Community Stories

VFW donation to MWCC scholarship fund

The Ovila Case Post VFW continued its support for student veterans at Mount Wachusett Community College by presenting a $1,000 donation to the MWCC Foundation for scholarships. Pictured from left, Foundation Executive Director Carla Zottoli, President Daniel Asquino, Commander Joseph LeBlanc, past Commander Donald Progen and MWCC Director of Veteran Services Bob Mayer.

The Ovila Case Post 905 Veterans of Foreign Wars recently donated $1,000 to Mount Wachusett Community College Foundation’s Veterans Memorial Scholarship.

President Daniel Asquino, Foundation Executive Director Carla Zottoli, and Director of Veteran Services Bob Mayer accepted the generous donation from VFW Commander Joseph LeBlanc and past Commander and MWCC alumnus Donald Progen, and thanked the post members for their ongoing support of MWCC and student veterans.

The scholarship was established to recognize the important role played by MWCC in ensuring that the sacrifices and service of veterans who served the country will not be forgotten.

Scholarship funds are awarded to new or returning full-time students who were honorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces or are currently serving in the Reserves or National Guard.

Jasson Alvarado Gomez film premiere TGN

Mount student director Jasson Alvarado Gomez, second from right, and others created a student film which premiered Thursday at the school. From left, are filmmakers Anastasia Anderholm, Kendall Mallet, Gomez and Anders Bigelbach. (News staff photo by Andrew Mansfield )

As far as anyone can remember, prior to Jasson Alvarado Gomez, no Mount Wachusett Community College student has ever held a film premiere at the school.

But a lack of precedent means little to the ambitious, aspiring filmmaker or his friends at the Mount who played starring roles in his first feature-length movie, “Black Diamond.”

“I always like to do new things no one has ever done.

Doing this is good for students because they can see anything can happen … to follow their dreams,” said Gomez.

Gomez wrote, produced and directed the movie, with the cast being mostly made up of Mount students or former Mount students he’s met over the past few years.

Filming began in April 2015 and was completed recently, all the work culminating in the premiere of the movie held May 5 at the school.

The event mimicked the bright lights and glamour of the Hollywood scene; the red carpet was rolled out for the students, who wore dapper suits and elegant dresses.

The movie “Black Diamond” itself is far more rugged, being in the action-crime genre, involving a California teenager in foster care named Karla who is kidnapped by a gang that surgically implants a rare diamond in her body, hoping to use her as a trafficker into Mexico.

But with the help of people in the foster care system, Karla is moved out of state away from the gang, which instigates the drama of the movie as the gang does everything it can to find her and recuperate the valuable diamond.

All the action involved played out a childhood dream for Gomez, who said he always wanted to know how to make television since he was a little kid growing up in Honduras.

At the age of 14 he came to America to live with his uncle, and his parents still remain in Honduras.

Currently, Gomez lives in Orange.

At the Mount, he is enrolled in the Media Arts & Technology major, allowing him to hone his skills in the craft of film directing, which he hopes to make into a career.

“When I came here, there are so many opportunities in this country.

This is what I want to do with my life,” he said.

Considering “Black Diamond” is an amateur production without any real budget behind it, Gomez relied on plenty of help from his peers to play the actors in the movie.

He said “I was just talking to anyone that came my way” in order to make the project come to fruition.

Front and center in the effort was former Mount student Kendall Mallet, who played the lead role of Karla, the teenage girl who is implanted with the diamond.

Mallet has a background in singing and will be attending seamstress school for fashion in the fall.

She met Gomez while she attended the Mount and thought the project was a different, interesting endeavor to pursue.

“I think it will be cool to show my kids, show my grandkids, ‘Hey, I was in this movie,’” she said.

Playing Karla’s foster care mother in the film was Mount student Tammy Goodgion, who studies Business and Human Services.

She had no experience with acting, but when Gomez asked her if she wanted to try, she said she figured why not.

“I loved the experience.

The cast and crew they were wonderful, wonderful to work with,” she said, calling everyone a “big family.”

Gomez also benefited from the generosity of some local establishments in Gardner such as the restaurant Taco Rey Coliman and the South Gardner Hotel that let him shoot some scenes there.

Many of the scenes were also shot at the Mount or in outside areas.

For now, there is no release plans for the film, but Gomez said he might put it on DVD later on.

In total, about 10 actors were used for the film, and since many are current or former Mount students, the film marks an accomplishment not just for them, but the school as well.

Individually, Gomez is quite accomplished himself too.

