Community Stories

Purity Apiri was one of 200 volunteers who packaged meals for those in need during MWCC’s United Way Day of Caring project on Sept. 18.

Purity Apiri was one of 200 volunteers who packaged meals for those in need during MWCC’s United Way Day of Caring project on Sept. 18.

Capitalizing on its students’ eagerness to participate in community-engagement activities and a successful first year, Mount Wachusett Community College hosted its second annual United Way Day of Caring at its Gardner campus on Thursday, Sept. 18.

Through the leadership of the Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement, more than 200 volunteers packaged 20,736 meals for food pantries and veterans centers in North Central Massachusetts. An additional 200 meals are being made available to MWCC students struggling with food security through the college’s Students Serving Our Students (SOS) program.

“Civic engagement has been the cornerstone of our college for the last two decades, and it is the cornerstone of our democracy,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino, whose educational philosophy and college curriculum have long stressed civic engagement. “As Americans, we have an obligation to give back, and we are thrilled that our students and faculty can confront the major issue of hunger by helping  individuals in North Central Massachusetts.”

MWCC became a Day of Caring host site for the first time in 2013, following years of participation in the program and appeals from students wishing to donate their time. This year, the center organized 75-minute volunteer shifts from 8:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. to accommodate students’ class schedules and maximize the number of meals distributed throughout the community.

“This is a very important undertaking because we are supporting food pantries throughout North Central Massachusetts, most of which have low stocks,” said Fagan Forhan, Director of the Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement. “Volunteer turnout this year has surpassed our expectations, so we made the decision to up the ante from 16,000 meals to 20,000 meals.”

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.

Forhan credited the increased turnout to MWCC student and AmeriCorps VISTA John Day, who spearheaded the recruitment process. Among the many volunteers, MWCC student Jasson Alvarado Gomez arrived at 7 a.m. and unloaded an entire truck by himself.

“I get to school at 7 a.m. every day, so I was happy that I could help set up before the event started,” said Gomez, who, in his first year of volunteering, worked three shifts. “Helping people gives me so much energy, and I love doing it.”

MWCC participated along with numerous other organizations in North Central Massachusetts, recognizing the 19th Annual United Way Day of Caring.

Thoreau quote sign

Along the trails at Walden Pond in Concord.

This month, Mount Wachusett Community College launches “East Meets West in a Cabin in Concord: Walden and Beyond,” the first year of a multi-year, college and community project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The MWCC Humanities Project will begin with a book discussion on Walden, or Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau, famed Massachusetts author and the focus of this year’s initiative. Led by MWCC English Professors Michelle Valois and Susan Blake, the discussion will take place Wednesday, Sept. 17 from 6:30 to 8p.m. in the Commons Area of the college’s Gardner campus and is the first in a full slate of free events taking place this fall at venues throughout North Central Massachusetts.

Other upcoming events include a fundraising hike at Wachusett Mountain, a performance by a Thoreau re-enactor, and additional lectures and book discussions on the lasting relevance of Thoreau. Established through a $500,000 challenge grant the college received from the NEH,  the project will continue through 2019 with a new theme each academic year.

In late May, 30 MWCC educators spent a day walking the trails at Walden Pond in Concord, where Thoreau lived in a cabin for two years writing Walden, one of his most famous works. The visit was part of a week-long academy to prepare for the multi-disciplinary learning project devoted to the author’s influence and relevance to today’s students.

“Thoreau considered himself as much a scientist as a poet,” said Professor Valois, chair of the college’s Liberal Arts and Sciences and General Studies department and coordinator of the NEH project. “Thoreau’s scientific observations and inquiries are still relevant today and have given rise to the ‘citizen science’ movement. And as the creator of the modern concept of civil disobedience, Thoreau provides a perfect vehicle for examining the power and responsibility of the individual citizen in a healthy democracy.”

