Community Stories

MWCC Dean of Students Jason Zelesky leads a tour of the new Student Center at Mount Wachusett Community College.

Walls are up and windows are going in at the new student center at Mount Wachusett Community College this week.

The $3.5 million project will create a 4,500-square-foot student space, which officials say will open by the start of the school year in September.

“An overwhelming majority of our students come here and spend the better part of their day here,” Dean of Students Jason Zelesky said. “There’s no comfortable, cozy recreation space for them to hang out in.”

The addition, called the Bemis Student Center, will include a study area, a “living room” with a hearth, an outdoor patio and vending machines.

Students will be able bring or rent from the college video game consoles to play on the two televisions.

“This is something our students specifically asked for,” Zelesky said.

The tables in the room will have built-in plugs, so students can easily charge laptops and other devices, he said.

Student service offices will be moved into new spaces off the student center as will campus police.

“We’re bringing student services and life together,” Zelesky said.

The space is being built on the footprint of a rarely used former plaza outside the the Haley Academic Center.

“We also called it the prison yard,” he said. “No students would hang out here.”

The paved area allowed water to leak into offices below and caused problems with heating and cooling systems in adjoining parts of the building, according to Zelesky and Associate Vice President of Facilities Jon Wyman.

Zelesky said the project will fix these issues.

The expansion is the first construction collaboration between a community college and the Massachusetts State College Building Authority in the state, according to Zelesky.

Of the total cost, the college will pay for $2.3 million through a 20-year loan. Bemis Associates Inc., a Shirley company, donated $500,000 to the project and the state Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance funded the remaining $700,000.

Erland Construction, a Burlington company, started the project in mid-May and plans to complete it within a hundred days.

The quick summer turn around means students won’t be disrupted by the construction, Communications Specialist Sam Bonacci said.

“It was done to ensure there is minimal impact on the students,” he said.

The plan for the project was developed under the administration of former college President Daniel Asquino, who also oversaw the construction of the new science center that opened last September.

Ariana Neal is a site supervisor at the Allencrest Community Center Summer UP site but first started at the program as a camper.

Ariana Neal has been involved with Summer UP for over 10 years, first attending and then working at the free camp where she came out of her shell and became comfortable interacting with others. It was through this camp that Neal was able to embrace being an organizer and grow into the person she is today.

“It let me get out of my comfort zone, because I was really quiet,” she said. “The staff encouraged me. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to run the games. They encouraged me in leadership.”

The Summer UP camps are safe spaces for elementary and middle school students from Leominster, Fitchburg and Gardner to spend their summer hours. With five different locations, many of the participants can even walk to the locations that provide activities and meals for free. Mount Wachusett Community College’s Division of Access and Transition operates the sites in collaboration with the Mayors’ offices of the cities of Fitchburg, Leominster and Gardner as well as various community based agencies.

Neal, now 21 and a site supervisor at the Allencrest Community Center Summer UP site, first went to Summer UP Around the age of 10. It was here that she came out of her shell, she said, and then was able to grow into a leader.

The program not only serves elementary and middle school ages, but brings on teenagers to help run the program as camp counselors. This not only allows for a natural progression for campers, but often provides them their first jobs, said Neal.

“It’s a job skill and learning experience for those middle school and high school students,” she said, explaining that it is a great resume builder. “We give them the opportunity to develop their leadership roles, learn how to interview, and dress appropriately.”

But the Summer UP Experience is not just a personal one for Neal. What keeps her coming back is the impact it makes on the community. Summer UP creates not only a safe space for these kids to socialize, but also provides breakfast and lunch. While it might seem like a small detail it is vital for these children, many of whom are food insecure, to continue to get well-rounded meals, according to Neal who is a rising senior studying public health at UMass Lowell.

“It keeps them out of trouble. It gives them structure. It gives them that positive environment,” she said.