Next school year he will serve as the student trustee on the Mount’s board of trustees, making him a voting member.

He was also elected to serve as a student member for the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education next year, and will be sworn into the position this summer.

Perhaps more notable than any one achievement is in general how independently driven Gomez is, working toward success in America while being away from his parents who live in their native Honduras.

“Going to school has helped me so much. I want to make my mom and dad proud,” he said.

By Andrew Mansfield, The Gardner News, May 11, 2016

Rafaela Lopes 2016 Newman Civic Fellow

Newman Civic Fellows Award recipient Rafaela Lopes

For her dedication and commitment to serving others, Mount Wachusett Community College student Rafaela Lopes has been presented with Campus Compact’s national 2016 Newman Civic Fellows Award.

The Leominster resident was inspired to make a difference in the lives of others by creating a youth-run social venture that helps young people experiencing or close to homelessness, as she had experienced as a child in Brazil before moving to Massachusetts seven years ago.

“Rafaela has made such significant contributions to our community both locally and globally, that even at her young age, she truly stands out as an inspirational leader deserving of recognition,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “We are very proud of her for her spirit of generosity, and proud that she becomes MWCC’s fourth student to consecutively receive this prestigious award.”

Campus Compact is a national coalition of nearly 1,100 college and university presidents who are committed to fulfilling the civic purposes of higher education to improve community life and to educate students for civic and social responsibility. The award honors the late Frank Newman, one of Campus Compact’s founders and a tireless advocate for the civic engagement of higher education.

A dual enrollment student in MWCC’s Gateway to College program, Lopes will earn her high school diploma this spring and an associate degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences in the fall. After that, she plans to transfer to pursue a bachelor’s degree, and then enroll in dental school.

“I believe that helping others is my life’s mission. I try to lead by example, in the hope that one kindness will yield another, in turn generating a chain of kindness,” she said.

For the past three years, Lopes has been actively involved in the United Way Youth Venture program, which is co-sponsored by MWCC, the United Way of North Central Massachusetts and Ashoka’s Youth Venture. She created the social venture Go Make a Difference when she was just 15. Since then, she has led her team in fulfilling its mission to help the community locally by providing regular birthday celebrations for homeless children and volunteering for Habitat for Humanity of North Central Massachusetts.

The culmination of her dream – to make the impact of her venture global – was realized in February when she organized a student trip to a rural village in Haiti for a week of service at a nutrition and health center. She was instrumental in raising thousands of dollars and collecting 14 suitcases packed with essential supplies in preparation for the trip. She is in the process of organizing another group trip to Haiti next winter so more young people can experience the joy of giving back.

Lopes is also actively involved with the UWYV team Friends of Rachel’s Challenge at Leominster High School and with the ALANA club at MWCC.

“With both organizations, I’ve been able to serve and support the community while sharing positivity and friendship. I plan to continue to lead service and inspire my fellow students to help me make a difference with volunteering, whether with homeless families or in regions of severe poverty.”

Recipients of the Newman Civic Fellows Award are nominated by their college’s president or chancellor. Honorees are chosen for their leadership and ability to take action in pursuit of long-term, positive social change. This year, 218 students were selected to receive the award.

“We are fortunate to have the opportunity to celebrate such an extraordinary group of students,” said Campus Compact president Andrew Seligsohn. “We are seeing a resurgence in student interest in acting to create lasting social change, and this year’s Newman Civic Fellows exemplify that commitment.”

academic adventuresEach summer, nearly 800 children and teenagers from throughout the region participate in Mount Wachusett Community College’s Adventure Academy. This year, the college is offering more than 30 classes and sports programs between June 27 and Aug. 5.

Classes include Legos, beginning veterinary medicine, American Girl, theater, pottery, painting, sculpture, forensic science, dinosaurs, rockets, basketball, soccer and martial arts. A majority of the classes are taught by area elementary school teachers on summer break and incorporate lessons in STEAM (science technology, engineering, art and math) education. MWCC’s Adventure Academy is offered to children ages 5 to 18 and includes all supplies and materials. Lunch is provided for students attending full-day classes.

Among the new offerings this year is an Introduction to the Potter’s Wheel course for teens age 16 and above, adults and art teachers.

For more information and to register, visit mwcc.edu/noncredit, call 978-630-9525 or email noncredit@mwcc.mass.edu.