The program will continue with: “What Thoreau Can Teach Us about Climate Change,” a lecture led by Susan Gallagher of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell on Wednesday, Oct. 1 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Levi Heywood Memorial Library in Gardner; a screening of the film Into the Wild on Tuesday, Oct. 7 from 12:30 to 2:45 p.m. in Room 127 of MWCC Gardner campus; “Thoreau’s Relevance for Our Time,” a lecture led by writer and independent Thoreau scholar Corinne Smith, on Thursday, Oct. 9 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in the North Cafeteria at the Gardner campus; A Hike for the Humanities matching grant fundraiser on Saturday, Oct. 18 at 9 a.m., reenacting Thoreau’s 1842 hike at Wachusett Mountain; a book discussion of Tom Montgomery Fate’s Cabin Fever: A Suburban Father’s Search for the Wild on Tuesday, Oct. 28 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Athol Public Library; and a performance by Thoreau re-enactor Richard Smith of the Thoreau Society on Thursday, Oct. 30 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in the theater at MWCC’s Gardner campus.

Fall events will continue with a book discussion of Ken Ilgunas’Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom on Nov. 6 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Leominster Public Library; a lecture on “Thoreau: Eastern Philosophy and Non-Violence,” by Michael Frederick, Executive Director of the Thoreau Society, on Tuesday, Nov. 18 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in the North Cafeteria at the Gardner campus; and an exhibit with student presentations on Thursday, Dec. 4 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., also at the Gardner campus.

Spring activities will include additional book discussions and a poetry reading. For more information about the program and upcoming events, visit http://mwcc.edu/humanitiesproject.

Johnny Appleseed bench project

President Daniel Asquino and Art Professor Tom Matsuda pose in the East Wing Gallery with art students who participated in the Johnny Appleseed Country project. Seated: Jenifer Porcine, Corinne Goodrich and Michelle Gangnon; Back row: Tom Hill, President Asquino, Ben Mikels, Leandro Lopez and Professor Matsuda.

“Take a Seat in Johnny Appleseed Country” is a community project aimed at increasing foot traffic in the cities and towns that make up North Central Massachusetts. The Johnny Appleseed Trail Association met with the Wachusett Mountain Ski Resort and rather than throw away inoperative ski lift chairs, both organizations decided to use them as a promotional opportunity.

Six chairs were delivered to Montachusett Regional Technical School where they were refurbished and converted by students into functional benches. Then, they were delivered to Mount Wachusett Community College this summer, where they were painted by art students. MWCC Professor Tom Matsuda, chair of the art department, said he the students were excited to participate.  The chairs will be distributed in the region this fall.

Corinne Goodrich, a student involved with the project, said painting the bench was a challenge she enjoyed. “I think the project is honoring someone who was a remarkable person.”

Art student Tom Hill said he is new to creating art that will be seen by the public. “It’s been pretty fun. I don’t think I’ve ever done a project quite like this.” Student Ben Mikles said he likes any reason to have to create art. Any art created for the public is nice because it gets the artist’s name out in the open, he said.

“People like public art and this is really functional public art that can be sat on,” said Matt Myers, marketing and communications specialist for the Johnny Appleseed Trail Association. “As art students, one of the best things to do is get your work out there,” he said. ”All the students will have there names on the back of the chairs that they designed.”

Myers wanted the students to have their own individual style on the chairs, so he left the theme open for interpretation.

“The only guidelines given to the artists was to make it something relatable to North Central Massachusetts, whether that means a Johnny Appleseed themed bench or one that serves to represent the four seasons that are such a major part of life in the northeast,” Myers said. “I wanted to keep a general theme, that way the artists imagination would be given an opening to really express who they are and their connection to the area.”

From Wachusett Mountain, which has been a staple in the area for over 50 years, to students at Monty Tech and MWCC, the  Take a Seat in Johnny Appleseed Country project incorporates layers of community involvement to create ”something special,” Myers said.

- Alexander P. Moore

 

Nursing Class of 2014

Members of the 2014 Nursing Class are among the state and region’s newest health care employees.

Mount Wachusett Community College, its students and alumni add more than $207 million in income each year to North Central Massachusetts and the Commonwealth, according to a newly released regional economic impact report.The study, prepared for the college by Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc., involved a regional economic impact analysis and an investment analysis during the 2012-2013 fiscal year. According to the findings, MWCC promotes economic growth in the 29 cities and towns that comprise its service area in a variety of ways. The college is one of the region’s largest employers, it is a buyer of goods and services, is a primary source of education to local residents, and supplies local industry with trained workers.MWCC creates a significant positive impact on the local business community and generates a return on investment to its major stakeholder groups – students, society and taxpayers. During the analysis year, income created by MWCC as a result of college operations equaled $37.8 million and income created as the result of student productivity equaled $169.8 million, for a total effect of $207.6 million.

