Community Stories

Signaling Success SummerUP 2016

Student participants in MWCC’s Educational Talent Search and North Central Massachusetts Talent Search programs recently joined peers on campus for Signaling Success training to enhance skills for success in work, school and life.

The U.S. Department of Education will award two grants totaling $573,600 to Mount Wachusett Community College through its Talent Search Program, Congressman Jim McGovern announced on July 21. The program supports efforts on campuses in Massachusetts and across the country to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds to succeed in higher education.

“Every student deserves access to a strong education and the bright future it brings. These grants will provide a critical boost to the great work Mount Wachusett Community College is doing to help more students succeed and reach their full potential,” Congressman McGovern said. “Where you grow up should never limit your ability to go to college and pursue your dreams. These grants will help to open new doors of opportunity for so many students right here in Massachusetts. I am proud to support our local schools and look forward to seeing all the good this funding will do for our communities.”

“Community colleges play a vital role in our nation’s economy, and we are grateful for our Congressional delegation’s continued support of students who benefit from these TRiO programs,” said Mount Wachusett Community College President Daniel M. Asquino. “These two grants will serve nearly 1,200 students in seven area school districts, providing them with the support needed to be successful in middle school and high school, and ready to meet the challenges and opportunities of post-secondary education.”

Each grant is anticipated to be continued for a total of five years to support the program, which are administered through the college’s Division of Access & Transition.

MWCC’s long-running Talent Search program, now entering its 26th year, serves 695 students annually at the Longso and Memorial middle schools in Fitchburg, Fitchburg High School, Gardner Middle School, Gardner High School, Samoset and Sky View middle schools in Leominster, Leominster High School and Leominster Center for Technical Education Innovation.

The North Central Massachusetts Talent Search program was launched in 2011 with a similar TRIO grant. The program is designed to prepare 500 students annually at Athol-Royalston Middle School, Athol High School, Ralph C. Mahar Regional School in Orange, Murdock Middle/High School in Winchendon and the Sizer School in Fitchburg.

The Talent Search program identifies and assists individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds who have the potential to succeed in higher education. The program provides academic, career, and financial counseling to its participants and encourages them to graduate from high school and continue on to and complete their postsecondary education.

The program also publicizes the availability of financial aid and assist participant with the postsecondary application process. Talent Search also encourages persons who have not completed education programs at the secondary or postsecondary level to enter or reenter and complete postsecondary education. The goal of Talent Search is to increase the number of youth from disadvantaged backgrounds who complete high school and enroll in and complete their postsecondary education.

For more information about MWCC’s Talent Search programs, click here.

 

booksMount Wachusett Community College is one of 67 colleges and universities selected by the U.S. Department of Education to participate in the Second Chance Pell pilot program, which is part of a national effort aimed at reducing recidivism and strengthening communities by providing education and job training to eligible inmates.

The pilot program will allow 12,000 eligible incarcerated Americans at more than 100 correctional institutions in 27 states to receive Pell grants to pursue their education with the goal of helping them get jobs and support.

MWCC is partnering with the Massachusetts Department of Corrections to provide academic programs to approximately 72 inmates at the North Central Correctional Institute in Gardner, the Massachusetts Correctional Institute in Shirley, and the Federal Medical Center in Devens.

“The power of education to transform lives cannot be underestimated,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “In Massachusetts and across the country, more money is spent on incarcerating prisoners than is spent on public education. In the long run, society and taxpayers are better served by investing in programs that help people become contributing members of their communities.”

The Second Chance Pell pilot program is one of a series of federal education and jobs programs designed to prepare people who are returning from prison to the community with skills and resources necessary to obtain employment, support their families and contribute to society. It is geared toward prisoners who are likely to be released within the next five years.

“People who make mistakes and pay the price should have the opportunity to get back on their feet and contribute to their community,” Congressman Jim McGovern said. “Increasing access to education is one of the smartest things we can do to help these Americans get back on the right path. Education has the power to change lives and this program will help to build strong communities and give a second chance to all those who have earned it,” he said.