 

Ray_MartinoCommunity leader and long-serving volunteer Raymond J. Martino is the recipient of Mount Wachusett Community College’s 2016 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. Martino, president and CEO of Simonds International, Inc. and chair of the MWCC Foundation, will be recognized during the college’s 51st commencement ceremony on May 18.

“We are proud to present this year’s Service Above Self award to Ray Martino,” said President Daniel Asquino. “Through his work professionally and in a volunteer capacity, he is making a tremendous difference in the lives of North Central Massachusetts residents and in the lives of our students. His willingness to share his time and talents exemplify the importance of engaged citizenship and the difference one person can make in the world.”

“It’s an honor to be recognized with this award and to be involved in a community so willing to serve others,” Mr. Martino said. “When a community has leaders driving partnerships and fundraising, it spreads, it’s contagious. The more leaders who participate, the more others step up and the bar is raised.”

Born and raised in Connecticut, Mr. Martino moved to Lunenburg with his wife, Susan, and their family in 1999 to head Simonds, a leading worldwide supplier of cutting tools for the wood and metal industries. He immediately became involved in community service and over the past 17 years, has supported the region in a wide range of capacities and has encouraged a culture of volunteerism at Simonds.

He served on the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce for nine years, including as past chair, and continues to serve on the chamber’s leadership committee. In addition to serving as chair of the MWCC Foundation, he serves as vice chair of the Workers’ Credit Union board of directors, and is a member of the Fitchburg Plan, a group of local volunteers working on a grassroots level to help facilitate economic development in the city.

In addition, he is chair of the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation, which has provided $1.5 million in loans to regional organizations, and is also active with the United Way of North Central Massachusetts.

He previously served on the Fitchburg State University Foundation and is a past member of the university’s Regional Economic Development Institute. He also served on the board of overseers for the University of Connecticut’s School of Business and is a past director of the Connecticut Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Mr. Martino earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Fairfield University, and a master’s in business administration and a master’s in economics from the University of Connecticut. He is the past president of several divisions of the Connecticut manufacturing corporation The Stanley Works, now Stanley Black & Decker.

Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke photoGardner Mayor Mark Hawke has been named Mount Wachusett Community College’s 2016 Alumnus of the Year. He will be recognized during the college’s 51st Commencement on Wednesday, May 18.

“We are extremely proud to honor Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke as our 2016 Alumnus of the Year,” said President Daniel M. Asquino. “Like many of our students, Mayor Hawke discovered his potential while attending Mount Wachusett Community College, and then followed that path to achieve success both academically and professionally. Moreover, he has consistently demonstrated his commitment to public service, to Mount Wachusett Community College, and to our students.”

Created in 1989, the award recognizes a Mount Wachusett Community College graduate who has exhibited exceptional career leadership, service to community and commitment to the college.

“I am deeply indebted to MWCC,” Mayor Hawke said. “While I didn’t know it then, the Mount and its faculty put me on the track to success. As a graduate, I have firsthand knowledge of the college’s positive impact on students. As mayor, I have seen the transformative influence the college has had on our community. Gardner is truly fortunate to be home to MWCC.”

The son of Nancy Hawke and the late State Rep. Robert Hawke, Mayor Hawke is the youngest of five siblings. He attended Gardner public schools and graduated from Gardner High School as a three sport letterman. After earning his associate degree in general studies from MWCC, he went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and a master’s degree in business administration from Anna Maria College.

Since being sworn into office in January 2008, he has continually worked to bring Gardner into a new age through investments in the city’s infrastructure, economic development, playgrounds and other facilities. Under his leadership, Gardner became one of the first communities to sign on to the Baker Administration’s Commonwealth Community Pact.

Prior to his election, Mayor Hawke served as Gardner’s grants administrator for over six years. He previously worked in the private sector as a business analyst for a wireless communications company, as an operations manager for a transportation company, and as a logistics analyst for a waste management company.

Mayor Hawke currently serves as President of the Massachusetts Mayor’s Association and on the Board of Directors for the Massachusetts Municipal Association.

Among his community activities, he serves on the Board of Incorporators of Heywood Hospital; the Board of Directors of Gardner’s downtown association, Square Two; and the GFA Federal Credit Union Board of Directors. Previously, he has served as president of Gardner Square Two; on the Board of Directors of the Greater Gardner Chamber of Commerce, and on MWCC’s Board of Trustees.

He is also an active member of the Acadien Social Club of Gardner, the Napoleon Club of Gardner, the Polish American Citizens Club of Gardner, the Gardner Museum, the Acadien Club Hockey League and City League Softball and an honorary member of the Gardner Rotary Club.