“The role of community colleges as economic engines has long been recognized and this study provides updated data on the positive impact MWCC has in our region and the state,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “We enroll more than 12,000 credit and noncredit students each year, and the majority of our alumni remain in the region and in the state to contribute to the local economy.”

The return on investment to students, society and taxpayers is significant, the report found. Students paid a total of $16.2 million to cover the cost of tuition, fees, books and supplies during the analysis year. In return for their investment, students will receive a present value of $409.5 million in increased earnings over their working lives. This translates to a return of $6.30 in higher future income for every $1 that students invest in their education, for an average annual return for students of 25.4 percent.

Society as a whole in Massachusetts will receive a present value of $955.3 million in added state income over the course of the students’ working lives. Society will also benefit from $15.3 million in present value social savings related to reduced crime, lower unemployment and increased health and well-being across the state. For every dollar that society spent on MWCC educations during the analysis year, society will receive a cumulative value of $9.80 in benefits, for as long as MWCC’s 2012-13 students remain active in the state workforce.

From the taxpayer perspective, state taxpayers invested $16.3 million to support the operations of MWCC. The net present value of added tax revenue stemming from the students’ higher lifetime incomes and the increased output of business amounts to $78.6 million in benefits to taxpayers. Savings to the public sector add another $4.5 million in benefits due to the reduced demand for government-funded services in Massachusetts. By dividing benefits to taxpayers by the associated costs, the average annual return on investment for taxpayers is 13.2 percent, or $5.10 in benefits for every $1.

Other highlights include:

  • MWCC employed a total of 1,069 faculty and staff in FY2012-13. Payroll amounted to $32.7 million, much of which was spent in the MWCC service region to purchase groceries, clothing and other household goods and services. The college spent another $14.3 million to support its day-to-day operations.
  • The net impact of college payroll and expenses in the MWCC service region during the analysis year was approximately $37.8 million in added regional income.
  • Overall, the added income created by MWCC and its students supported 3,294 job equivalents in the region.

 

MWCC ice bucket challenge

President Daniel Asquino is doused by Executive Vice President Ann McDonald during MWCC’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in memory of colleague Glenn Roberts.

Twenty-four MWCC employees, including President Daniel M. Asquino, lined up for the ice bucket challenge in memory of beloved colleague Glenn Roberts, who died a year ago on Aug. 12, 2013 after a courageous battle with the disease. The effort, organized by Access & Transition Staff Assistant Jessica Connors on behalf of “Glenn’s Friends,” raised more than $2,600 for the Massachusetts chapter of the ALS Association in honor of Roberts, who worked as an advisor and dean at the college for 21 years.

One by one, participants were drenched by a friend, colleague or family member who bid highest for the opportunity to tip a bucket. After being soaked by her young son, Executive Vice President Ann McDonald had the privilege of dousing the president.

“I’m challenging the other community colleges to get involved and raise just as much for ALS,” President Asquino announced.

In addition to President Asquino, Executive Vice President McDonald and Connors, other volunteers included Vice President Bob LaBonte, Vice President Lea Ann Scales, Kerrie Griffin, Kyla Holland, Jo-Anne Cronin-Fors, Scott Farris, Julie Crowley, Sue Guartafierro, Eric Johnson, Charity Cooley, Kate Smith, John Walsh, Michele Levasseur Goderre, Jim Halkola, Peggy Dow, Brenda Bourgeois, Lawrence Nfor, Chrystal Voorheis, Denise Whitney, Maryann Kane and Lexie Stewart.

To view the video, click here.

Bionostics Floyd 2Mount Wachusett Community College has been awarded a $75,000 grant from the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts to support student scholarships. This grant comes from the Community Foundation’s General Endowment Education Access Fund, and will specifically support MWCC’s Career Focused Education Scholarship Program.