“I congratulate Mount Wachusett Community College for being selected by the U.S. Department of Education to participate in the Second Chance Pell pilot program, a distinction that reflects Mount Wachusett’s commitment to empowering students from all backgrounds to pursue higher education and have access to greater opportunity,” said Congresswoman Niki Tsongas. “This initiative represents an important investment in expanded pathways to higher education and has the potential to make our communities safer, save taxpayers money, and transform lives.”

The U.S. currently has the highest incarceration rate in the world with approximately 2.2 million people in American prisons and jails. A 2013 study from the RAND Corporation, funded by the Department of Justice, found that incarcerated individuals who participated in correctional education were 43 percent less likely to return to prison within three years than prisoners who did not participate in any correctional education programs. RAND also estimated that for every dollar invested in correctional education programs, four to five dollars are saved on three-year re-incarceration costs.

“The evidence is clear. Promoting the education and job training for incarcerated individuals makes communities safer by reducing recidivism and saves taxpayer dollars by lowering the direct and collateral costs of incarceration,” U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said in a statement announcing the pilot program. More than 200 colleges and universities had expressed interest in the program.

“I applaud the institutions that have partnered to develop high-quality programs that will equip these students with invaluable learning. The knowledge and skills they acquire will promote successful reintegration and enable them to become active and engaged citizens.”

 

3 Chamber breakfast President Asquino groupVisionary. Collaborative. Energetic. Dedicated. Pioneering. Inclusive. A true leader.

These were among the words and phrases used by area legislators, mayors and business leaders to describe retiring Mount Wachusett Community College President Daniel M. Asquino during a breakfast sponsored in his honor by three regional Chambers of Commerce.

More than 200 business and community leaders gathered June 24 in the college’s South Café to toast, and occasionally roast, the long-serving president, who has announced his plans to retire in early 2017 following three decades at the helm of the college and 47 years in Massachusetts public higher education.

“Dan’s resume is long and is far reaching, not only in North Central Massachusetts, but throughout the Commonwealth and in higher education nationwide,” said retired State Sen. Stephen M. Brewer, who served as master of ceremonies. “He is a visionary leader whose emphasis on community engagement and collaboration has left a continuing legacy.”

The president was lauded for his leadership in key areas, including championing access to higher education; K-12, business and industry and community partnerships; civic engagement; and sustainability.

State Sen. Anne Gobi and State Rep. Jon Zlotnik shared remarks on behalf of the region’s legislative delegation. Additional speakers included Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke and Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella, who are both alumni of the college; Fitchburg Mayor Stephen DiNatale; Raymond LaFond, senior vice president at Enterprise Bank, who spoke on behalf of the college’s Board of Trustees and Foundation Board of Directors; and Jim Bellina, president of the Greater Gardner Chamber of Commerce.

Bellina, along with Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce President Melissa Fetterhoff and Roy Nascimento, president of the North Central Chamber of Commerce, presented Dr. Asquino with a $1,000 donation to the MWCC Foundation for the newly created Class of 2016 scholarship fund.

“Thank you, President Asquino, for giving us leadership by example,” Bellina said.

Senator Gobi shared a story of working with determined MWCC students on a legislative bill focused on consumer protection as an example of the president’s impact on encouraging young people to become engaged citizens. “Students and the community. That’s something that President Asquino has never, ever forgotten.”

President Asquino acknowledged that there is still much to do during the remainder of his tenure, including completing construction of the college’s $42 million science and technology building and campus renovations. “My focus right now is on Mount Wachusett Community College.”

He said he is most proud of the service provided to students by the college’s faculty and staff, the college’s economic impact on the region, and leadership in academic, workforce and community endeavors.

“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve you and to achieve my dream,” President Asquino said. “I certainly will miss all of you. I’ll miss the opportunity this position has given me to give back.”