He and his wife, Shelly, live in Gardner with their son, Justin.

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President Asquino, guest speaker Jim Bellina of the Greater Gardner Chamber of Commerce joined students, staff and faculty for the 26th annual Alpha Beta Gamma induction ceremony.

President Daniel Asquino and Jim Bellina, president and CEO of the Greater Gardner Chamber of Commerce joined MWCC business faculty and college officials to welcome 18 students into the Chi Gamma Chapter of the Alpha Beta Gamma international business honor society.

“Alpha Beta Gamma, the international business honor society. They key word is honor, and it’s an honor for me to be here this afternoon to honor your achievement,” President Asquino said.

The 26th annual induction ceremony was led by Professor Linda Bolduc, ABG advisor and business department chair, with outgoing ABG President Kathy Matson. The celebration included recognition of the chapter’s newly elected and newly inducted officers: Michel Cocuzza, president, Alana Jones, vice president, Bethany Jones, treasurer, and Kimberly Mertell, secretary.

Bellina congratulated the students on selecting MWCC for their academic studies, noting that many of the students are busy balancing work and family responsibilities and volunteering in the community and at the college while earning their degree.

“You will be the type of people that others lean on,” he said. “You are leaders and you have the background of being at Mount Wachusett Community College.”

In addition to the four officers, other inductees are: Donavan Aboal-Caceres, Alexander Batutis, Paula Brown, Angelique Chaput, Joel DeVelis, Katie Dupont, Michelle Francisco, Tammy Goodgion, Jessica Guyer, Sheila Hebert, Lindsay Jamieson, Kevin LeBlanc, Marissa Pitisci and Nicholas Traverna.

Alpha Beta Gamma was established in 1970 to recognize and encourage scholarship among students at two-year colleges, provide leadership training opportunities and career assistance to members. To be eligible for membership into the honor society, students must be enrolled in a business curriculum, have completed 15 academic credit hours in a specific degree program and demonstrate academic excellence by attaining a grade point average of 3.0 or above. At MWCC, the programs include business administration, paralegal studies, computer information systems, graphic & interactive design and medical assisting.

Jackie Belrose and Peter Russo of MassMEP

Vice President Jacqueline Belrose, pictured with Peter Russo of MassMEP, was among the speakers during the Worcester Business Journal’s Manufacturing Summit.

Mount Wachusett Community College served as the presenting sponsor of the Worcester Business Journal’s Manufacturing Summit and inaugural Manufacturing Excellence Awards ceremony on April 26 at Cyprian Keyes in Boylston.

President Daniel Asquino, Vice Presidents Jacqueline Belrose and Lea Ann Scales, and members of the college’s workforce development team were among the attendees. The event featured a keynote address by Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash and a panel presentation moderated by MassMEP Growth and Inovation Program Manager Peter Russo.

Secretary Ash praised the state’s community colleges for their leadership in creating innovative partnerships as well as their role in the Commonwealth economic development strategic plan, Making Massachusetts Great Everywhere, which was released by the Baker-Polito Administration in December.

“We’re very excited, espcially at the community college level, with the reaction that we have received,” he said.

The industry support and feedback has been a crucial component of MWCC’s design and creation of  advanced manufacturing training programs developed under President Asquino’s leadership, Belrose said during her welcoming remarks.

College initiatives include the creation of an academic certificate and associates degree program in Plastics Technology Manufacturing, offered over the past two decades at Nypro University in Clinton in partnership with Fitchburg State University; helping regional companies secure more than $6.5 million in state Workforce Training Fund grant; and working with MassMEP, the Workforce Investment Boards, state colleges and universities and other partners on state and federally-funded programs to provide unemployed and underemployed individuals with training to secure good jobs with benefits, she said.

“The key here is regional economic growth,” Belrose said. “All stakeholders in this region need to join forces to ensure we work together to supply a skilled advanced manufacturing workforce. We need to sustain, grow, and integrate efforts that Mount Wachusett and Quinsigamond Community Colleges, along with Mass MEP have been developing with the help of employer, state, and federal funding.  The approach must be integrated and scalable and will benefit from dialogues such as the one we are having today.”

TGN Tea Time April 2016 Group 1

Educators and students from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer community spoke on understanding differences over sexual identity at Mount Wachusett Community College. From left, instructor Jennifer Stephens and student Eden Shaveet watch as student Anders Bigelbach speaks. News staff photos by Andrew Mansfield.