The scholarship partnership between MWCC and the Community Foundation will support students enrolled in Advanced Manufacturing, Biotechnology, or a credit certificate program for career improvement, such as Certified Nursing Assistant, Emergency Medical Technician programs, as well as newly established programs Analytical Laboratory and Quality Systems, Cyber Security and Hospitality.

To qualify, students must live in North Central Massachusetts, demonstrate financial need, and be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Award amounts will vary.

“We are very grateful to the Community Foundation for this award to support students as they pursue their academic and career goals,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “The vast majority of our students remain in the area after graduating to live and work, so this funding ultimately helps strengthen our local communities as well as the economic vitality of our region.”

The grant was announced Aug. 8 by the Community Foundation, which awarded $293,000 to 23 organizations

The Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts is a nonprofit, community, corporation created by and for the people of greater North Central Massachusetts. They help philanthropic donors make a positive impact on their community. The Community Foundation General Endowment Education Access Fund supports community development, environment, animal welfare, arts and culture, as well as health and human services.

UBMS 2014 student group

UBMS Director Angele Goss and State Rep. Jon Zlotnick are joined by this year’s Upward Bound Math and Science students during the program’s recent year-end celebration.

Dozens of area high school students from Gardner, Athol and Winchendon were recently recognized for their academic success in Mount Wachusett Community College’s Upward Bound Math and Science program, a federal TRIO program celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Sixty-three students participated in the program’s summer residential component, which included dual enrollment courses, extracurricular activities, career exploration and field trips and took place at Fitchburg State University.

State Rep. Jon Zlotnik of Gardner was the keynote speaker. Lea Ann Scales, MWCC Vice President of Access, Transition and Development delivered a welcome from the college. UBMS Director Angele Goss and program coordinator Ralph Hogan also congratulated the students on their success.

“The six-week residential UBMS program provides a great environment for students to grow academically, socially and culturally,” said Angele Goss Director of Upward Bound Math Science and the North Central Mass Talent Search program, both offered through MWCC’s Division of Access and Transition. “We build a small supportive community that allows student to take positive risks toward educational and personal development.”

The program is offered to students who have an aptitude for math and science and are in grades 9 through 12 at Gardner High School, Athol High School and Murdock Memorial Middle/Senior High School in Winchendon. Two thirds of the students are from low income or first-generation college families and have an identified need for services.

During the summer, students dual enrolment courses in biology, psychology and English and attended a leadership conference, career roundtable, a variety of recreational and educational, career building workshops. The also learned languages from Rosetta Stone, Spanish, Korean, Mandarin and Italian, participated in community service. Other summer highlights include trips to several colleges and universities, Boston, Mystic Seaport, a talent show and family fun night.

MWCC’s North Central Massachusetts Upward Bound Math and Science program began in 2008 with a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. In 2012, the college received a five-year, $1.3 million grant to continue funding the program. Now completing its seventh year at the college, the program prepares high school students from Gardner, Athol, and Winchendon for success in high school and college in the fields of math and science.

The primary goal of the program is to prepare high school students for postsecondary education programs that lead to careers in the fields of math and science. The program provides a comprehensive academic year, summer and bridge program during the-five year period that is customized to the needs of each participant. On Saturdays and school vacations during the academic year, students  participate in college tours, monthly science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)-based cultural/academic enrichment opportunities, hands-on laboratory activities; STEM-based field trip, lectures and other activities.

The students also receive individual success plan development and follow-up meetings with academic counselors and program aides, secondary school course selection advising, after-school tutoring, guidance and assistance, alternative education programs, parent/guardian workshops, e-mentoring and workshops.

Freshmen and sophomores have access to state-mandated test preparation and a career fair and roundtable, while juniors and seniors have access to dual enrollment courses, SAT and ACT preparation, Accuplacer preparation, a college fair, college admission assistance, financial aid assistance, and postsecondary course selection advising during the academic year.

 

 

Summer UP 2014 Gardner

MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino, Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke and Gardner Superintendent Denise Clemens are thanked by members of MWCC’s Access & Transition staff, camp counselors and participants at the Jackson Playground site.

