Community Stories

The Mount Wachusett Community College East Wing Gallery will open two new art exhibitions by local artists Jesse Connor and Tracie Pouliot on October 17. An opening reception will be held on Friday, November 4 from 4:30 to 7 PM and will feature talks by each artist as well as an opportunity to tour the gallery.

Artist Jesse Connor’s exhibition entitled “Far Reaches” includes large scale paintings that borrow from close observation of settings, houses or nature with unusual emotionally charged interpretations of color. Connor lives in western Massachusetts, teaches painting at MWCC and is an active, highly respected artist with many recent exhibitions across the state. He is a dedicated teacher and artist working in acrylic and oils.

Work from “Far Reaches” by Jesse Connor

Work from “Far Reaches” by Jesse Connor

Artist Tracie Pouliot’s exhibition entitled “Oral History Book Series: Chair City Community Workshop” is based on the lives of 14 workers in the last furniture manufacturer in Gardner. Pouliot is a local artist who opened a grant-funded community art center in Gardner to complete the book series project. She first took printmaking in the MWCC Teen Art summer program and fell in love with it. Pouliot then went on to get her bachelor’s degree in printmaking and a Master’s degree in Community Art /Public art before returning to the area as a new adjunct faculty member in the art department, teaching printmaking. Her exhibition was orchestrated in conjunction with a National Endowment for Humanities grant.

Work from “Oral History Book Series: Chair City Community Workshop” by Tracie Pouliot

Work from “Oral History Book Series: Chair City Community Workshop” by Tracie Pouliot

All are welcome to visit the gallery, attend the reception and participate in the free gallery talks. The East Wing Gallery, housed in the Raymond M. LaFontaine Fine Arts Center on the Gardner Campus, is open Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 5 pm. The Gallery will be closed on November 11 in observance of Veterans Day.

Mount Wachusett Community College student and Worcester resident Jasson Alvarado Gomez was a featured speaker to nearly 300 high school seniors from North, Burncoat, and Doherty High Schools in Worcester on Wednesday October 12 at the Department of Higher Education’s GO HIGHER! event, a partnership with Massachusetts’ 29 public colleges and universities to raise awareness of the growing number of outstanding programs and opportunities available to students at our community colleges, state universities and UMass campuses.

Alvarado Gomez, an aspiring filmmaker studying Media Arts & Technology at MWCC, participated in a student-to-student panel discussion about choosing a college and a major, navigating campus life, and the challenges that undocumented students face. Alvarado Gomez impressed upon students that “there are plenty of financial and support services available to all students in the community college system. You just have to ask.”

At MWCC, Alvarado Gomez has served on the Student Government Association, as president of the ALANA Club, and on the Campus Activities Team for Students and SAGA organizations. He has served as a student ambassador and a volunteer for the United Way Day of Caring and the SGA annual food drive, and is a recipient of the Gateway Community Service Award. He is also an appointed member to the college’s Board of Trustees, following a spring election by his peers. Earlier this fall, the Worcester resident was appointed to the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education as a full voting member representing all students attending the state’s 29 colleges and universities. Upon graduating from MWCC, Alvarado Gomez plans to transfer to a four-year institution to complete a Bachelor’s degree and begin a career in media arts.

According to Mount Wachusett Community College Dean of Admissions and Enrollment Management, Marcia Rosbury-Henne, the GO HIGHER! events celebrate the academic excellence and affordability of not only MWCC, but all public higher education institutions in the Commonwealth. “The financial advantages of attending a community colleges are often more obvious than the academic and social advantages,” according to Rosbury-Henne. “The GO HIGHER! events offer high school students an opportunity to hear firsthand from community college graduates that have transferred.” Rosbury-Henne continued, “And the student speakers today spoke of how their college experience has been enriched by attending two different institutions, as they experience two student bodies, two campuses, and for some even two different geographic regions in the Commonwealth.”