GARDNER – Equal respect and consideration for one another was the takeaway message at Mount Wachusett Community College on Monday, as the school held a panel discussion featuring members of the LGBTQ community.

The acronym stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans¬gender and Queer.

A group of six students and educators, a majority from the Mount, talked to a public audience about their experiences being someone who is not heterosexual, or does not identify with the gender they were born as.

Each panel member touched upon encountering people during their lives who were unaccepting or at least not familiarized with what it means to be LGBTQ – being outside the traditional social norms surrounding sexuality and gender identification.

“A lot of times I get (from other people), ‘I just don’t believe in it.’

I’m not Santa Claus, so whether you believe it or not, it exists. …

If you don’t want me to get married in your church, I respect that.

But I deserve the same civil rights and liberties,” said Catherine Zabierek, a Mount student studying biological sciences who is lesbian.

The other panel members included: Adam Edgerton, an English teacher who has worked in China and is gay; Eden Shaveet, a Mount student who is bisexual; Charlie MacCall, a University of New Hampshire grad working in online marketing who is a transgender gay man; Anders Bigelbach, a Mount student who is bisexual; and Jennifer Stephens, a Mount instructor in the Advanced Manufacturing program who is a transgender woman.

Tea Time April 2016 Group 2

Mount student Catherine Zabierek listens as University of New Hampshire grad Charlie MacCall speaks.

While the politics of LGBTQ rights was touched upon – including the recent North Carolina “bathroom law” requiring people to use the restroom that corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate – the conversation was mostly personal, being affecting in its sincerity. Shaveet is studying psychology in the Mount’s Gateway to College program, which offers dual-enrollment to high-school students, allowing her to achieve college credit prior to graduating high school.

Growing up as bisexual, she spoke about the insulated feeling that comes with not being accepted by peers.

She told the audience about how she switched schools in the seventh grade after being bullied in the hopes she would be treated better at a new school.

“But by the third week I was put into a locker. …The bullying and aggression really took a toll on me,” she said, adding that the environment at the Mount, though, has been accepting.

Bigelbach, also bisexual, is pursuing creative writing in the Mount’s Gateway to College program.

He fielded a question about the notion that being different is a conscious choice as opposed to simply being how one naturally feels.

He said he asks people who believe sexuality is a choice if they chose to be straight.

“You don’t make that choice. It’s not like (choosing) I’m going to have juice instead of water today,” he said.

The panel also took the time to go over some of the positive moments in their lives that have come through their experiences being in the LGBTQ community, particularly the power they’ve found in coming out as who they are and the relationships they’ve formed.

Stephens said she used to be known as a “guy’s guy” before coming out publicly as a transgender woman at the school she used to teach at, leading a transgender student to subsequently come up to her and say “for the first time in my life I have a role model.”

Being open about her gender identity was a huge step forward for Stephens personally.

She didn’t do so until she was in her fifties after watching an episode of Oprah Winfrey’s show called “Born in the Wrong Body.”

“I actually didn’t like myself. I thought I was an awful person who wanted to dress in women’s clothes,” she said.

The role of parents in the process of coming out and living as one’s true self was also touched upon by the panel, with some good and some bad family reactions being mentioned.

Edgerton shared a fairly new anecdote regarding his mother and North Carolina’s “bathroom law,” which has come under heavy criticism from the LGBTQ community and its supporters.

He is originally from North Carolina and his mother still lives in the state.

He said she hasn’t normally been a political protester over the course of her life, but she joined a protest demonstration of North Carolina residents recently in the state’s capital of Raleigh.

He said when they spoke over the phone about it, she explained herself by saying, “Well, you’re my son and they (the state) hurt my son, and that’s why I’m out here.”

He compared Massachusetts – which he described as being more open-minded – and his home state that he said is “not a very good place to be a gay man.”

He also spoke about how he notices attitudes toward LGBTQ people have improved overall during his lifetime, but there is still progress that can be made.

That theme of continuing progress through open dialogue and further understanding was the overarching theme of the panel, the idea that a common humanity should trump divisiveness over personal differences.

Andrew Mansfield, The Gardner News, April 26, 2016

Commonwealth Commitment Pres Asquino and Sec Peyser

MWCC President Asquino and Education Secretary James Peyser shake hands during the signing ceremony of the Department of Higher Education’s new transfer agreement, the Commonwealth Commitment.

Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito joined public higher education leaders on April 21 to announce the Commonwealth Commitment, an innovative college affordability and completion plan to help more students achieve the dream of a college degree.

