school to receive the education and training needed to pursue a civilian career.

Mount Wachusett Community College offers veteran students and their families access to a veteran center with comprehensive services, computers and study space, and dedicated space to spend time with their peers and other veteran students. Other services include textbook loans, counseling, and assistance with benefits. A full-time Director of Veteran Services advocates for veteran students, educates college staff and faculty on veteran challenges, arranges for clinical meetings if necessary, and provides access to outside resources such as VA VITAL, the Montachusett Veteran Outreach Center, and telehealth services with the VA in Bedford.

Institutions earning the Military Friendly® School designation were evaluated using both public data sources and responses from Victory Media’s proprietary survey. More than 1,600 schools participated in the 2017 survey; 1,160 were awarded with the designation. Ratings methodology, criteria, and weightings were determined by Victory Media with input from the Military Friendly® Advisory Council of independent leaders in the higher education and military recruitment community.

Final ratings were determined by combining the institution’s survey scores with the assessment of the institution’s ability to meet thresholds for Student Retention, Graduation, Job Placement, Loan Repayment, Persistence (Degree Advancement or Transfer) and Loan Default rates for all students and, specifically, for student veterans.

“Mount Wachusett has a long tradition of being a Military Friendly institution. This requires a commitment from all departments and personnel to learn about and support military connected students in their pursuit of new opportunities. It is a privilege to work at a community college that is so compassionate and supportive of our student veterans” said Robert Mayer, Director of Veteran Services at MWCC.

According to Daniel Nichols, a Navy Reserve veteran and Chief Product Officer at Victory Media, “Our ability to apply a clear, consistent standard to the majority of colleges gives veterans a comprehensive view of which schools are striving to provide the best opportunities and conditions for our nation’s student veterans. Military Friendly® helps military families make the best use of the Post-9/11 GI Bill and other federal benefits while allowing us to further our goal of assisting them in finding success in their chosen career fields.”

For more information about Mount Wachusett Community College’s commitment to military students, visit mwcc.edu/veteran. Mount Wachusett Community College will be showcased along with other 2017 Military Friendly® Schools in the annual Guide to Military Friendly® Schools, special education issues of G.I. Jobs ® and Military Spouse Magazine, and on militaryfriendly.com.

mwcc-vet-student-breakfastOur campus will be closed tomorrow in recognition of Veterans Day. Please take the time for reflection and recognition of all the men and women who serve and have served our great country. I am grateful that so many veterans have found a home here at Mount Wachusett Community College. More than 250 students, faculty and staff are veterans. I was honored to gather with a group of student, faculty and staff veterans this week for our annual breakfast and was impressed, as I always am, by all that they contribute to our campus.

We strive to continue to offer excellence in education and opportunity for all or our veteran students. I am proud that Mount Wachusett Community College has been named for the seventh consecutive year as a “Top Military School.” In addition, Military Times has designated MWCC a “Best for Vets” college for seven years. We have been in the top ten of those rankings every year. This year MWCC was ranked #4. If you would like to learn more about the MWCC Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success, visit mwcc.edu/veteran. I extend my deepest gratitude to our staff in this center and across the campus who work with our student veterans as they pursue their academic goals.

Leading into the busy holiday season, about 90 percent of Fitchburg High School seniors will have one less item on their to-do list having already submitted their college applications for fall 2017. The third annual College Application Challenge will be held from 9:00am to 1:30pm on November 15, 2016 at Fitchburg High School.

Mount Wachusett Community College and Fitchburg High are again partnering to bring the Massachusetts College Application Celebration to the school next week. This is the fifth year Massachusetts has participated in the national initiative spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Education’s GEAR UP program and the third year the event has been held at FHS.

“The FHS community has worked very hard to raise our graduation rate to the highest it has ever been. We know that the next step is to work to make sure that every student leaves FHS with many great options for college and career when they graduate. The Massachusetts College Application Celebration highlights our commitment to this goal and adds a great energy around building our school’s college going culture,” said Fitchburg High School Principal Jeremy Roche.

GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) is administered by MWCC’s Division of Access & Transition in partnership with the high school through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The majority of students in the graduating class of 2017 have received intensive college access and success services since middle school.

“With so much preparation behind them, students were eager to participate in the application challenge this year,” said MWCC GEAR UP Director Andrew Goodwin.

Specific services include academic counseling, tutoring, homework support, after school academic and social activities, college awareness and financial aid workshops, MCAS and PSAT/SAT preparation, and college admissions assistance.

To attend this event and speak directly with students about their college plans, please contact Andrew Goodwin, MWCC GEAR UP Director at 978-630-9243 or via email at a_goodwin@mwcc.mass.edu. To learn more about the GEAR UP program, please visit: http://mwcc.edu/access/programs/gearup16/

Mount Wachusett Community College ranked number four across the country in the Best for Vets: Colleges 2017 rankings for 2-year colleges conducted by Military Times, an independent news and information source for service members and their families. MWCC, continuing its long-held commitment to veterans and their families, moved up two spots from its 2016 rank.

The eighth annual rankings factor in the results of Military Times’ comprehensive school-by-school survey of veteran and military student offerings and rates of academic achievement. More than 500 colleges took part in this year’s detailed survey.

MWCC launched its Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success in 2010 to address the unique academic, financial, social and physical needs of veterans, military personnel and military families transitioning to college life. The dedicated veteran center offers computer access, free printing, student meeting and study space, and opportunities for veteran students to talk and connect with other like-minded individuals. Textbooks and laptops are loaned at no charge.

The Director of Veteran Services is a full-time advocate for veteran students. He educates the college staff and faculty on veteran challenges, counsels students and arranges for clinical meetings if necessary.

“We are thrilled to be recognized as a top military-friendly school. This reflects the positive, helpful attitude that students can expect from all departments of the college. We pride ourselves on being student friendly, so it is a natural extension for us to be military friendly as well,” said Robert B. Mayer, Director of Veterans Services at Mount Wachusett Community College.

Student veterans are active members of the campus community, participating in such clubs and organizations as the Veterans Group and Student Government Association.

“As a veteran myself, I am proud that Mount Wachusett Community College receives continuing recognition as one of the top colleges for veteran students,” said President Daniel M. Asquino. “MWCC has served our region’s veterans for decades and will continue to do so into the future by providing them with a robust network of support both on campus and with key partner organizations.”

MWCC maintains community partnerships with the Montachusett Veteran Outreach Center, the Northeast Veteran Training & Rehabilitation Center operated by Veteran Homestead, Inc., the Massachusetts Department of Veterans Services’ SAVE program, and local posts of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.

Military Times’ annual Best for Vets: Colleges survey asks colleges and universities to meticulously document a tremendous array of services, special rules, accommodations and financial incentives offered to students with military ties; and to describe many aspects of veteran culture on a campus. These institutions were evaluated in several categories, with university culture and academic outcomes bearing the most weight.
“We limit our list to encourage competition, and we genuinely hope this helps raise the bar for veterans on campus,” said Amanda Miller, editor of Best for Vets.

Military Times also factors in data from the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments, as well as three Education Department sources: the IPEDS Data Center, College Scorecard data and the Cohort Default Rate Database.

The rankings appear online at MilitaryTimes.com, as well as ArmyTimes.com, NavyTimes.com, AirForceTimes.com and MarineCorpsTimes.com and in a special magazine issue of Military Times in mid-November. The release of this year’s list also marks Military Times’ inaugural declaration of the month of November as Veterans Month.

For more information about MWCC’s Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success, please visit: mwcc.edu/veteran.
To view the full Best for Vets: Colleges 2017 rankings and survey methodology go to: www.militarytimes.com/bestforvets-colleges2017.

