Community Stories


Members of the Fitchburg High School Class of 2015, pictured with Principal Jeremy Roche and Victor Rojas, Assistant GEAR UP Director at MWCC, returned to the school to advise seniors on transitioning to college.

Take time to tour a variety of colleges and universities prior to enrolling. Seek out scholarships and financial aid. Once enrolled, become involved with clubs and activities to meet new friends. Beware the “freshman 15” weight gain. Learn to manage your time. Don’t skip class, and above all, study.

A dozen Fitchburg High School alumni returned to their alma mater on January 8 to offer these and other tips to high school seniors about successfully transitioning to college. The alumni, all graduates of the Class of 2015, are now pursuing a variety of academic programs at public and private colleges and universities.

The hour-long Alumni Breakfast forum, sponsored by Mount Wachusett Community College’s Division of Access & Transition and the high school’s guidance department, covered a wide range of topics including selecting a school and a major, financing an education, study habits, course load, time management, dorm life and enduring difficult roommates.

“If you’re not a morning person, I don’t recommend taking early morning classes,” advised Mariah Comeau, a student at the University of South Carolina. “Your mother is not there to wake you up.”

The forum was open to the entire senior class through MWCC’s GEAR UP program (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs), which is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The annual event was initiated more than a decade ago and is still going strong.

“It is a wonderful chance for FHS alumni from the class of 2015 to give back to FHS,” said Principal Jeremy Roche. “They provide the messages and advice about planning for college that the current seniors find most relevant and credible. This is some of the most helpful information coming directly from their peers.”

When discussing balancing classes, homework, study time and a social life, Worcester State University education major Kelsen Boyette advised the students, “manage your freedom well.”

Similar events are also taking place this month at Leominster, Athol, Ralph C. Mahar and Murdock high schools.

“This is certainly an impactful experience from which the seniors get important lessons on the transition to college,” said MWCC GEAR UP Director Andrew Goodwin.

Participating Fitchburg High School alumni were Micaela Canessa Giorello (Mount Wachusett Community College); Alicia Giannetti (Boston University); Caylin Rymph (Ashland University); Jillian Crocker (Fitchburg State University); Dasia Aldarondo (Worcester Polytechnic Institute); Hannah Hallett (UMass Amherst); Morgan Gray (UMass Amherst); Kelsen Boyette (Worcester State University); Janelle Forgues (Bridgewater State University); Mariah Comeau (University of South Carolina); Isabel Wilder (Southern New Hampshire University); and Bridget Colon (UMass Dartmouth).




Manufacturing Roundtable at MWCC Jan 5 2016

Senior Learning Specialist Jennifer Stephens demonstrates new advanced manufacturing equipment to lawmakers, business and community leaders during a tour of the Devens campus and meeting of the North Central Massachusetts Manufacturing Roundtable.

State lawmakers joined community and business leaders to underscore the value manufacturing brings to the region and brainstorm ways to employ more workers in this prosperous and growing field during the monthly meeting of the North Central Massachusetts Manufacturing Roundtable.

The January 5 meeting was hosted by Mount Wachusett Community College at its Devens campus, and included tours of the college’s Manufacturing Workforce Center and equipment demonstrations.

Nearly 40 people joined MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino for the dialogue, including state Senators Jennifer Flanagan, Anne Gobi and Jamie Eldridge; state Representative Jennifer Benson; Thatcher Kezer, MassDevelopment senior vice president, Devens; Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke; Fitchburg Mayor Stephen DiNatale; North Central Massachusetts Chamber President and CEO Roy Nascimento; Nashoba Valley Chamber President and CEO Melissa Fetterhoff; Greater Gardner Chamber President and CEO Jim Bellina; and representatives from the North Central Career Center, Workforce Investment Board and offices of Congressman Jim McGovern, Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, and state Representative Harold Naughton.

Much of the discussion focused on changing public perception about manufacturing by raising awareness about today’s clean, modern and safe facilities, diverse, well-paying jobs, employee benefits and opportunities for career growth in the industry. Attendees vowed to remain committed to fighting the stigma associated with manufacturing by enhancing collaboration with area school systems to provide career information to students, parents and educators.

