Community Stories

Mount Wachusett Community College ranked number four across the country in the Best for Vets: Colleges 2017 rankings for 2-year colleges conducted by Military Times, an independent news and information source for service members and their families. MWCC, continuing its long-held commitment to veterans and their families, moved up two spots from its 2016 rank.

The eighth annual rankings factor in the results of Military Times’ comprehensive school-by-school survey of veteran and military student offerings and rates of academic achievement. More than 500 colleges took part in this year’s detailed survey.

MWCC launched its Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success in 2010 to address the unique academic, financial, social and physical needs of veterans, military personnel and military families transitioning to college life. The dedicated veteran center offers computer access, free printing, student meeting and study space, and opportunities for veteran students to talk and connect with other like-minded individuals. Textbooks and laptops are loaned at no charge.

The Director of Veteran Services is a full-time advocate for veteran students. He educates the college staff and faculty on veteran challenges, counsels students and arranges for clinical meetings if necessary.

“We are thrilled to be recognized as a top military-friendly school. This reflects the positive, helpful attitude that students can expect from all departments of the college. We pride ourselves on being student friendly, so it is a natural extension for us to be military friendly as well,” said Robert B. Mayer, Director of Veterans Services at Mount Wachusett Community College.

Student veterans are active members of the campus community, participating in such clubs and organizations as the Veterans Group and Student Government Association.

“As a veteran myself, I am proud that Mount Wachusett Community College receives continuing recognition as one of the top colleges for veteran students,” said President Daniel M. Asquino. “MWCC has served our region’s veterans for decades and will continue to do so into the future by providing them with a robust network of support both on campus and with key partner organizations.”

MWCC maintains community partnerships with the Montachusett Veteran Outreach Center, the Northeast Veteran Training & Rehabilitation Center operated by Veteran Homestead, Inc., the Massachusetts Department of Veterans Services’ SAVE program, and local posts of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.

Military Times’ annual Best for Vets: Colleges survey asks colleges and universities to meticulously document a tremendous array of services, special rules, accommodations and financial incentives offered to students with military ties; and to describe many aspects of veteran culture on a campus. These institutions were evaluated in several categories, with university culture and academic outcomes bearing the most weight.
“We limit our list to encourage competition, and we genuinely hope this helps raise the bar for veterans on campus,” said Amanda Miller, editor of Best for Vets.

Military Times also factors in data from the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments, as well as three Education Department sources: the IPEDS Data Center, College Scorecard data and the Cohort Default Rate Database.

The rankings appear online at MilitaryTimes.com, as well as ArmyTimes.com, NavyTimes.com, AirForceTimes.com and MarineCorpsTimes.com and in a special magazine issue of Military Times in mid-November. The release of this year’s list also marks Military Times’ inaugural declaration of the month of November as Veterans Month.

For more information about MWCC’s Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success, please visit: mwcc.edu/veteran.
To view the full Best for Vets: Colleges 2017 rankings and survey methodology go to: www.militarytimes.com/bestforvets-colleges2017.

New lab classrooms in Asquino Science CenterMount Wachusett Community College students, faculty and staff; Massachusetts leaders; and the greater community will dedicate the new Dr. Daniel M. Asquino Science Center in recognition of President Asquino’s 30 years of leadership at Mount Wachusett Community College at a ceremony on Tuesday, November 15 at 2 pm.
The public opening of the new building, a state-of-the-art addition to the Gardner campus, will be commemorated with a speaking program including Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito and Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance Commissioner Carol Gladstone, as well as a ceremonial ribbon cutting, unveiling of the naming of the building, and tours of the new facilities.

Along with honored guests, college staff, faculty, students, trustees, alumni, and community members will be in attendance.

“This new Science Center offers real opportunity for our students,” said Mount Wachusett Community College Board of Trustees Chair Tina Sbrega. “Opportunity is something President Asquino has relentlessly pursued throughout his 30 years at the helm of this great college. Our students will be better prepared to be tomorrow’s leaders. We are all so proud to recognize President Asquino’s commitment to students and our college by naming this building in his honor.”

Following more than a year of construction and extensive renovations, the new science center replaces existing laboratories nearly a half-century old and will enhance the learning environment for all students, particularly those seeking careers in STEM fields.

The Dr. Daniel M. Asquino Science Center includes LEED Gold rated labs, classrooms, and student study space for the college’s continued pursuit of academic excellence.

The $41 million project includes the 44,000 square-foot science center, a new 2,300 square-foot greenhouse and renovations throughout the existing Arthur F. Haley Academic Center. MWCC received $37.9 million in state capital funds for the project, as well as a $500,000 grant from Massachusetts Life Sciences for laboratory equipment.

From an economic standpoint, this is the largest construction project in North Central Massachusetts, which in itself helps boost the region’s economy by providing work for Massachusetts businesses and bringing more traffic to local businesses and service providers. Additionally, the project was completed on-time and on-budget.

Designed by Boston-based Architerra, Inc. to meet LEED Gold certification for efficiency and sustainability, the new building will contain energy-efficient features to tie in with the college’s commitment to sustainability. Construction began in spring 2015. Shawmut Design & Construction, also based in Boston, oversaw the 18-month project as construction manager.

Over the past 15 years, MWCC has been the recipient of top state and national sustainability awards, including the American Association of College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Wildlife Federation.

Amenities in the new building include eight new classrooms and laboratories, four lab prep rooms, 24 new faculty offices, student study space and interior glass walls to highlight STEM student innovation. Renovations to the Haley Academic Center include a new visitor entrance, a multi-purpose room, an academic advising suite, a refurbished student-centered campus commons and increased accessibility to the Raymond M. LaFontaine Fine Arts Center.