Immediately following the student panel session, all Worcester high school students in attendance had the opportunity to meet Mount Wachusett Community College faculty and staff at a college fair in the North High gymnasium to learn more about academic program offerings, the admission process and financial aid at the Commonwealth’s community colleges.

Mount Wachusett Community College has launched a new substance abuse counseling certificate program and is hosting a free community forum with NARCAN® training to bolster public resources and address the opioid crisis that is impacting our region, the state and the nation.

The free forum, Opiates in North Central Massachusetts: Education for Community-Wide Crisis Response, will take place on Monday, Oct 31 from 12 to 2:30 p.m. in the North Café at the Gardner campus. The public is encouraged to attend.

State Senator Jennifer Flanagan will serve as moderator. Panelists will include Fitchburg Police Chief Ernest Martineau, Michelle Dunn, co-director and president of Alyssa’s Place, Jack Maroney, CEO of Recovery Centers of America at Westminster, and Tamara E. Perini, MSW, LCSW UMass Memorial – HealthAlliance Hospital, and representatives from the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office.

The forum, part of the college’s continuing Tea Time Speaker Series, is sponsored by the MWCC Diversity Consortium, Gateway to College, and Project Healthcare, a workforce diversity pipeline program funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health.

Following the forum, Michael Ellis of Heywood Hospital will provide free NARCAN® training for participants. The prescription drug blocks the effects of opioids and can reverse an overdose.

“Today’s opioid users can be co-workers, family members, neighbors, friends, children, students and members of the community,” said Sharmese Gunn, senior learning specialist with MWCC’s Gateway to College program and forum coordinator. “Learning how to detect early use is one way to combat the epidemic that has plagued the region, and being prepared and educated can help save lives.”

Earlier this year, MWCC developed a new substance abuse counseling certificate following discussions with area healthcare providers. The 27-credit certificate program prepares students to obtain credentials in Massachusetts as a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC) and to seek employment within the industry. Area facilities are poised to open or expand to serve the needs of clients in various stages of recovery. Courses include Issues of Chemical Dependency in Family Systems, Addictions Counseling, Psychopharmacology and a practicum.

For more information about the free community forum or to RSVP, please visit:

The United Way Youth Venture program is returning to schools across North Central Massachusetts this fall to continue the great work being done by students in the community.

During the past academic year, students throughout the region took a stand against the problems of the world and worked together to help those in need through the United Way Youth Venture program. These young members of the community have taken on some of the toughest issues facing society, from ALS to global hunger, and have created new opportunities for the community such as building a community garden and enhancing STEM education in schools. Over 70 new and previously launched Venture Teams were active across the region, from Ayer to Winchendon, with nearly 6,500 students participating in the program’s workshops.

In the coming months, students mostly ages 10 to 22 will devote their time and talents to create service-oriented Venture programs and accomplish many goals during a short time span. Collectively, teams in the last academic year raised nearly $10,000 to support their causes through a variety of community fundraising events. In addition to raising significant funds, some students have taken their Ventures far beyond expectations, said Lauren Mountain, Associate Director of UWYV.

For instance, the Leominster High School-based Venture LEAD, which started three years ago in the wake of the Newtown shooting, has implemented a 700-page mental health curriculum into the Leominster school district this fall with three full classes of a mental health promotion elective. The founding members of LEAD look forward to the whole state integrating their curriculum. Another Venture, Holiday Spreaders, recently made its 33rd consecutive monthly visit to Leominster Crossings, helping to ensure that Alzheimer’s patients at the facility have a consistent support group.

“Not only have these Venturers accomplished inspiring feats as teams, but they have proven on an individual level that they have become leaders in the community in their own right”, Mountain said. “No Venturer exemplifies this more than Rafaela Lopes, lead Venturer of GO Make a Difference. When Lopes first started this Venture three years ago, she was a shy student who had big dreams of volunteering in Haiti, but was unsure of her abilities. Not only was she successful in organizing a service trip to Haiti to help those in need, she has personally been recognized as one of the top youth service leaders in the country. In May, she was awarded the Newman Civic Fellow Award by Campus Compact for her leadership in service.”