“There is a greater awareness, but it hasn’t risen to the parents’ level” of recommending manufacturing as a viable, stable career field for their children, said David McKeehan, former president of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber who founded the Manufacturing Roundtable 15 years ago as a way for business and industry leaders to address mutual concerns and grow the region’s economy.

Manufacturing accounts for nearly 25 percent of the workforce in North Central Massachusetts, yet finding workers remains a critical issue, particularly among young people who are needed to fill positions being vacated by retiring baby boomers.

“Manufacturing is what built us. This is the backbone of our community,” said Senator Flanagan.

MWCC opened its Manufacturing Workforce Center in fall 2013 in response to the increasing demand for production workers. In addition to the Industry Readiness Training Program, the college offers a variety of credit and noncredit STEM programs including analytical laboratory & quality systems training, mechatronics and associate degrees in biotechnology and manufacturing technology.

This year, MWCC will continue offering free training in advanced manufacturing through its Industry Readiness Training Program. The next, six-week course begins on January 19 at the Devens campus.

The training program is made possible through a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration. For more information about registering, visit or contact the campus at 978-630-9883 or



50_Logos_4versions_2014Mount Wachusett Community College has been selected to join the Association of American Colleges and Universities and The Democracy Commitment in “Citizenship Under Siege,” a national program of public forums being sponsored this spring through a $200,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The AAC&U and The Democracy Commitment, in partnership with seven community colleges in the country, will facilitate a tapestry of public dialogues exploring who counts as citizens and who has been accorded full rights to democracy’s promises. These forums will be grounded in the nation’s history and explore creative ways to use the power of the humanities to bridge differences and build strong communities.

MWCC’s program, titled Citizenship Under Siege: Degrees of Citizenship, will take place throughout the spring semester in collaboration with local nonprofit organizations, police departments and elected officials.

Political scientist Robert D. Putnam, author of 14 books including the bestselling “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis” and “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community,” will be among the featured speakers at MWCC. Putnam is the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government.

“We are proud and honored to be chosen to participate in this timely, national initiative,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “Through these forums, we intend to bring the humanities out of the typical classroom and into the public sphere to engage students, staff, faculty and the greater community in deliberative dialogues around some of society’s most critical issues,” he said.

“One of the benefits of working within a community college is the ability to be adaptive and dynamic, to respond to the needs of our students quickly, yet with intention,” said Fagan Forhan, director of Experiential Learning Opportunities and Civic Engagement at MWCC and director of the college’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement. “Very few community colleges are doing the work of deliberative dialogues, and yet our students are living with these social justice issues in a very immediate and visceral way.”

Forhan and MWCC Dean of Students Jason Zelesky will serve as project directors, working with a team of faculty, students and staff.

The NEH announced the grants in December as part of its new initiative, The Common Good: Humanities and the Public Square. The project builds upon a previous NEH-funded initiative, Bridging Cultures to Form a Nation: Difference, Community, and Democratic Thinking, in which MWCC also participated.


Final-MWCC-Graduation-HatMount Wachusett Community College, the Athol Area YMCA and the Athol Public Library are teaming up to offer “3 for 3 College Readiness,” a series of three free workshops on the third Tuesday of the month from January through March. The sessions are geared toward adult learners of all ages.

The first session, “College Planning 101: Investing in your Future,” will take place January 19 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Athol Area YMCA. In this interactive workshop, participants will learn about the many benefits of earning a college degree, including career advancement, economic stability, and overall wellness.

The next session, “Financing Your Education” will take place February 16 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Athol Public Library. The workshop will guide participants through the process of completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine eligibility for grants, scholarships and student loans to cover the cost of tuition, fees and textbooks.

The third session, “Dive into College: Apply Today,” will take place March 15 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Athol Area YMCA. Students interested in enrolling in summer and fall 2016 courses will receive on-the-spot acceptance for any non-selective program. Students interested in enrolling in a selective program, which includes nursing, dental hygiene, dental assisting, physical therapist assistant and health information management, can obtain information about the application process.

Registration is not required, although reservations are recommended and can be made online at For information, contact the MWCC Admissions Office at or 978-630-9122, or visit


MWCC PN pinning Dec 15 2015Forty-two Mount Wachusett Community College students were welcomed into the nursing profession during a traditional pinning ceremony on December 21.