In addition to the three chambers, event sponsors included Advanced Cable Ties, Inc., Heywood HealthCare, MWCC, HeathAlliance Hospital, Heat Trace Products, Workers’ Credit Union, GFA Federal Credit Union, RCAP Solutions, Perkins, Fidelity Bank, GVNA Healthcare, Inc, Lynde Hardware & Supply, C.M. Chartier Contracting, MassDevelopment, Gervais Ford, Apple Valley Center, IC Federal Credit Union, The Shine Initiative, Enterprise Bank, Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster, United Way of North Central Massachusetts, Daly’s Property Shoppe, and the Gardner Redevelopment Authority.

Theatre at the Mount Jeff Boisseau and LG Karyn Polito

Lt. Governor Karyn Polito and Theatre at the Mount Technical Director Jeff Boisseau during the June 23 reception.

Mount Wachusett Community College’s Theatre at the Mount is the recipient of a $49,600 grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund to update its sound system.

The Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund, administered through a partnership between MassDevelopment and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, fosters the growth of the creative economy by supporting building projects in the nonprofit arts, humanities and sciences. This new round of funding includes 68 capital grants totaling $8.9 million and 23 planning grants totaling more than $400,000. Grants range from $7,000 to $300,000 and are matched from private of other public sources.

The grant, which will be matched by MWCC, will be used to replace the theater’s aging analog sound system. The updated digital sound system will improve the audience experience, particularly for patrons who require hearing assistance or other special needs.

“Making high quality theater affordable and accessible for everyone is our highest priority,” said Professor Gail Steele, director of Theatre at the Mount. “This grant will allow us to make major strides in achieving our goal.”

The award was announced during a reception in Worcester on Thursday, June 23 with Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. Jeff Boisseau, technical director and set designer, and Joseph Stiso, vice president of planning, development and institutional research, accepted the award on behalf of the college.

“Our administration is proud to support these capital investments in the creative economy,” said Lt. Governor Polito. “The rich history of our cities and towns is an important draw for out-of-state visitors, and these grants will help direct private investments into these projects.”

Now entering its 40th year, Theatre at the Mount is in the midst of a makeover, including a new lobby, box office and ADA improvements as part of a $41 million addition and renovation project to the Gardner campus.

“We’re very grateful to receive this grant,” Boisseau said. “We’re hoping to have these new features installed before we reopen later this year.”

Located in the college’s Raymond M. LaFontaine Fine Arts Center, Theatre at the Mount serves the community as a premier regional theater presenting high quality entertainment at affordable prices. TAM’s season consists of five full-scale musicals and plays, a spring children’s show and a fall touring production performed at local elementary schools. Additionally, TAM offers summer drama programs for children and teens and sponsors the annual TAMY Awards program, which celebrates excellence in high school musicals.

In a statement earlier this month, Gov. Charlie Baker noted the new investments will drive tourism and benefit residents and visitors for years to come. Since 2007, CFF has invested nearly $92 million in the state’s creative sector for projects in more than 130 cities and towns.

“We thank Governor Baker and his administration for its continued support of this vital source of creative capital,” said Anita Walker, executive director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

The grants are highly competitive. In this round of funding, the state received 146 applications seeking nearly $25 million for projects with total development costs of more than $200 million. Steele, Boisseau and Grant Writer/Development Specialist Moira Adams are the lead investigators for the project. In 2013, Theatre at the Mount received a $30,000 CFF grant to replace its lighting system.

Upcoming Theatre at the Mount productions include Almost, Maine on June 24, 25 and 26, and Hairspray on Aug. 12, 13, 19, 20 and 21. Due to current construction, these performances will take place at Oakmont Regional High School in Ashburnham. For more information, visit mwcc.edu/tam or contact the box office at 978-630-9388.

 

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Doug Petersen, second from left, this year’s Harold E. Drake, Jr. Citizen of the Year, is joined by Jay Davis Drake, President Dan Asquino, Foundation Executive Director Carla Zottoli and Foundation Board of Directors Chair Ray Martino.

Service to the community and to students was the prevailing theme of the Mount Wachusett Community College Foundation’s annual celebration, which offered guests a “passport into the future” of MWCC and its students, as well as an opportunity to reflect back on key figures in the college’s history and hear from several inspiring, recent graduates.