“When I first heard about UWYV I thought it was too good to be true, but making the decision to join has changed my life completely and forever,” said Lopes, who is earning an associate degree at the college. “Throughout the years, UWYV gave me numerous opportunities and also gave me the chance to learn, to teach, to make a difference locally and globally and to make my dream come true. I really recommend everyone I know to get involved because it was the best thing that happened to me.”

To learn more about United Way Youth Venture and become involved, visit

To support the UWYV program, consider sponsoring a Venture Team attendance at the upcoming UWYV Fall Kick-Off event on October 21st, in which MWCC will host approximately 300 students from across the region for a series of inspirational and skill-based workshops. To become a sponsor or donor, contact UWYV Associate Director Lauren Mountain at 978-630-9201.

Daniel Asquino, Shine Award RecipientThe SHINE Initiative held its tenth annual Keep Your Mind Open event on October 5, 2016 at Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts. Among the evening’s highlights, Dr. Daniel M. Asquino, President of Mount Wachusett Community College, was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award by Ed Manzi, Jr., Chairman of the SHINE Initiative and Chairman of Fidelity Bank.

President Asquino was recognized for his leadership in increasing mental health awareness through support of mental health and wellness conferences and events that have featured experts in the fields of mental health as speakers and panelists.

The SHINE Initiative aims to shine a light of understanding on the issues of mental health and was founded in 2004 under the guidance of a community-based advisory board and the directors and employees of Fidelity bank, based in Leominster.

Mount Wachusett Community College will continue its support of mental health awareness under Dr. Asquino’s leadership by sponsoring the upcoming Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Awareness Event on Tuesday, October 11, 2016 at Great Wolf Lodge at 5:00 p.m.

For a list of mental health and wellness resources, please visit:


Photo by Eddie Vargas

A group of nearly 200 enthusiastic volunteers at Mount Wachusett Community College worked in shifts throughout the day to more than double last year’s efforts to combat hunger in the region.

Through the college’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement, students, faculty and staff teamed up in assembly lines to package 46,872 meals to serve families in need. The meals were distributed in the afternoon to food pantries and veterans centers in North Central Massachusetts.

The college became a Day of Caring host site in 2013, following years of participation in off-campus activities, and the event continues to grow each year, said Jana Murphy, a Liberal Arts & Sciences major who spearheaded this year’s packaging event in her role as this year’s Massachusetts Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA.

MWCC participated along with numerous other organizations in North Central Massachusetts, recognizing the 21st annual United Way Day of Caring.

Outreach, Inc., an Iowa-based nonprofit that also operates in the Northeast, provided supplies to create packages of meals consisting of macaroni and cheese and rice and beans.


Twins Jessie and Jammie Mascitti pause to write a note of appreciation to area first responders in commemoration of Sept. 11.

MWCC student volunteers are collecting notes of appreciation for first responders in the region who put their lives in jeopardy for the sake of others, as a way of honoring the nearly 3,000 victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

For the second year, the activity was coordinated by the college’s Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success and the Student Leaders in Civic Engagement (SLICE) program, an initiative of MWCC’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement.

Volunteers provided and collected cards throughout the day on Monday, Sept 12. Cards will be available for signing at the Gardner campus on Tuesday, Sept. 13 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. before they are distributed. Each year, the college community also pauses to remember Carrie Beth Progen, a 1995 alumna from Ashburnham who was among the victims at the World Trade Center.

A memorial to Carrie, located adjacent to the library entrance, was created several years ago in collaboration with her parents, Don and Kathy Progen, and her brother, Matt, all alumni of MWCC. A scholarship created by the Progen family in Carrie’s memory is awarded to an art student each year through the MWCC Foundation.