“As you graduate and take on new challenges, it is important to remember that you have already taken the initial step you needed to build a more promising future,” keynote speaker Michelle Humphrey, RN, a 2006 alumna of the program, told the graduates. “Every class you’ve taken, every lab, paper and certification you’ve earned, have all been preparing you to adapt to change and future challenges. The most powerful tool you will have is the determination to succeed, which has taken you through this program and culminated in this pinning.”

Like many of the graduates, Ms. Humphrey began her healthcare career as a nurse assistant, before becoming a licensed practical nurse and a registered nurse. After earning an associate degree in nursing, she went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, graduating with honors. She was consecutively promoted to her present position, director of nursing services, for Genesis Healthcare’s Pheasant Wood Center and Keene Center in New Hampshire.

“This program brought enormous good into my life, the opportunity to build a career, financial security for my family and a job where I positively impact people every single day,” she said.

Robert LaBonte, Vice President of Finance and Administration, congratulated the students on behalf of the college and President Daniel M. Asquino, and Eileen Costello, Dean of the School of Health Professions, Public Service Programs & Social Sciences, delivered greetings from the academic school.

Graduates Leslie Jele, Barbara Avila and Melissa Gonzalez delivered student addresses, and classmates Rebecca Beirholm, Cynthia Riley, and Terri Stewart led the lighting of the lamp and the Florence Nightingale Pledge.

Each graduate, dressed in a traditional nurse uniform, was welcomed into the profession by having a nursing pin fastened to her or his lapel by a fellow nurse – a family member, friend or faculty member. MWCC’s eight-star pin is imprinted with the words “Service to Humanity and the World” with the nursing symbol in the middle. Professors Kathleen Panagiotes, Kimberly Shea and Collene Thaxton led the ceremony, which took place at the Colonial Hotel while renovations at the MWCC’s Green Street campus continue.

As part of the one-year academic program, the students trained with professionals at 23 clinical sites that partner with the college, including Athol Hospital; Clinton Hospital; Community Health Connections; DaVita Dialysis Center; Gardner Public Schools, Gardner Rehabilitation & Nursing Center; Golden Living Center; GVNA Health Care, Inc. – Fitchburg, Gardner and North Quabbin; Habit OPCO; Heywood Hospital MHU/GPU; Heywood Hospital Maternity Center; HealthAlliance, Leominster Birthing Center; Leominster Public School District; Life Care, the Highlands; Northeast Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Clinic; Quabbin Valley Health Care; St. Peter-Marian Jr.-Sr. High School; St. Vincent Hospital, Seven Hills Pediatric Center; Stetson School; and Worcester Recovery Center & Hospital.



Police and criminal justice officials throughout the region recently provided internship opportunities for a number of Mount Wachusett Community College students majoring in criminal justice.

Student interns completed a minimum of 120 hours over a 15-week semester at different sites throughout the region including the Gardner, Clinton, Shirley and Winchendon police departments and the North Central Correctional Institution in Gardner.

“The internships are a great way for students to gain experience while making connections that can lead to jobs,” said department chair Reed Hillman, former commander of the Massachusetts State Police.




Mary-Ann Nkongchu of Worcester, Andrew Wegiel of Leominster and Alexander Ramos Jr. of Leominster were among a class of 26 dual enrollment students completing English Composition I in December through the Commonwealth Dual Enrollment Partnership at Mount Wachusett Community College.

High school and homeschooled students interested in saving money while getting a head start on their college education can choose from several upcoming courses available through the Commonwealth Dual Enrollment Partnership (CDEP) at MWCC. The three-credit courses are being offered at the grant-funded price of $30, including textbooks, for the spring semester beginning January 20. 

Managed and supported by the Massachusetts departments of Higher Education and Elementary and Secondary Education, CDEP provides opportunities for high school students to take college-level courses at a discounted price and earn credit toward their high school diploma and future college degrees.

In September, MWCC was awarded a $50,000 CDEP grant from the Department of Higher Education, which has set a goal of increasing statewide dual enrollment from 2,000 to 3,400 each year. More than 500 high school students are concurrently enrolled at MWCC throughout the college academic year. In addition to CDEP, MWCC’s academic programs are available to high school students through traditional full-time and part-time dual enrollment, the Gateway to College program and the Pathways Early College Innovation School.