Summer UP has locations in Fitchburg at Park Hill Park and Lowe Park, in Gardner at Jackson Park and Olde English Village, and in Leominster at Allencrest Apartments. The program runs until August 10, Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Children under the age of 7 must be accompanied by an adult.

Mount Wachusett Community College Adjunct Instructor Wesley Stanhope holds his Course of Distinction award he received recently for his Renewable Energy Sources course.

Mount Wachusett Community College Adjunct Instructor Wesley Stanhope received a Course of Distinction award for his Renewable Energy Sources course at the 12th annual Massachusetts Colleges Online (MCO) E-Learning Conference that was held recently at Greenfield Community College.

“This is great. It’s good to be able to reach out to students and just teach,” said Stanhope. “It’s great to get recognition for it.”

Stanhope’s class was one of 11 COD winners selected from over 5,000 courses offered through MCO, a consortium built out of the 15 community colleges and nine universities in Massachusetts. The winners were selected for their use of technology to enhance the learning process. Stanhope said a vibrant online course can be created through discussions and sharing of ideas. In addition to receiving the award on June 6, Stanhope presented his course at the conference as part of the Best Practices Showcase.

According to MWCC’s Dean of Distance Learning and Instructional Technology Vincent Ialenti, Stanhope uses multiple platforms and VoiceThread technology to provide his students with a vibrant and interactive online learning experience.

“You try different ways of gauging how everyone is doing and you try to keep everyone active and collectively engaged together,” said Stanhope who uses VoiceThread to create a slide presentation overlaid with his spoken lecture.

Stanhope’s class uses case studies to provide an overview of the costs and benefits of various energy sources and systems. The renewable resources at MWCC’s Gardner campus, which include solar panels and two wind turbines, help make the coursework tangible for students, he said.

“You have the wind turbines and everyone sees them from miles around. They generate a lot of electricity for this campus,” said Stanhope.

Mount Wachusett Community College Adjunct Instructor Wesley Stanhope and Dean of Distance Learning and Instructional Technology Vincent Ialenti hold awards they recently received at the Massachusetts Colleges Online (MCO) E-Learning Conference that was held recently at Greenfield Community College.

Stanhope’s class is one of over 140 online courses offered at MWCC. These courses allow students to learn at their own pace and within their own schedule with 41 percent of all students at the school taking at least one online course during their time at MWCC, said Ialenti. These courses are especially important for students with busy or changing schedules, he said. But advances in technology mean that online students still get an engaging educational experience.

“Today’s online courses incorporate technology that enhances teaching and learning beyond the traditional classroom lecture. Stanhope’s course is a good example of this,” said Ialenti.

Ialenti was also honored at the conference for his longtime work in the world of online learning and as a founding member of MCO with a Contributor of Distinction for his many years as serving the organization.

A Certain Slant is the Literary Arts Journal created by Mount Wachusett Community College students.

A collection of original poetry, prose and artwork by Mount Wachusett Community College students was published recently.

The “A Certain Slant” publication not only includes 48 pieces of student work, but was edited by student Stephanie Arnold, cover art by Kyle Johnson and cover design by Ian Cook.

The entire magazine is available online by clicking this link.


(Written by Yamileyka Rojas) Mount Wachusett Community College student volunteers recently completed the school’s second annual civic engagement and volunteerism trip to Costa Rica. The trip included numerous service-oriented projects but students said it was they who benefited from the trip.

“I was able to take everything I did in Costa Rica with me. It changed me as a person and made my outlook on life completely different from how it was before,” said MWCC Student Volunteer Morgann Kirker.

The week-long trip with host organization True Nature Education took place in the second week of May. It consisted of side-by-side service with local people, exploring Costa Rican culture, and numerous service learning projects. Student volunteer work included service at an animal sanctuary, participating in a beach restoration project, and serving at local schools.

