Community Stories

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Community and college officials joined students at the Jackson Playground to celebrate the new mural. From Left, City Councillor Karen Hardern, Jesse Maguine, Margot Parrot, Gardner Economic Development Coordinator Joshua Cormier, State Rep. Jonathan Zlotnik, Ben Mikels, President Daniel Asquino, Kabilgangai Subramanian, Cyrus Ndolo, Mayor Mark Hawke, and Art Department Chair Thomas Matsudo. Not Pictured Anthony Guerrera.

Mount Wachusett Community College art students partnered with the city of Gardner to transform a graffiti-covered wall into public art at the newly refurbished Jackson Playground.

Since mid-May, five students have been working on their “Unplug and Play” mural conveying their message that children should put down the controllers and have fun at the playground. The 150-foot mural depicts Gardner scenes, ranging from the giant chair to the orange and black stripes of the Wildcats to the college’s turbines.

On June 8, President Daniel M. Asquino, Mayor Mark Hawke, and state Rep. Jonathan Zlotnik, Art Professor Thomas Matsuda, chair of the college’s art department, and other community and college officials visited the site and congratulated the artists on their accomplishment. The artists are Ben Mikels, Anthony Guerrero, Cyrus Ndolo, Margot Parrot, and Kablilganfai Subramanian.

MWCC art students have participated in community art projects since 2008, beginning with a mural at the Goodnow Pearson building on Main Street that covered boarded windows at the former department store.

“Civic engagement has become a hallmark of Mount Wachusett Community College, and this is largely due to the enthusiasm and dedication of our students and faculty, who volunteered their time and talents in so many ways,” said MWCC president Daniel M. Asquino. “We’re very proud of the students who participated in this downtown beautification project.”

“This is a great project. It provides experience for the students and enhances the image of the city. It’s ideal,” he added.

Matsuda, chair of the college’s art department, explained that the students worked collaboratively to develop the theme. “I was so amazed at how quickly it all came together. The students worked very hard and are very dedicated.”

The project has received great support from the community said Joshua Cormier, the city’s Economic Development Coordinator, who has heard from many families who appreciate what the students have done.

“It added a lot of character to the playground, Cormier said, noting it would likely gain the new nickname “Unplug and Play Playground”

State Rep. Jonathan Zlotnik recalled playing at the park as a child. “It’s great to see all of this come together.”

-Katherine Best

Gardner High students at MWCC Manufacturing expo

Gardner High School students, who attended the event with guidance counselor Christine Leamy, participated in robotics demonstrations and other presentations during Mount Wachusett Community College’s Manufacturing Career Expo.

Teenagers and young adults, career changers, employers and business leaders were among those participating in Mount Wachusett Community College’s hands-on Manufacturing Career Expo at the college’s Devens campus.

The May 28 expo showcased regional job openings and career advancement opportunities, as well as training programs to help students enter or advance in the field. Attendees had the opportunity to learn about free training programs, explore career paths in modern manufacturing, participate in hands-on demonstrations, and meet local employers, recruiters, service providers, and MWCC admissions representatives. Biotechnology, mechatronics, women in technology, 3-D printing and robotics and quality systems were among the featured presentations.

“These students are all into robotics and they are definitely STEM-driven,” said Gardner High School Guidance Counselor Christine Leamy, who brought a group of sophomores and juniors.

MWCC offers several noncredit programs, currently grant-funded and free to participants, as well as academic certificate and associate degree programs in the fields of advanced manufacturing, biotechnology and biomanufacturing and other science, technology, engineering and math-related fields.

For the upcoming year, the noncredit programs are free to qualifying students through a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration.

A six-week Industry Readiness Training program was developed with industry employers to prepare students for entry-level to mid-level jobs in the local, diverse advanced manufacturing industry. The program is designed especially for unemployed or underemployed adults, veterans and recent high school graduates who want to train for careers the manufacturing industry. Programs provide students with training in skills required for entry-level employment in positions such as technicians in manufacturing, validation, quality control, documentation, and process operations.

Students who successfully complete the program earn an MWCC Certificate of Completion, an OSHA 10-hour Safety Certification and the National Career Readiness Certificate, while learning about working in the fast-growing manufacturing field.

A two-week Quality Systems Training program prepares students for jobs in quality assurance and quality control for a variety of manufacturing industries including biopharmaceutical processing and medical device manufacturing.