CDEP provides meaningful and challenging academic experiences to qualified students who otherwise may not have access to an early college experience, and strives to increase the population of high school graduates who are college-ready. The program aims to serve students who are underrepresented in higher education, including first-generation college students and students who come from low income families.

Upcoming spring semester CDEP courses include Digital Imaging (Photoshop) on Mondays from 3 to 6:30 p.m. at MWCC’s Gardner campus; Introduction to Sociology on Tuesdays from 3:30 to 6 p.m. at the Gardner campus; English Composition 1 on Tuesdays from 5:15 to 7:45 p.m. at MWCC’s Leominster campus; Introduction to Psychology on Tuesdays from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at Leominster High School; Introduction to Criminal Justice on Wednesdays from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at Fitchburg High School; Strategic Management on Thursdays from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School; and Introduction to Psychology on Thursdays from 3:30 to 6 p.m., also at Monty Tech.

New CDEP students are required to attend a mandatory orientation with completed dual enrollment application and transcript. Parents or guardians are encouraged to attend. Orientation sessions will take place Tuesday, Dec. 29 from 2 to 3 p.m. and Thursday, Jan. 7 from 6 to 7 p.m. in the North Café at MWCC’s Gardner campus, and Thursday, Jan. 14 from 6 to 7 p.m. at MWCC’s Leominster campus.

All students must meet Accuplacer/Placement requirements, attend or have attended a dual enrollment orientation session, complete a dual enrollment application, provide a high school transcript and payment.

Alexander Ramos Jr. of Leominster said he enrolls in dual enrollment courses to get a head start on his career goal of becoming an attorney. “I want to earn college credit while in high school and I want to challenge myself,” he said.

For more information about enrolling in CDEP courses, contact Melissa Bourque-Silva at or the Division of Access & Transition at 978-630-9248. Additional information about dual enrollment programs can be found online at


ECE alumni event Nov 2015MWCC’s Early Childhood Education program recently hosted its fourth annual alumni event at the Garrison Center for Early Childhood Education. It was an evening full of friendship, inspiration, and networking. More than 80 current students, faculty, staff, Garrison teachers, alumni and their families attended the Seuss-inspired event.

Alumni events, such as this one, are an important opportunity for current students to make connections with alum who may work in the field.

“These connections not only provide career opportunities but more importantly, set the foundation for a supportive network” said current student Andrea Bartlett.

Emily Wuoti, a December graduate and Leadership in Early Childhood Education student, spearheaded this year’s event. “I wanted to create an event to help inspire current students who are new or may be doubtful that this is the right field for them.” She invited alumni to share their success stories about their journeys and offer advice to current students who may not know where their journey will take them.

This particular event posed a question to all who were involved: Where do you see yourself going from here?

“This was a great opportunity to really think about goals and plans” said current student Kelly Winship.

Additionally, Student Life Coordinator Sandy Arsenault, a long-time friend of the Early Education Club, was honored at the event.

MWCC Early Childhood Education faculty Dr. Rosanne Morel, Dr. Maryann Kane and Professor Maureen Provost “are so very proud of the exceptional work, leadership, professionalism and passion” Emily exhibited throughout her time at Mount Wachusett Community College, Professor Provost said. “She exemplifies the expectations we have for our students and we are looking forward to seeing ‘the places SHE will go’ as she continues her journey. Children and families are fortunate indeed to have Emily in the field.”

- Emily Wuoti and Maureen Provost

MWCC Fitness Center Jared S

Jared Swerzenski, new director of the Fitness and Wellness Center at Mount Wachusett Community College. Photo/Jay Gearan

GARDNER – The Fitness and Wellness Center at Mount Wachusett Community College is a busy place, from early morning through the evening hours.

Every day, members flock to the facility, with its modern equipment, six-lane swimming pool, accessible weight-training and cardiovascular workout areas, plus basketball and racquetball courts.

Soon, however, in three weeks to be exact, the participant numbers will spike.