MWCC students Thomas Berger Jr., Cristen Comptois, Morgann Kirker, Stevie LaBelle, Jana Murphy, Mary Remillard, Eden Shaveet, and Rachel Vargeletis made the trip. LaBelle, of Hubbardston, said that it was an opportunity for her to expand her experiences.

“I knew this trip would consist of conquering my fears and I was ready to make every bit of it count. Our host organization made sure that we were partaking in meaningful experiences and assisted us every step of the way,” she said.

LaBelle’s first service experience in Costa Rica began when she volunteered to make compost out of twigs and leaves with a wood chipper and was challenged to overcome her phobia of spiders. But the trip was not just about personal growth, but learning from the people she was interacting with.

Kirker, of Jaffrey, New Hampshire, said the trip balanced service work and fun activities. She took part in a number of different service projects. They included beach cleanup, cleaning and building cages at a monkey sanctuary, planting trees, and painting a house for a family in need. The group also participated in activities such as zip lining and horseback riding.

“This trip opened my eyes to the many opportunities that are out there to give back to any community, no matter what the circumstances are,” Kirker said.

MWCC’s Associate Dean of Students Gregory Clement and Director of MWCC’s Senator Stephen M. Brewer Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement Shelley Errington Nicholson accompanied the students and saw first-hand their hard work. According to Errington Nicholson, Costa Rica is recognized as a country in need of service and economic revitalization with poverty and deforestation being two of the major issues faced by the country and is therefore a prime location for service learning.

“The most meaningful aspect of these trips is witnessing the impact a group of people can make on global issues through local service,” she said. “Each of our students pushed themselves out of their comfort zones and filled the need that was at hand.”

The trip supplements the service learning that takes place in student’s classes, she said, building on that service and through volunteerism that is encouraged on and off campus.

“Every student who attended the trip has contributed to the community on a local level before the trip and will continue to be involved on the local level,” said Errington Nicholson.

The MWCC Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement plans to continue these global service learning trips annually and is in the workings for a trip to Peru in 2018.

MWCC’s Otaku United club members Rebekah Cohen, Jonathan Cohen, Andrea Bartlett, and Cassandra Cohen stand with preschool, kindergarten and first grade students at the Waterford Street School with Principal Dan Hill after handing out books.

For the third year, hundreds of kindergarten and first grade students in Gardner will end the school year with fun summertime reading to take home, thanks to a donation of over 1,300 books from a group of Mount Wachusett Community College students.

Otaku United, a club that celebrates Asian culture, donated over 1,300 books to Waterford Street School, Coleman Street School, Elm Street School, and the Garrison Center. The books were purchased with nearly $2,000 that was raised in April through a silent auction of a wide range of gift cards and items donated to the club to support the cause.

The age-appropriate books were purchased through the Scholastic Reading Club. Each kindergarten and first grade student at Waterford received two books to take home.

This is an incredibly important time to encourage reading, said Waterford Street School Principal Dan Hill, explaining that it’s important to maintain reading momentum through the summer. The donated books will augment the district’s summer reading challenge program, Hill said.

“Reading is very important,” said Hill. “The kids are very excited. We are very much pushing early literacy.”

MWCC Early Childhood Education major Andrea Bartlett who was also the auction coordinator, said the club appreciated the support it received from MWCC faculty, staff and students during the auction that took place on campus.

“It’s very important for children to have access to books and have them in the home,” said Bartlett, adding that she had high hopes for next year’s book drive.

The mural being painted by current and former MWCC students is set to be complete later this summer.

(This story was written by Andrew Mansfield and appeared in The Gardner News) People will soon be able to take a trip across the whole city simply by walking along the West Street Parking Lot.

Past and present Mount Wachusett Community College students have been working on a mural on the rear wall of the parking lot for the past month or so.
Along the wall, the mural transitions from paintings of several different city scenes, such as the downtown skyline, Dunn Pond and City Hall.

Several local artists, led by Ben Mikels, went back to work for another session of painting on Friday.