Classes are forming now for free, six-week Industry Readiness Training courses and free, two-week quality systems training courses that begin in July, September and November. For more information and to register, visit mwcc.edu/advancedmanufacturing or call 978-630-9883.

MWCC Pathways & Gateway grads 2015An Olympic hopeful, an 18-year-old transferring directly into a doctoral program, and several teenagers who are the first in their families to attend college are among the 32 graduates of Mount Wachusett Community College’s dual enrollment programs.

This year’s graduates of the Pathways Early College Innovation School and the Gateway to College program were recognized during a May 26 graduation ceremony at MWCC. The programs, offered in partnership with the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District, 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.

“We have all been given the amazing opportunity to get two years of college out of the way while in high school, which I am glad we all decided to take on, although challenging,” said Pathways valedictorian Emily Lapinskas of Athol, who earned an associate degree from MWCC last week and will continue her studies in biology at the University of Massachusetts “I have been assured by many parents and current students that it is, indeed, amazing, especially when you look at all the money we save. You’re welcome, mom and dad!”

Gateway valedictorian Samantha Buckler of Winchendon was homeschooled before enrolling in the program. This fall, she is transferring to Keene State College, where she was awarded a presidential scholarship that will cover more than a year’s worth of tuition, fees and housing.

“Gateway is a wonderful opportunity for students of all different backgrounds to receive a high school diploma while earning college credits,” she said. “I am excited to see where life brings me as well as where it will bring everyone else who has been blessed with this opportunity.”

Sarah Raulston of Baldwinville, who earned an associate degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences with a concentration in biology from MWCC last week, is the youngest student to be accepted into the Doctor of Pharmacy program at the University of New England in Maine. With the first two years of the six-year program accepted as transfer credits, she is on target to graduate with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree by the time she is 22.

“I knew I wanted to go to pharmacy school, so I wanted to get a head start. High school is fun, but dual enrollment is such a good opportunity to get ahead,” she said.

Keynote speaker Jason Zelesky, MWCC dean of students, encouraged the graduates to “make lasting, positive change” in a world that needs their optimism, and also took a moment to address their families and friends in the audience. “Thank you for allowing them to take this risk and complete their education in such an innovative and transformative way.”

MWCC vice President of External Affairs, Communications and K-12 Partnerships Lea Ann Scales, Mahar Superintendent Tari Thomas, and MWCC Dual Enrollment Director Craig Elkins also congratulated the students on their achievements.

Established in 2010 as one of the first two innovation schools in Massachusetts, the Pathways Early College Innovation School provides motivated high school juniors and home schooled students the opportunity to accelerate the pace of their academic. MWCC’s Gateway to College program, established in 2005 as the first Gateway site in New England, provides a second chance for students ages 16 to 21 who have dropped out of high school, are at risk of dropping out, or experienced a setback, as well as an opportunity for home schooled students to complete high school and college studies.

MWCC’s Division of Access and Transition is currently enrolling students in both programs for the fall semester.

 

MWCClaptopsForVets

Rollstone Bank & Trust is the first major sponsor of the new Laptops for Veterans program. From left, Thomas Berger, MWCC Student Trustee-elect and an Army veteran; Linda Racine, Executive Vice President of RBT; MWCC President Daniel Asquino; and Robert Mayer, MWCC Director of Veteran Services

With a donation of $3,000, Rollstone Bank & Trust became the first major sponsor of the new, student-initiated Laptops for Vets program at Mount Wachusett Community College, which is aimed at helping veteran students succeed in their studies. The Veteran Success Center at MWCC was created five years ago to meet the unique needs of veterans transitioning from soldier to veteran. The laptops that were part of the initial program have become outdated, so student trustee and Army veteran Thomas Berger initiated this fundraising program.Martin F. Connors, Jr., President & CEO of Rollstone Bank & Trust, said, “The Rollstone Charitable Foundation’s mission is to strengthen our communities and enhance the academic lives of area students. The veteran students at MWCC have served our country proudly; there is no one more deserving of our help.”

“We are tremendously grateful to Rollstone Bank & Trust for this generous donation to support our student veterans,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “Rollstone’s gift provides an immediate jump-start to this initiative.”