“The No. 1 New Year’s resolution for people has always been to get in shape,” said Jared Swerzenski, the center’s new director. “In January, that’s when people are looking for a place to begin the year with that goal in mind, and we want to be the best option in this area.”

Mr. Swerzenski, 32, was appointed in July after longtime director Steve Washkevich retired after 18 years of service.

A graduate of Cushing Academy and Clark University where he excelled in soccer, Mr. Swerzenski has an extensive background in sports management after earning his undergraduate and graduate degrees in communication at Clark.

Before coming to MWCC, he was the first athletic director at North Central Charter School, now the Sizer School, in Fitchburg, an associate director of admissions and athletic recruiter at Post University in Waterbury, Connecticut, and the director of intramurals and assistant director of facilities at Framingham State University.

Mr. Swerzenski’s association with the MWCC Fitness and Wellness Center dates to his childhood. “I went to the sports camps here – tennis, baseball and soccer – as a kid and I loved it,” he said.

“I was ready for a new challenge when I applied for this job,” said the tall and lean Mr. Swerzenski, who regularly exercises at the center and looks as if he could still easily step into the starting soccer lineup at Clark.

One of his major goals in his new position, Mr. Swerzenski said, is that he wants, in an increasingly competitive market, to increase the general public’s awareness of the center and everything it has to offer.

“We’ve always been open to the public, but a lot of people still don’t know that,” he said. “We’re like a hidden gem and we have a lot of dedicated, wonderful members who have been here from the start and they’ve been great in helping me. Our goal is to expand participation with new members. We also want to reach out to the many students who attend MWCC and really don’t know enough about us.”

Mr. Swerzenski said that the center has 2,300 paying members, and he would like to increase that number to at least 2,500.

“We want to be the place where people feel comfortable working out,” Mr. Swerzenski said. “We have a facility which covers over 65,000 square feet and we offer over 75 weekly group exercise classes. We want to be an all-encompassing gym. If people come in and use the treadmill once a week, maybe they’ll see a fitness class going on and decide to try it.”

Mr. Swerzenski, who oversees a staff of three full-time and over 75 part-time employees, said that some of the more popular exercise classes led by certified athletic trainers include yoga, Insanity, Groove, Zumba and Group Ride.

Other offerings include massage therapy, a nursery, body composition testing, personalized nutrition classes and water aerobics.

“In my short time here so far, I’ve seen a lot of success stories about people losing lots of weight and also finding new friends,” said Mr. Swerzenski. “Our big focus is to make this center feel like a community,”

Mr. Swerzenski, who lives in Hubbardston with his wife, Jill, and their daughter, Clair, praised the support and advice he has received from MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino, a dedicated Fitness and Wellness member himself.

To learn more, visit or call (978) 630-9212.

Jay Gearan, Telegram & Gazette, Dec. 11, 2015

Richard Cella

Attorney Richard A. Cella has been reappointed to the Mount Wachusett Community College Board of Trustees. From left: board chair Tina Sbrega, Attorney Richard Cella, President Daniel M. Asquino

Leominster and Gardner attorney Richard A. Cella has been reappointed to the Mount Wachusett Board of Trustees by Governor Charlie Baker.

Attorney Cella, who first joined the board in 2010, was officially sworn in on Thursday, Dec. 10 during a brief ceremony at the college.
“Attorney Cella is a dedicated community leader and we are delighted with his reappointment to the Board of Trustees,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “He is a tremendous asset to the college and the greater community as we continue our mission of providing students with access to quality, affordable education and expanding economic development partnerships and opportunities in our region.”

Attorney Cella has served as secretary of the Mount Wachusett Community College Foundation and as a trustee for the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts. He previously served as director and clerk of the North Central Massachusetts Development Corp.; as director and treasurer of the National Plastics Center and Museum in Leominster; as a trustee and member of the executive committee for Leominster Hospital/HealthAlliance Leominster; director of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce; chairman of the Mayor’s Task Force in Leominster; and chair of the City of Leominster Industrial Development Commission.

He earned his bachelor’s degree from Clark University and his law degree from Boston College Law School. He is a member of the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Massachusetts Real Estate Bar Association, the Worcester County Bar Association, the Worcester Estate Planning Counsel and the Montachusett Estate Planning Council and this year’s President of the Worcester Economic Club.