“Every time I come and see more stuff done, I get excited,” he said. “The Mount loves getting involved with the city.”

The West Street Parking Lot is located across the street from the Gardner Ale House on Parker Street. Joining Mikels to work on the project Friday were artists Camilo Almarales, Kayla Rameau and Corinne Goodrich.

They have all been art students at the college. Mikels, Goodrich and Rameau have graduated and Almarales is still attending.

Other past or present students have been working on the project when they can as well. Mikels indicated work on the mural has taken place for about a month now.
The project also includes painting the electric boxes that service traffic lights at intersections throughout the city.

The weather and availability of the painters are factors in the timeline for when the overall work will conclude, but it is slated to wrap up over the summer.

The city and Mount Wachu­sett Community College have partnered on public art projects over the last several years. One recent example is the mural at Jackson Playground.

Community Development and Planning Assistant Director Joshua Cormier has been coordinating the projects on the city side.

“The reasons we’re doing this is we have all these blank canvases, so to speak, just sitting there,” he said. “It’s to give visitors and residents an uplifting view.”
With the West Street Parking Lot mural, he said the idea is that each image of the city is like a large-scale postcard.

Residents or visitors can take photos standing in front of the mural.

Cormier said the mural will also include some symbols of local businesses. In addition to the creative look and beautification the mural provides, it helps market what the city has to offer.

Cormier explained the city provides funding for the supplies needed, indicating this project is costing the city a few thousand dollars.

“We’re investing a little bit of money and they’re investing a lot of time,” he said.
The student artists gave credit to Mount Wachusett Community College Professor Thomas Matsuda, the chairman of the Art Department, for his role in organizing these projects with the city.

“He pretty consistently pushes kids to do stuff in the community,” Rameau said.
The projects have provided students with a chance to have their artwork become a permanent fixture in the local scene, an opportunity the students at West Street Parking Lot on Friday seemed happy to partake in.

Mount Wachusett Community College students thanked police and other criminal justice community partners from communities including Ayer, Gardner, Greenfield, Lunenburg, Orange, Templeton, and Westminster at a recent recognition luncheon.

At the end of every semester, MWCC hosts a recognition luncheon where participating criminal justice students thank their internship hosts for all they have learned and for the incredible mentoring each has enjoyed. To thank them for providing real-life, career experiences for the students, department chair Reed Hillman presented certificates of appreciation during a gathering at the Gardner campus.

“These fortunate students acquired a wealth of information about how progressive agencies serve their citizens and our students are uniformly grateful for the opportunity they have been provided,” Hillman said.

Police and criminal justice officials throughout the region provided internship opportunities for a number of MWCC Criminal Justice majors during the spring semester. Participating students completed a minimum of 120 hours over the 15-week semester.

Wayne Canty will be the recipient of Mount Wachusett Community College’s 2016 Service Above Self Award at the college’s graduation.

Business leader and community volunteer Wayne Canty will be the recipient of Mount Wachusett Community College’s 2017 Service Above Self Award at the college’s graduation.

Canty, CEO and owner of Heat Trace Products and MWCC Foundation member, will be recognized during the college’s 52nd commencement ceremony on May 17. The award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions within the 29 cities and towns that make up the college’s service area.

“Wayne Canty has made North Central Massachusetts the home of not only his business but many of his volunteer efforts. A multitude of organizations in the region have benefited from his experience, time and energy. I am pleased to recognize him with this year’s Service Above Self Award,” said President James Vander Hooven.

“I was just dumbfounded and humbled when I was informed of this award. I can honestly say that out of any of the recognitions and awards I’ve received up to this point in my career and my life, this one is the most meaningful,” said Canty.

Canty acquired Heat Trace Products in 2004, relocating the company’s factory from Clinton to Leominster. The company manufactures a line of self-regulating heat trace cables and products for freeze protection and process temperature maintenance for a wide range of industrial, commercial and residential applications.