Berger’s goal is to equip the Veterans Success Center with 25 new laptops. Tax-deductible donations may be made payable to MWCC Foundation with “Laptops for Vets” in the memo line, and mailed to MWCC Foundation, 444 Green Street, Gardner, MA 01440, or contact Jo-Ann Meagher at jmeagher@mwcc.mass.edu. To learn more about Laptops for Vets, visit mwcc.edu/laptopsforvets.

 

Dean Eileen Costello pins Fortunate Munhutu May 2015

Fortunate Munhutu receives her pin from Dean Eileen Costello during MWCC’s 42nd nurse pinning ceremony.

Ninety eight graduates of MWCC’s day, evening and LPN to ADN  nursing programs celebrated  a  milestone during the 42nd annual Nurse Pinning Ceremony held May 21 at the Fitness & Wellness Center.

Each graduate, dressed in a traditional nurse uniform, was welcomed into the profession by having a nursing pin fastened to her/his lapel by a fellow nurse—a family member, friend or faculty member. The eight-star pin is imprinted with the words “Service to Humanity and the World” with the nursing symbol in the middle.

“This is a big night for our nursing students,” Executive Vice President Ann McDonald told the gathering of hundreds of friends and family members, current students and alumni. “I see first-hand, every day the dedication our nursing students have to their studies and profession.”

Eileen Costello, Dean of the School of Health Professions, Public Service Programs and Social Sciences led the ceremony with the assistance of faculty members.

The graduates also lit electronic candles and recited the Florence Nightinigale Pledge, an oath originally composed in 1893 and named for the founder of modern nursing.

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Student Government Association President Cathy Teague leads the Class of 2015 to their Commencement ceremony.

Unlike Mount Wachusett Community College’s first commencement in 1966, when 71 graduates received associate degrees in six academic programs, the college this year awarded 842 associate degrees and academic certificates to 785 graduates enrolled in nearly 50 program options.

During the college’s 50th commencement on May 20, President Daniel M. Asquino asked the graduates to reflect on their accomplishments and their journey ahead.

“Lives change here like nowhere else. Over the past 50 years, tens of thousands of students have crossed this stage and they are now contributing members of our communities,” he said. “I challenge you to go forward and use your skills and the education that you received to continue these pursuits and to improve your life, that of your family and friends and that of our community, your state and your nation, and that you manifest an overall behavior that generates happiness, goodwill and contagious optimism.”

Kevin Berg

Kevin Berg

Keynote speaker and 2015 Alumnus of the Year Award recipient Kevin Berg urged the graduates to embrace change, persist toward their goals with drive, determination and desire, and accept the help and support of others as needed.“To me there can be no greater honor than being asked to give the Commencement address at the institution that started me on my path in becoming the person I am today,” said Berg, who grew up in Gardner and is now executive vice president of production for CBS Network Entertainment in Los Angeles. “My path clearly had its genesis right here at Mount Wachusett.”After studying broadcasting and communications at MWCC, he worked for six months at a news station in Boston. In the summer of 1984, he moved to LA, where he landed a job in television production and quickly moved up the ranks working with award-winning director Marty Pasetta and then at CBS.

 

Jim Garrison and President Asquino

Long-serving Board of Trustees chairman Jim Garrison received an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters and the 2015 Service Above Self Award for his leadership and generosity. In appreciation, he also received a standing ovation.

MWCC also presented business leader, philanthropist and college advocate James O. Garrison with an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters and the 2015 Service Above Self Award. The award recognizes those who have made significant contributions to MWCC and the 29 North Central Massachusetts cities and towns that make up MWCC’s service area. In addition to extensive community service, Mr. Garrison is a former chair of the college’s Board of Trustees and benefactor of the Garrison Center for Early Childhood Education and Early Childhood Education scholarships.“His philanthropic endeavors have resulted in countless improvements and changes to MWCC that have enhanced the learning environment for college students and children and the vital role the college plays in the community,” President Asquino said.

Student speaker Yasmine Kanaan of Still River, a Business Administration major, shared her poignant story of how MWCC helped her overcome obstacles, redirect her life and discover her potential.

Yasmine Kanaan

Yasmine Kanaan

“My rise was not easy, and my journey continues as I work hard to better myself and put the pieces of my life back together,” she said. “I have gone from a lost young adult with no goals and no identity, to a student with a high GPA, an associate’s degree in business that I was able to complete in one year, and an acceptance to the University of Massachusetts Lowell. This was all possible because this college embraced me and opened so many doors for me. We all owe this day and our success to the Mount for creating that stepping stone, that opportunity for each of us to be able to have a better and brighter future, for creating an environment that makes it easy to transition back into school, and for faculty who are very willing to help and advise us in any way they can.”