New lab classrooms in Asquino Science CenterMount Wachusett Community College students, faculty and staff; Massachusetts leaders; and the greater community will dedicate the new Dr. Daniel M. Asquino Science Center in recognition of President Asquino’s 30 years of leadership at Mount Wachusett Community College at a ceremony on Tuesday, November 15 at 2 pm.
The public opening of the new building, a state-of-the-art addition to the Gardner campus, will be commemorated with a speaking program including Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito and Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance Commissioner Carol Gladstone, as well as a ceremonial ribbon cutting, unveiling of the naming of the building, and tours of the new facilities.

Along with honored guests, college staff, faculty, students, trustees, alumni, and community members will be in attendance.

“This new Science Center offers real opportunity for our students,” said Mount Wachusett Community College Board of Trustees Chair Tina Sbrega. “Opportunity is something President Asquino has relentlessly pursued throughout his 30 years at the helm of this great college. Our students will be better prepared to be tomorrow’s leaders. We are all so proud to recognize President Asquino’s commitment to students and our college by naming this building in his honor.”

Following more than a year of construction and extensive renovations, the new science center replaces existing laboratories nearly a half-century old and will enhance the learning environment for all students, particularly those seeking careers in STEM fields.

The Dr. Daniel M. Asquino Science Center includes LEED Gold rated labs, classrooms, and student study space for the college’s continued pursuit of academic excellence.

The $41 million project includes the 44,000 square-foot science center, a new 2,300 square-foot greenhouse and renovations throughout the existing Arthur F. Haley Academic Center. MWCC received $37.9 million in state capital funds for the project, as well as a $500,000 grant from Massachusetts Life Sciences for laboratory equipment.

From an economic standpoint, this is the largest construction project in North Central Massachusetts, which in itself helps boost the region’s economy by providing work for Massachusetts businesses and bringing more traffic to local businesses and service providers. Additionally, the project was completed on-time and on-budget.

Designed by Boston-based Architerra, Inc. to meet LEED Gold certification for efficiency and sustainability, the new building will contain energy-efficient features to tie in with the college’s commitment to sustainability. Construction began in spring 2015. Shawmut Design & Construction, also based in Boston, oversaw the 18-month project as construction manager.

Over the past 15 years, MWCC has been the recipient of top state and national sustainability awards, including the American Association of College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Wildlife Federation.

Amenities in the new building include eight new classrooms and laboratories, four lab prep rooms, 24 new faculty offices, student study space and interior glass walls to highlight STEM student innovation. Renovations to the Haley Academic Center include a new visitor entrance, a multi-purpose room, an academic advising suite, a refurbished student-centered campus commons and increased accessibility to the Raymond M. LaFontaine Fine Arts Center.

Immediately following the dedication, Mount Wachusett Community College is hosting an Open House from 3:30 to 7pm. The public, past MWCC staff and faculty, and all community partners are encouraged and invited to attend. For more information, please contact Lois Cox at 978-630-9101.

President Asquino; Panelists Ernest Martineau, Michelle Dunn, Jack Maroney, Tamara E. Perini, Daisy Bacener, Joseph D. Early, Jr., Diane Power; event organizer Sharmese Gunn

Left to right: President Asquino; Panelists Joseph D. Early, Jr., Ernest Martineau, Daisy Bacener, Michelle Dunn; Moderator Jen Flanagan; Panelists Jack Maroney, Tamara E. Perini, Diane Power; event organizer Sharmese Gunn

Mount Wachusett Community College welcomed over 250 guests to its Gardner campus this morning for a public forum moderated by State Senator Jennifer Flanagan to address the issues surrounding opioid addiction and abuse, a critical problem impacting too many families and communities across the Commonwealth.

The free forum, Opiates in North Central Massachusetts: Education for Community-Wide Crisis Response, took place on Monday, Oct 31 from 12 to 2:30 p.m. with a breakout session for dialogue and NARCAN® training following the panel forum.