MWCC President Daniel M AsquinoIt hardly seems possible that three decades have passed since I first arrived at Mount Wachusett Community College. Yet a look back at the many innovative programs, initiatives and events that have transpired provides proof that we, as a college community, have not only grown, but are blazing a trail into the future.

Over the past 18 months we have witnessed the transformation of our main campus in Gardner, with the addition of our new, 44,000-square-foot science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) building, as well as extensive renovations to the Haley Academic Center and Theatre at the Mount. This week we began the academic year welcoming students into our new advising center, refurbished dining areas and ample gathering places.

Our state-of-the-art science and technology building will well serve our future medical professionals, engineers, research scientists and others working in the STEM fields, as well as provide enhanced academic opportunities for students of all majors. In the coming weeks, faculty and students will move into the new classrooms and laboratory spaces, and we look forward to welcoming the greater community to tour our new facilities during an open house this fall.

In addition to unveiling our campus upgrades, we begin this academic year with several new transfer opportunities and new courses of study, including new certificate programs in substance abuse counseling, community health, and public relations, which are designed to meet employers’ needs in our region.

The year ahead also provides many community-focused events, from exhibits in our East Wing Gallery to theatre performances and informative presentations. We’ll also begin the third year of the MWCC Humanities Project. Funded through a challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, events and activities will take place on campus and in the community with an artistic focus on the theme, “Imagining Work.”

I encourage members of our college community and the greater community to join us in celebrating another new year of innovation.



"Resurrection" Oil on linen painting by John Pacheco

“Resurrection,” oil on linen painting by John Pacheco is among the works on display in MWCC’s East Wing Gallery through Oct. 4.

An exhibition of recent abstract paintings by Mount Wachusett Community College Professor John Pacheco is on display in the college’s East Wing Gallery through October 4.

Pacheco’s work is influenced by abstract expressionists and artists that saw spiritualism in the process of painting and the contemplation of color and abstraction.

“Painting abstractly, I can compose using color in ways that my previous attachment to figuration wouldn’t permit. The paintings exist like a piece of music – evocative rather than specific,” Pacheco said about the collection. Titles, such as “Caveman,” “Day at the Beach,” “Resurrection” and “Koi Pond” compensate for the lack of narrative, he said.

Born in Cambridge in 1949, Pacheco earned his MFA in painting from Boston University and a BA from Yale College for studio art. He began his career at MWCC in 1980 and served as Director of the East Wing Gallery from 2004 to 2015. He retired from full-time teaching in 2015, and continues to teach at MWCC as an adjunct instructor.

MWCC’s art department offers art majors and non-majors a comprehensive program that includes painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics and printmaking. Faculty, all of whom are working professional artists, actively assist students with developing transfer portfolios, college applications and scholarships, and teach basic digital tools required for success. Small classes lead to a close-knit, active and inspired community.

The associate degree in art is a cost effective way to begin a college degree and prepares an art major for transfer to four-year programs at colleges and universities, said Department Chair Thomas Matsuda. Graduates have successfully transferred to Massachusetts College of Art and Design, University of Massachusetts, School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Montserrat College of Art, Maine College of Art, Boston University, Pratt Institute, and others.

The associate degree in art includes the core general requirements for state programs giving the flexibility to transfer into other degrees, and by substituting designated courses it will align with MassTransfer. The college also offers a liberal arts degree with an art concentration that allows students to minor in art.

Comprehensive studios include large gas and electric kilns and an outdoor ceramic firing area, bronze casting, and printing presses. Just outside the studios is the East Wing Gallery. which hosts annual student exhibitions, alumni and professional art exhibitions and houses the permanent collection of student work purchased by the college.

A student organized art club raises funds or trips to local galleries, museums and an annual bus trip to New York City. Students gain practical experience in their field through service learning and volunteer opportunities.

MWCC’s art department is an integral part of the college and community, offering free gallery talks, an artist lectures series, open figure drawing sessions, art student lectures, high school art teacher workshops and a summer youth art program. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.