Student Trustee Phillip M. Stan was presented with the Trustees’ Award. Bryce Bodley-Gomes of Ashburnham and Cindy Caron of Jaffrey, N.H. received President’s Keys. John Day of Gardner was presented with this year’s Dean’s Key.

Five retiring professors were awarded emeriti status: Joel Anderson, Media Arts & Technology; Paul Laverty, Mathematics; John McNally, Health Sciences, Fitness & Wellness; Elena Natalizia, Criminal Justice; and John Reilly, Business Administration.

Garrisons with Dan and Tina

Peggy and Jim Garrison, with Board of Trustees Chair Tina Sbrega and President Asquino, were recognized for their generous contributions to the college and its students.

Prior to MWCC’s 50th Commencement ceremony, college and local officials paid tribute to Jim and Peggy Garrison for their generous support over the past several decades to the college and students.

Named in their honor, the Garrison Center for Early Childhood Education on the Gardner campus serves as an educational setting for college students as well as a preschool in collaboration with the Montachusett Opportunity Council. The center will be adorned with a plaque commemorating their gifts.

“Jim and Peggy Garrison epitomize the essence of what it means to be caring, engaged citizens in a democratic society. They give freely of their time, talent, and resources to philanthropic efforts that advance humankind,” the plaque reads.

“This Center is named in recognition of their generous gift toward the construction of the facility and their additional gift of $1,000,000 for scholarships to students who study in the field of early childhood education. It is their belief that those who care for our precious children deserve to have all barriers to higher education eliminated. Further, they correctly believe that the foundation to success and compassion begins in the early years and that children have the right to be supported by parents and caregivers who are keenly interested in their development.

Jim and Peggy Garrison will be forever instrumental in the success of our city, our community, and our nation by their efforts to nurture the development of compassionate and engaged human beings from their formative years forward.”

First MWCC graduation 1966

MWCC’s first Commencement exercises took place on June 12, 1966 with 71 graduates. This year, the college will award more than 840 degrees and certificates to 781 graduates. Pictured, from left, 1966 graduates and award recipients Mary Pieloch and Doris Townsend; Dr. Arthur F. Haley, President; graduate and award recipient James Eacmen, Jr.; and Commencement speaker Dr. Howard B. Jefferson, president of Clark University. (Photo courtesy of The Gardner News)

Fifty years ago, lifelong Gardner resident Helen Lepkowski was among a handful of Mount Wachusett Community College faculty members to congratulate the college’s first graduating class.

On Wednesday, May 20, the former business division professor and her husband, Ed, a former MWCC trustee, will maintain their longstanding tradition of attending the celebration. Unlike the first ceremony, where 71 graduates received associate degrees in six academic programs, the college will award more than 840 associate degrees and academic certificates to 785 graduates enrolled in nearly 50 program options.

Mount Wachusett’s first commencement, held outdoors on Sunday, June 12, 1966 at the Elm Street campus, featured Dr. Howard B. Jefferson, the third president of Clark University, as the speaker.

“It was very small and it was just wonderful and intimate. It was a beautiful day,” Mrs. Lepkowski recalled. “It’s always a wonderful opportunity to be there and there are always people you know who are graduating or are there for the occasion.”

MWCC’s 50th Commencement ceremony will begin at 6 p.m. in the college’s Fitness & Wellness Center.

Among this year’s highlights, Gardner native Kevin Berg, executive vice president of production for CBS Network Entertainment in Los Angeles, will deliver the commencement address. Berg also will receive an honorary doctorate of Humanities, as well as the 2015 Alumnus of the Year Award.

Community leader and long-serving volunteer James O. Garrison will receive is the recipient of Mount Wachusett Community College’s 2015 Service Above Self Award. The award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions within the 29 cities and towns that make up the college’s service area. Mr. Garrison, former MWCC Board of Trustees chair and benefactor of the Garrison Center for Early Childhood Education and Early Childhood Education scholarships, will receive an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters. Prior to the commencement ceremony, President Daniel M. Asquino and the Board of Trustees will recognize Mr. Garrison and his wife, Peggy, for their generous gifts and commitment to students during a rededication of the Garrison Center.