Long-serving community volunteer Douglas J. Petersen was recognized with the 2016 Harold E. Drake Jr. Citizen of the Year Award. Jay Davis Drake, a former chair of the MWCC Board of Trustees and a former member of the foundation, presented the award to Mr. Petersen in memory of his father, treasurer and former president of Royal Steam Heater Co. and Lynde Hardware & Supply, Inc.

The award recognizes community members who exemplify Harold Drake’s extraordinary commitment to the North Central Massachusetts region.

The event also recognized the academic success and civic engagement of MWCC students and showcased the new science and technology building under constructions and continuing renovations to the Haley building for an audience of college supporters, benefactors, students and community leaders. Guests proceeded through the campus with “passports” in hand, stopping at various destinations to learn more about the college and its programs. Stations included the Center for Civic Learning, the LaChance Library, the School of Business, Science, Technology and Mathematics, the Veterans Success Center, K-12 Partnerships and the Division of Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development.

Joined by his family, Mr. Petersen said he was humbled to receive the award. Among his many professional associations, business ventures and community causes, he serves as chairman of the boards for the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce and the United Way of North Central Massachusetts, and is also a member of the MWCC Foundation Board of Directors and a member of the HealthAlliance President’s Council.

“Doug has made a fantastic difference in our community,” said President Daniel M. Asquino.

In one of several surprise announcements, Dr. Asquino was presented with the Foundation’s Harold E. Drake, Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award for his three decades of service to the college and to the community.

Foundation Executive Director Carla Zottoli announced two new, endowed scholarships created through the generosity of Hubbardston residents Barbara and Jim Carpenter in recognition of Mrs. Carpenter’s parents, George and Bernice (Johnson) Babineau. The Babineau-Johnson Nursing Scholarship and the Babineau-Johnson Veterans Scholarship were each endowed for $50,000 by the Carpenters, which will help MWCC students for “generations to come,” Zottoli said.

To underscore the importance of creating endowed scholarships, the Foundation also transferred $10,000 from its general scholarship fund to create a new scholarship fund by selecting a winner from among the guests’ “passports.” Outgoing Student Trustee Tom Berger was the chosen winner, and will be able to name the scholarship and work with the foundation to determine the criteria of the annual scholarship.

Recent graduates Benjamin Spurr of Barre, a Navy Veteran who is now headed to UMass, Amherst to continue his studies in biological sciences and biotechnology, and Bella Ballin of Worcester, who will transfer this fall to Carnegie Mellon University to continue her studies in chemistry, were this year’s student speakers, sharing details about the way the college and the foundation helped transform their academic experience.

The foundation also recognized 81-year-old Aurea Carrion of Leominster, who graduated last week with an associate degree in Human Services, and presented a video of graduate Chelsea Garrity of Barre, who is now on a service trip to Costa Rica, giving her Commencement speech.

Several past recipients of the Citizen of the Year Award were among the attendees, including Ronald Ansin, Kim Ansin, former Senator Stephen M. Brewer, James Garrison, Charles Bowles and Richard Flanagan. The event was sponsored by Royal Steam Heater Co. Workers’ Credit Union, Enterprise Bank & Trust, Heywood Hospital, Fidelity Bank, North Middlesex Savings Bank, Rollstone Bank & Trust and Simonds International. Proceeds from the event support student scholarships.

“Our foundation scholarships help hundreds of students achieve the dream of education,” Zottoli said. “It is truly their passport to a brighter future.”

Sheila Boria and Aurea Carrion

Sheila Boria and Aurea Carrion

Jose Mangual, academic counselor for students enrolled in MWCC’s English as a Second Language program, has a ready answer for prospective students who feel they are too busy, too old or not ready to enroll in courses.

He introduces them to students who once had the same concerns, but now are succeeding not only in the ESL program, but in MWCC academic programs as well.

“If someone says, ‘I’m too old, I’m in my 40’s and I’ll be the oldest student there,’ I say, ‘Have you met Aurea Carrion? She is 81!’ ”

Mangual served as host of the ESL program’s annual year-end celebration, which recognized the achievements of residents new to the U.S. from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Uruguay, Brazil, Egypt, Ghanna, Syria and Vietnam. The festive event, held at the Leominster campus, featured laughter, encouragement, and array of traditional food.