Since establishing his company in North Central Massachusetts, Canty has become an active member of the business and charitable community in the region. He currently serves on the boards of the North Central MA Chamber of Commerce, and is the Vice Chair of the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster.

Canty has been a member of the Mount Wachusett Community College Foundation since 2013, after forming a strong working relationship with previous President Daniel Asquino, and he served as a member of the college’s Presidential Search Committee in 2016.
“It’s important for me to give back to the community and support the community as best I can both with my time and with my money,” said Canty. “I’ve been successful and I feel an obligation to give back to the community, whether it’s my hometown or where my business is established.”

He has also been involved in statewide and national business organizations, including being a board member of the Massachusetts Marketing Partnership, AIM International Business Council and the MA District Export Council (US Department of Commerce). Canty was appointed by Governor Deval Patrick to the Massachusetts Marketing Partnership Board of Directors in 2011 and accompanied him to Brazil on a trade mission that year. He was appointed by Governor Charlie Baker to the Economic Development Council in 2015.

Canty earned an Associate Degree in Business Administration from Quincy College, a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Suffolk University and holds a National Board Certification from the Muscular Therapy Institute in Cambridge.

Mount Wachusett Community College Student Jana Murphy has been recognized for her dedication to the community by being named one of Campus Compact’s national 2017 Newman Civic Fellows Award winners.

Mount Wachusett Community College Student Jana Murphy has been recognized for her dedication and commitment to serving others by being named one of Campus Compact’s national 2017 Newman Civic Fellows Award winners.

The Newman Civic Fellowship is a one-year fellowship for community-committed college students from Campus Compact member institutions. Honorees are chosen for their leadership and ability to take action in pursuit of long-term, positive social change. This year, 273 students were selected to receive the award.

Through the fellowship, Campus Compact provides a variety of learning and networking opportunities, including a national conference of Newman Civic Fellows in partnership with the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. The fellowship also provides fellows with pathways to exclusive scholarship and post-graduate opportunities.

Murphy, a resident of Ayer, said she was most excited to be a part of this year’s cohort and learn from them how they handled situations and challenges and helped improve their schools.

“It will be interesting to see what the other fellows did at their campuses and what we can do here. Because I will be an AmeriCorps VISTA here again, I will be able to put into action what I learn as a Newman Fellow back here at the college,” said Murphy.

Each year, Campus Compact member presidents and chancellors nominate one community-committed student from their institution for the fellowship. That is no guarantee that the nominee will receive the fellowship, said Shelley Nicholson who is the Director of the Senator Stephen M. Brewer Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement at Mount Wachusett Community College and has worked closely with Murphy during her time as a student volunteer and AmeriCorps VISTA. Murphy’s selection reflects all the hard work she has put in during her time at MWCC.

“Jana is truly dedicated to improving her community and helping her fellow students. She has a yearning to prove herself as a scholar and a citizen and for that I greatly admire her,” said Nicholson. “She was nominated for this honor based on the work she has done to embed civic engagement into the fabric of the college as much as for the recognition that this is a life-long commitment for Jana. She will continue to inspire others to be civically engaged as she moves forward with her career.”

Murphy has been engaged with the Mount Wachusett Community College community since her first semester serving as an S.O.S. (Students Serving Our Students) Peer Mentor, member of the Parents Support Club and a 2015-2016 Student Leader in Civic Engagement. In addition, Jana is now serving a term of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA dedicated to increasing student volunteerism in relation to hunger through a partnership with the Gardner Community Action Committee. In this capacity, she coordinated the United Way Day of Caring where over 44,000 meals were packaged by MWCC student, faculty, staff and alumni volunteers, beating all previous records. These meals were distributed to area food banks and our own students in need. Working in collaborating with community partners, she will be continuing to explore the social justice issues behind food insecurity and working hard to eliminate that barrier to educational success in the next year of her AmeriCorps *VISTA service.