Immediately following the dedication, Mount Wachusett Community College is hosting an Open House from 3:30 to 7pm. The public, past MWCC staff and faculty, and all community partners are encouraged and invited to attend. For more information, please contact Lois Cox at 978-630-9101.

President Asquino; Panelists Ernest Martineau, Michelle Dunn, Jack Maroney, Tamara E. Perini, Daisy Bacener, Joseph D. Early, Jr., Diane Power; event organizer Sharmese Gunn

Left to right: President Asquino; Panelists Joseph D. Early, Jr., Ernest Martineau, Daisy Bacener, Michelle Dunn; Moderator Jen Flanagan; Panelists Jack Maroney, Tamara E. Perini, Diane Power; event organizer Sharmese Gunn

Mount Wachusett Community College welcomed over 250 guests to its Gardner campus this morning for a public forum moderated by State Senator Jennifer Flanagan to address the issues surrounding opioid addiction and abuse, a critical problem impacting too many families and communities across the Commonwealth.

The free forum, Opiates in North Central Massachusetts: Education for Community-Wide Crisis Response, took place on Monday, Oct 31 from 12 to 2:30 p.m. with a breakout session for dialogue and NARCAN® training following the panel forum.

Panelists included Fitchburg Police Chief Ernest Martineau; Michelle Dunn, Founder/President of the A.E.D. Foundation, Inc. and co-director and president of Alyssa’s Place; Jack Maroney, CEO of Recovery Centers of America at Westminster; Tamara E. Perini, MSW, LCSW UMass Memorial – HealthAlliance Hospital and the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office; Daisy Bacener, Chief Probation Officer for the City of Fitchburg; District Attorney Joseph D. Early, Jr., Office of Worcester County District; and Dr. Diane Power M.D. OB/GYN UMass Memorial – HealthAlliance Hospital.

The panelists discussed the multi-generational aspects of opioid addiction, the coping skills needed by families with a loved one suffering from addiction, dealing with the crisis as a public health issue and not a criminal one, potential changes to drug prescription practices, and the value of NARCAN® as a live-saving measure.

Senator Flanagan led the panel through many other important topics including what organizations are working to solve the issues, saying that community colleges are on the front line in meeting the need for services head-on with training and programs.

Senator Flanagan of Leominster has worked tirelessly on this issue during her two terms in the House of Representatives and after being elected to the Senate in 2008.  She currently serves as Chair of the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committee and Chair of the Special Senate Committee on Opioid Addiction. Senator Flanagan was also appointed as Vice Chair of the Public Health Committee, and is a member of the Public Safety Committee and Homeland Security Committee.

An audience of over 250 attendees hears advice from a panel of opioid addition experts in the Mount Wachusett Community College Theatre.

An audience of over 250 attendees hears advice from a panel of opioid addition experts in the Mount Wachusett Community College Theatre.

Both in the House and Senate, Senator Flanagan played critical roles in passing several key pieces of legislation relative to mental health and substance abuse. The most recent being an act to increase opportunities for long-term substance abuse recovery signed into law in 2014, which provides people with an opportunity to access treatment and an act relative to substance use prevention signed into law in 2016.

There were many positive moments in the forum, such as when Fitchburg Police Chief Ernest Martineau relayed the success story that Fitchburg Police have saved 100 lives by administering 100 NARCAN® treatments since June 2015. NARCAN® blocks the effects of opioids and can reverse an overdose.

Following the forum, Michael Ellis, Coordinator of the Men’s Suicide Prevention Project, Regional Behavioral Health Collaborative, and Heywood Hospital provided free NARCAN® training for over 60 participants. The training included interactive, practical instructions for an engaged audience who asked many follow up questions.

Participants who did not opt for the training attended a dialogue facilitated by Jason Zelesky, Dean of Students at Mount Wachusett Community College. The dialogue helped participants personalize what they’d just heard in the forum, increase their understanding of this complex issue, and provided participants with the opportunity to discuss root causes to the issue as well as potential solutions.

“This is the crisis of our time,” said Dr. Daniel Asquino, president of the college. “But our hope is that this will not be the crisis of tomorrow. Today’s event gives us all a better sense of what we can do to combat our region’s opioid epidemic by working together and increasing our understanding of the causes, early warning signs and resources available to help those in need.”

The event concluded with time for attendees to meet with resource organizations including AdCare Hospital of Worcester, Inc.; The A.E.D. Foundation; American Addiction Centers; Heywood Hospital CHART Program;  Montachusett Opportunity Council, Inc.; Montachusett Suicide Prevention Task Force; Mount Wachusett Community College Admissions; Mount Wachusett Community College Gateway to College; the Office of District Attorney Joseph D. Early, Jr.; Recovery Centers of America at Westminster; the SHINE Initiative; and Spectrum Health Systems Inc.

This Tea Time Speaker Series was a recipient of the 2016 MWCC Foundation Innovation Grant and was sponsored by: Mount Wachusett Community College’s Diversity Consortium; Gateway to College; the Workforce Diversity Pipeline Program which is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health; The North Central Massachusetts Minority Coalition/Three Pyramids, Inc. This event was also sponsored by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, in partnership with the American Association of Colleges & Universities, in an effort to examine Citizenship Under Siege through public forums and conversations.

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

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

Work from “Far Reaches” by Jesse Connor

Work from “Far Reaches” by Jesse Connor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information about the free community forum or to RSVP, please visit: mwcc.edu/response.

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

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

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

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

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

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

To learn more about United Way Youth Venture and become involved, visit mwcc.edu/uwyv.

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

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

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

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

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

For a list of mental health and wellness resources, please visit: mwcc.edu/hr/wellness.

united-way-day-of-caring-mwcc-sept-16-2016

Photo by Eddie Vargas

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

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

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

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

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