Special recognition was given to students who recently advanced in or completed their ESL courses, as well as to Ms. Carrion, who graduated with an associate degree in Human Services, and Sheila Boria, who earned an academic certificate in Human Services.

Carrion, who previously earned an associate degree from MWCC in 1990 in Secretarial Studies, worked as a liaison between the community and the Fitchburg and Worcester public schools. She retired from the Worcester Public School system in 2006.

Since then, she returned to MWCC to pursue her interest in the human services field and earned her academic certificate in Human Services in 2013. “I never get tired of studying,” she said. Her goal is to continue working in the human services field.

In addition to serving as president of the ESL club, Ms. Carrion has volunteered countless hours at the Leominster campus and most significantly, serves as an inspiration to fellow students. “It’s never too late!”

“I said if she can do it, I can do it. She was my inspiration,” said Ms. Boria, who will continue her studies and aspires to become a lawyer. “This is important to me. This is my future.”

 

 

2016 Gateway & Pathways valedictorians Christian and Bella 2

Valedictorians Christian Rossi, Jr. & Bella Ballin

Aspiring doctors, nurses, physicists, teachers and police officers, as well as many teenagers who are the first in their families to attend college, are among the largest dual enrollment graduating class at MWCC.

This year’s graduates of the Pathways Early College Innovation School and the Gateway to College program were recognized during a May 20 ceremony at MWCC. The dual enrollment programs, offered in partnership with the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District, as well as Athol High School, allow students to use school choice funding to earn their high school diploma while simultaneously earning college credits, an academic certificate, or an associate degree.

With 73 graduates from 26 towns and cities this year, the graduating class is the largest ever at MWCC. This year also marked the 10th graduating class of the Gateways program and the fifth Pathways graduating class.

MWCC President Daniel Asquino was the featured speaker, sharing personal anecdotes with the students and the hundreds of family members and friends gathered for the occasion.

When told as a child he couldn’t play sports because he was born with a disability, he persevered until he could. When told he didn’t swim well enough to become a lifeguard, he self-trained and not only became a lifeguard, but rescued three people who were clinging together for survival amid a rough surf.

When told by a high school guidance counselor he “wasn’t college material” he served the country in the Navy, then went on to earn bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degree while simultaneously working and raising a family on modest means. When he wanted to become a college president, he was told he couldn’t because he was on the “wrong track” – an administrative path rather than an academic path. He is now completing his 29th year as president of MWCC.

“If I can do it, you can do it,” he encouraged the graduates. “Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t do it. Conquer the world. Do for yourself, do for your family, and don’t forget to give back to your community.”

Some of the graduates will remain at MWCC to continue their associate degrees, while many who have already reached that milestone plan to transfer to a public and private college or university. Several of the graduates plan to serve the country in the military or directly enter the workforce.

Bella Ballin of Worcester, who earned an associate degree in Liberal Arts: Chemical Science from MWCC two days before receiving her high school diploma, was the Pathways class valedictorian.

“Who would have thought that teens from all different towns and all different backgrounds would come together not only as a cohort or a class but as a family? Right from the start we managed to forge bonds so strong that we didn’t want to stray from each other. As our bonds grew, so did our maturity, adaptability, independence and knowledge,” she said.

This fall, she will transfer to Carnegie Mellon University to continue her studies in chemistry.

Christian Rossi, Jr. of Winchendon, homeschooled prior to enrolling in the Gateway program, graduated from MWCC Wednesday with an associate degree in computer information systems and academic certificates in cyber security and IT support specialist. He plans to transfer this fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

He wryly shared that while he thought he was well versed in many topics before enrolling, he came to realize there’s always more to learn, such as the day a classmate had a pizza delivered to the college for dinner rather than packing food.

“Now why I hadn’t thought of that, I cannot say, but I know that I will remember it in case I ever find myself hungry at my next school.”