Panelists included Fitchburg Police Chief Ernest Martineau; Michelle Dunn, Founder/President of the A.E.D. Foundation, Inc. and co-director and president of Alyssa’s Place; Jack Maroney, CEO of Recovery Centers of America at Westminster; Tamara E. Perini, MSW, LCSW UMass Memorial – HealthAlliance Hospital and the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office; Daisy Bacener, Chief Probation Officer for the City of Fitchburg; District Attorney Joseph D. Early, Jr., Office of Worcester County District; and Dr. Diane Power M.D. OB/GYN UMass Memorial – HealthAlliance Hospital.

The panelists discussed the multi-generational aspects of opioid addiction, the coping skills needed by families with a loved one suffering from addiction, dealing with the crisis as a public health issue and not a criminal one, potential changes to drug prescription practices, and the value of NARCAN® as a live-saving measure.

Senator Flanagan led the panel through many other important topics including what organizations are working to solve the issues, saying that community colleges are on the front line in meeting the need for services head-on with training and programs.

Senator Flanagan of Leominster has worked tirelessly on this issue during her two terms in the House of Representatives and after being elected to the Senate in 2008.  She currently serves as Chair of the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committee and Chair of the Special Senate Committee on Opioid Addiction. Senator Flanagan was also appointed as Vice Chair of the Public Health Committee, and is a member of the Public Safety Committee and Homeland Security Committee.

An audience of over 250 attendees hears advice from a panel of opioid addition experts in the Mount Wachusett Community College Theatre.

An audience of over 250 attendees hears advice from a panel of opioid addition experts in the Mount Wachusett Community College Theatre.

Both in the House and Senate, Senator Flanagan played critical roles in passing several key pieces of legislation relative to mental health and substance abuse. The most recent being an act to increase opportunities for long-term substance abuse recovery signed into law in 2014, which provides people with an opportunity to access treatment and an act relative to substance use prevention signed into law in 2016.

There were many positive moments in the forum, such as when Fitchburg Police Chief Ernest Martineau relayed the success story that Fitchburg Police have saved 100 lives by administering 100 NARCAN® treatments since June 2015. NARCAN® blocks the effects of opioids and can reverse an overdose.

Following the forum, Michael Ellis, Coordinator of the Men’s Suicide Prevention Project, Regional Behavioral Health Collaborative, and Heywood Hospital provided free NARCAN® training for over 60 participants. The training included interactive, practical instructions for an engaged audience who asked many follow up questions.

Participants who did not opt for the training attended a dialogue facilitated by Jason Zelesky, Dean of Students at Mount Wachusett Community College. The dialogue helped participants personalize what they’d just heard in the forum, increase their understanding of this complex issue, and provided participants with the opportunity to discuss root causes to the issue as well as potential solutions.

“This is the crisis of our time,” said Dr. Daniel Asquino, president of the college. “But our hope is that this will not be the crisis of tomorrow. Today’s event gives us all a better sense of what we can do to combat our region’s opioid epidemic by working together and increasing our understanding of the causes, early warning signs and resources available to help those in need.”

The event concluded with time for attendees to meet with resource organizations including AdCare Hospital of Worcester, Inc.; The A.E.D. Foundation; American Addiction Centers; Heywood Hospital CHART Program;  Montachusett Opportunity Council, Inc.; Montachusett Suicide Prevention Task Force; Mount Wachusett Community College Admissions; Mount Wachusett Community College Gateway to College; the Office of District Attorney Joseph D. Early, Jr.; Recovery Centers of America at Westminster; the SHINE Initiative; and Spectrum Health Systems Inc.

This Tea Time Speaker Series was a recipient of the 2016 MWCC Foundation Innovation Grant and was sponsored by: Mount Wachusett Community College’s Diversity Consortium; Gateway to College; the Workforce Diversity Pipeline Program which is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health; The North Central Massachusetts Minority Coalition/Three Pyramids, Inc. This event was also sponsored by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, in partnership with the American Association of Colleges & Universities, in an effort to examine Citizenship Under Siege through public forums and conversations.