The Commonwealth Commitment commits every public campus to providing 10% rebates at the end of each successfully completed semester to qualifying undergraduate students, in addition to the standard MassTransfer tuition waiver received upon entering a four-year institution from a community college. Students who meet the program requirements will, depending on the transfer pathway they choose, be able to realize an average savings of $5,090 off the cost of a baccalaureate degree.

This plan is the first agreement of its kind in the nation and was signed by University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan, Worcester State University President Barry Maloney and Middlesex Community College President James Mabry, representing the three segments of the public higher education system, at a ceremony held Thursday morning at Middlesex Community College in Lowell.

The statewide agreement was inspired by the $30K Commitment adopted last year by the four Worcester County public higher education institutions: Mount Wachusett Community College, Quinsigamond Community College, Fitchburg State University and Worcester State University. Qualifying students are guaranteed their associate and bachelor’s degrees in high demand programs for $30,000 or less in four years.

“The biggest thing we can do is make college more affordable,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. Collaborative agreements such as the Commonwealth Commitment and the $30K Commitment create opportunities while controlling costs and adressing crucial areas such as college completion, economic development, innovation and college readiness,” he said.

As part of the Commonwealth Commitment’s goal to increase cost savings and predictability, tuition and mandatory fees will be frozen for program participants as of the date they enter the program.  Students will begin their studies at one of the state’s 15 community colleges, enrolling in one of 24 Commonwealth Commitment/Mass Transfer Pathways programs that will roll out in fall 2016 (14 programs) and fall 2017 (10 additional programs). They must attend full-time, and must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0. After earning an associate’s degree in two and a half years or less, students will transfer to a state university or UMass campus to earn a baccalaureate degree.

“This program was designed to decrease the cost of a college degree and accelerate on-time completion for students across the Commonwealth, creating more opportunities and helping more people get into the workforce with the skills they need,” Governor Baker said. “The Commonwealth Commitment will make it even easier for students to go to school full-time and begin their careers with less debt and we are pleased that our higher education officials have worked collaboratively to make this program a reality.”

“The Commonwealth Commitment is a win-win for students, employers, and our public higher education campuses,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “Our hope is that through programs like the Commonwealth Commitment, not only will students get the benefit of a lower cost degree, but also be able to fill more of the high-demand job of the future, including in STEM.”

“The Commonwealth Commitment is an important plan which we believe will help move the needle on our administration’s two overarching education objectives: to close the achievement gap and strengthen the global competitiveness of Massachusetts’ workforce and economy,” said Education Secretary Jim Peyser. “I thank the leaders of the Department of Higher Education, UMass, and state colleges and universities for their hard work in reaching this agreement and for their commitment to putting students first.”

Higher Education Commissioner Carlos E. Santiago said the agreement “represents a new day for our state system of public colleges and universities.”

“It was not easy or simple to hammer out an agreement among 28 undergraduate institutions with different missions and programs, but I was extremely proud to see how presidents, provosts, faculty and staff worked together with a sense of common purpose to get this done. What unites us is a dedication to students and to the Commonwealth, a realization that when it comes to preparing the state’s future citizenry and workforce, our public institutions need to lead.”

“Community college students seeking pathways to an affordable, high-quality, four-year degree will now be able to look to the Commonwealth Commitment for critical support – and UMass is proud to be part of this innovative effort,” said UMass President Marty Meehan. “This program advances public higher education’s core beliefs and will help to transform lives and strengthen our future. We look forward to welcoming the students who take advantage of this creative initiative to our campuses.”

“When we talk about a ‘best value’ college experience, it doesn’t get any better than this,” said Worcester State University President Barry Maloney. “Those who transfer into state universities under this program will see small classes taught largely by full-time, Ph.D. faculty members who put their students first. The state university degree prepares them well, either for careers or graduate school.”

Under the Commonwealth Commitment, at the end of every successfully completed semester, students will earn a 10% rebate on tuition and fees, payable in the form of a check, or may opt to receive a voucher to use for books or other education-related expenses. The program does not discount room and board, although students may choose to use their Commonwealth Commitment savings or other resources to offset some of those costs. Students’ rebates or vouchers will be calculated based on the total cost of tuition and mandatory fees at the institutions they choose to attend. Additionally, students who enroll in free or reduced cost dual enrollment programs, taking college courses while still in high school, may be able to apply the credits they earn toward their Commonwealth Commitment degrees, thus reducing costs even further.

More information is available at www.mass.edu/MAComCom