MWCC’s partnerships with the public school districts represent “the pillars of support for our students,” said Fagan Forhan, Assistant Dean of K-12 Partnerships and Civic Engagement.

“It is through these partnerships that together, we have built a true community here at MWCC. We have created a place where students feel supported, encouraged and safe. We have built a place where new paths are forged and lives are transformed.”

Pathways Early College Innovation School graduates:

Bella Ballin, Yasmin Barroso, Kaci Bradshaw, Levi Bushnell, Angelique Chaput, Calvin Clinkscale, Holland Crane, Michael Frye, Chandler Giuffre, Sara Khan, Margaret Linzey, Renata Menezes, Emily Perkins, Tea Preston, Michael Racine, Jr., Lucy Rivers, Riley Saisa, Adrian Sanders, Kelsey Schecker, Rachel Stankaitis, Joseph Williams

Gateway to College graduates:

Thayna Aguiar, Kelsey Allaway, Rebekah Amburgey, Arturo Aponte-Cruz, Jacob Bancroft, Taysia Baronowski, Kyle Bates, Katriona Bell, Rene Bergeron, Anders Bigelbach, Nicole Boufford, Shane Carroll, Nicole Cibor, Emanuel Corbeil, Mariah Courtemanche, Emmilly DeMatos, Lyndsey-Leigh Flahive, Bailey Fluet, Coco Fortier, Stephanie Garnhum, Gregory Germagian, Cassandra Gurney, Leshay Hicks, Adoria Kavuma-Winburn, Alyssa Kazanowski, Jamison Lajoie, Lisette Llapa, Rafaela Lopes, Audrey MacDonald, Brianna Martinez, Hayley McAuliffe, Anastasia Panageotes, Camila Pereira, Raul Pereira, Nicholas Powell, Lorena Rocha, Christian Rossi, Jr., Courtney Ruble, Alexander Schilling, Lauren Scioli, Mya Shepard, Milagros Silva Olivera, Constance Tazelaar, Emilia Torres, Pablo Trillas, Jasmine Welch, Beth Winters, Christopher Zukowski

 

Breana Keegan leads nursing pledge

Breana Keegan, president of MWCC’s Student Nurses Association, leads her classmates in the Florence Nightingale Pledge.

Family and friends from as near as Gardner and as far away as Zimbabwe came to celebrate the achievements of Mount Wachusett Community College’s associate degree nursing class during a traditional pinning ceremony held May 19 in the Fitness & Wellness center.

The 43rd graduating class was comprised of students enrolled in the day and evening programs and included LPNs who returned to continue their education through the college’s Bridge to Nursing program.

MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino congratulated the students on their success completing one of the college’s most rigorous academic programs. He noted that the care and compassion of nurses bring tremendous comfort to patients who are often at their lowest moment and in pain.

Summarizing key points made during his Commencement address the evening before, the president encouraged the graduates to move forward in their careers and lives with compassion, empathy and a positive attitude.

Mercy Dhliwayo of Fitchburg and family

Mercy Dhliwayo is joined by members of her family following the ceremony. From left, Jane Dhliwayo, who traveled from Zimbabwe to attend her granddaughter’s graduation and pinning ceremonies; Mercy’s mother, Patience Dhliwayo-Amoakohene, RN, who pinned her daughter; and aunts and MWCC alumni Privilege Dhliwayo, RN, and Patricia Dhliwayo-Kwangwari, RN.

“I can think of no other profession where these are so essential.”

Eileen Costello, dean of the School of Health Sciences and Community Service Programs, also welcomed the graduates and their families.

Dressed in traditional nurse uniforms, the students were welcomed into the profession by having the program’s nursing pin fastened to their lapels by a family member, friend, or an alumnus of the program, or a faculty member, to the cheers of family and friends. The pin symbolizes where the nurses completed their studies to become an RN and distinguishes them from other health care professionals. The eight-star MWCC pin is imprinted with the words “Service to Humanity and the World.”

As part of the ceremony, the students also took a nursing pledge that dates back to Florence Nightingale, who distinguished herself during the Crimean War by coming to the aid of sick and wounded soldiers.