Summer UP, an MWCC Access & Transition program that began a decade ago to provide safe, summertime activities and employment opportunities to area youth, enhanced this year’s program with new career and college preparation training opportunities.

Now completing its 10th season, Summer UP this year provided 110 of area high school and middle school students with jobs as camp counselors at eight park sites in Leominster, Fitchburg, and Gardner. The counselors, who earn a stipend, worked with MWCC staff to provide supervised recreation activities for approximately 500 area school children of all ages, who attend the free activities.

“We’ve made a lot of modifications this year,” said Patrice Lincoln, Dean of Access and Transition. Among the changes for the program’s counselors, high school juniors and seniors enrolled in free summer dual enrollment courses, and the Commonwealth Corps’ 20-hour Signaling Success employment training program is now incorporated into the counselor training, along with park safety training, college preparation opportunities, and field trips.

Visitors during the five week program included Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke and Gardner’s new Superintendent of Schools Denise Clemens at the Jackson Park site, as well as town and school officials in Leominster.

In operation since the summer of 2005, Summer UP is a collaborative effort between MWCC’s Division of Access and Transition, the Mayors’ offices of the cities of Fitchburg, Leominster and Gardner, as well as various community based agencies. While providing safe recreational spaces for five weeks each summer, the program was designed to lower risky behavior and increase employment opportunities for area students. The objectives are to increase leadership, citizenship and college readiness skills for students and to ensure a safe, healthy, summer experience for at-risk children. MWCC staff assists youth employees in implementing daily craft, sports, and reading activities at each park site.

 

manufacturingThe long-standing collaboration between MWCC, the North Central Massachusetts Workforce Investment Board, and industry is showcased as a model demonstrating best practices for building and sustaining regional partnership in a new video created by the Advanced Manufacturing Regional Partnership Academy (AMRPA).

MWCC, known for its well established partnerships with corporations such as Nypro and Bristol-Myers Squibb and the recipient of a recent $15.9 million, multi-state grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, is featured in the video along with the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce, the North Central Workforce Investment Board and Nypro, Inc.

MWCC’s vice President of Lifelong Learning Jacqueline Belrose; Dean of Workforce Development John Henshaw; Kathleen Kirby, National Consortium Project Manager of of the TAACCCT-funded Advanced Manufacturing & Quality Consortium, are among the college officials interviewed in the video. The video was one of three unveiled during an AMRPA meeting in June.

The academy brings together manufacturers, workforce investment boards and academia to help regions throughout the state develop sustainable and effective partnerships that respond to industry needs.

Established by Gov. Deval Patrick in 2013 to accelerate the adoption of best practices, capacity building and industry engagement, the academy is a collaborative effort of the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative, the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, the Executive Office of Education, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, and the University of Massachusetts. The academy is funded by MassDevelopment through the Advanced Manufacturing Futures Fund.

 

 

Mary Bergevin, Paula D'Entremont, and Sue Hermanson

MWCC’s first nursing program Director Paula d’Entremont, center, with members of the first graduating class, Mary Bergevin and Sue Hermanson.

Alumni, faculty and staff of the MWCC Nursing Program gathered on June 25 at the Gardner Campus to reconnect and celebrate four decades of nursing education at MWCC. Alumni in attendance were representative of each decade since the program was established.

Mary Bergevin and Susan Hermanson were on hand to represent the first graduating class of 1974. ”This is absolutely wonderful seeing everyone together” commented Ms. Hermanson. “It took 40 years, but was well worth the wait.”  Mary Bergevin remarked that “It is exciting to reflect on the differences and advances that have been made when comparing how we learned with what the students have available to them today.”

The event featured a session on “Laughter Yoga” as well as tours of the new Sim Lab and information about continuing education programs.

Judy Fredette, ADN Nursing Program Chair who organized the event, commented ”It is exciting for us, as faculty, to reconnect with our former students and retired colleagues to find out how they are doing in life, to learn if they ever went beyond MWCC in their education, where they are working now, what we did right and what we can do better.”

Many in attendance expressed their wishes to make the Nursing Alumni Reunion a regular event. If interested in helping to plan future events, please email alumni@mwcc.mass.edu.

- Carol Jacobson