Business Administration graduate Yasmine Kanaan has been selected to deliver the Class of 2015 Student Address.

Five retiring professors will receive emeriti status: Joel Anderson, Media Arts & Technology; Paul Laverty, Mathematics; John McNally, Health Sciences, Fitness & Wellness; Elena Natalizia, Criminal Justice; and John Reilly, Business Administration.

New this year, two food trucks will be on site to curb appetites: The Dogfather Truck of Worcester, and Dylan and Pete’s Ice Cream Truck of Boston. The MWCC Alumni Association will return with flowers for sale, and the Phi Theta Kappa honor society will conduct its 12th annual Project Graduation food drive. Graduates and their guests are asked to bring a non-perishable food item to the commencement rehearsal and/or ceremony. Donations will be delivered to the Gardner Community Action Committee, the Winchendon Community Action Committee, and MWCC’s Students SOS office.

Cathy Teague

Cathy M. Teague

The state Department of Higher Education will kick off the 2015 commencement season by recognizing top students from across Massachusetts at the fifth annual 29 Who Shine award ceremony on May 14 at the State House. The award honors 29 outstanding public college and university graduates, one from each community college, state university and UMass campus, for their academic achievement and community service.

Mount Wachusett Community College student Cathy May Teague of Winchendon will be among the students recognized by Governor Charlie Baker, state education officials, campus presidents and others attending the ceremony.

“I want to congratulate the outstanding Class of 2015 graduates for the recognition they have received and thank them for their substantial contributions to their local communities,” said Gov. Baker. “Each of the ‘29 Who Shine’ honorees, in addition to being an accomplished student, is civically engaged in ways that improve the quality of life in Massachusetts.”

“Each one of our 29 honorees is from Massachusetts and planning to remain in Massachusetts,” noted Richard M. Freeland, commissioner of higher education. “Through their dedicated scholarship and deep engagement in their local communities, these students are making good on the taxpayers’ investment in their education.”

A lifelong resident of Massachusetts, Teague has her hands full as a full-time student, a mother of three young sons, and stepmother to two teenagers and a 20-year-old soldier serving in Afghanistan. Yet she makes it a priority to carve out time to serve fellow students as president of Mount Wachusett Community College’s Student Government Association, vice president of the college’s chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, and mentor to peers who are struggling with academic or personal issues by volunteering with the Students Serving Our Students (SOS) program.

Teague has taken a leadership role in civic engagement on and off campus, participating in many endeavors such as helping to build a home with Habitat for Humanity of North Central Massachusetts, food drives to assist those in need, and fundraising to benefit student-centered campus initiatives and community nonprofit organizations. As president of the SGA, she spearheaded the college’s annual Thanksgiving Food Drive, which served more than 80 families this past year. Additionally, she and her husband, Jason, reach out to help others in as many ways as possible, for example opening their home on Thanksgiving to veterans.

A first-generation college student, Teague participated in the college’s Rx program, a TRIO Student Support Services program designed specifically for health care majors.

“It became clear that in order for me to have a stable career, I needed a college education,” Teague said. “Because of the support, scholarships and positive encouragement I received at Mount Wachusett, I have grown into a confident person with a clear path.”

An outstanding student academically, Teague was recognized this spring as a member of the Phi Theta Kappa All-Massachusetts Academic Team and nominated to the All-USA Academic Team. She has been named to the President’s List and the Dean’s list for academic achievement and will be recognized as a Civic Scholar at Commencement for her extensive service learning and volunteer work. This spring, she also was named to Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities.

Teague is applying to become an AmeriCorps VISTA, and plans to continue her studies at MWCC to earn a Physical Therapist Assistant degree to achieve her career goal of working with children as a PTA.

The 29 Who Shine campaign asks each honoree to select a faculty or staff mentor to accompany them to the celebration in Boston. Teague named Elaine R. Gagne, an adjunct professor of English, reading and first year experience. The Athol resident also works as a technology teacher for grades K-6 at the Orange Elementary School.

“Professor Gagne has given me endless encouragement through personal and academic challenges. She helped me unlock my potential, allowing me to grow not only as a student but to grow into many leadership roles. She also taught me that if my dreams don’t scare me, they are not big enough,” Teague said.

“I am so proud of Cathy. When I had her in FYE, I knew she was going to go far,” Gagne said.