Community Stories

Wendy Johnson 2Ashburnham native Wendy Johnston will present “Reflections from the Pacific Trail: How Lessons Learned from One Woman’s Journey Apply to Us All,” on Tuesday, Oct 27 from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in the North Café at Mount Wachusett Community College. The free event is open to the public.

From April to September of 2013, Ms. Johnston backpacked the entire 2,700 mile long Pacific Crest Trail from the U.S./Mexican Border to the U.S./Canadian border through California, Oregon, and Washington.

During her presentation, she will discuss the reasons she hikes long trails, some of the adversity she has overcome both in life and on the trail, and the universal lessons she has learned on her long hikes. She will also show a slideshow of photos taken along her PCT hike. A question and answer session will follow.

The event is sponsored by the LaChance Library, the MWCC Fitness & Wellness Center, and the office of Student Life.

Frankenscience Oct 14 2015 Lara Dowland

Dr. Lara Dowland, chair of MWCC’s biotechnology / biomanufacturing program, led a discussion on cloning during the free forum on contemporary science.

The ethics of cloning humans, genetically modified food on our dinner tables and an Italian surgeon’s claim he’ll perform the first human head transplantation in 2017 were among the topics raised during “Frankenscience? The Myths and Realities of Contemporary Science,” a free presentation led by MWCC science professors on Oct. 14 in the Levi Heywood Memorial Library.

Dr. Lara Dowland, chair of MWCC’s biotechnology/biomanufacturing program presented on cloning. Dr. Thomas Montagno, Professor of Biology, presented on genetically modified food, Carrie Arnold presented on transplantation, and Heather Conn presented on the history of prosthetics, beginning 3,000 years ago with an artificial toe invented in Egypt.

Mount Wachusett Community College Humanities Project,  continues with a free panel presentation and discussion on contemporary science.

The second year of the Humanities Project, “Myths, Monsters, and Modern Science: Frankenstein’s Legacy,” takes an in-depth look at Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein, and its relevance in today’s world. Throughout the year, free events are taking place at the college’s Gardner campus and in the community at public libraries and other venues. The MWCC Humanities Project is funded through a matching $500,000 grant the college received from the National Endowment for the Humanities to deepen and sustain quality humanities programming and curriculum throughout North Central Massachusetts.

For more information about upcoming events, visit


Go Higher Oct 14 2015

MWCC alumnus CJ Husselbee, right, joined fellow students at the Department of Higher Education’s Go Higher! presentation in Worcester.

Mount Wachusett Community College alumnus Charles “CJ” Husselbee was among the featured speakers during a Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s Go Higher! event held Oct. 14 at North High School in Worcester.

The event, attended by several hundred teenagers from five Worcester public high schools, provided students with information about the state’s 29 public college and university campuses, with topics ranging from paying for college to living with roommates.

Mr. Husselbee shared how he enrolled at MWCC during his senior year in high school through the Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation Career Tech dual enrollment program for Winchendon students. He went on to serve as president of the college’s chapter of the Alpha Beta Gamma business honor society, secretary of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and served on the Student Government Association.

“Get involved. I cannot stress this enough,” he told the assembly. “It’s the best way to integrate yourself into the community.”

After graduating in May 2014 with an associate degree in Business Administration, Mr. Husselbee transferred as a junior to the Isenberg School of Management at University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

He will earn his bachelor’s degree in accounting this December at age 21, then plans to teach English in Albania as a volunteer with the Peace Corps.

Ken Tomasetti panel photo

Ken Tomasetti, center, president and CEO of Advanced Cable Ties in Gardner and a member of Mount Wachusett Community College’s Board of Trustees, was among the featured speakers during the sixth annual Massachusetts Jobs and Workforce Summit held in Devens. He and fellow panelists Philip Jordan, right, executive director of the Economic Advancement Institute and MIT Professor Ofer Sharon, (not pictured) joined moderator Reinier Moquette, CEO, Advocate Technology Group, Latino STEM Alliance on the topic “Automation and the Impact of Technology on the Work and the Workplace.

At Advanced Cable Ties in Gardner, 130 people show up to work each weekday, but they are not considered “employees,” President and CEO Ken Tomasetti shared with an audience of state, industry, education and community leaders during the 6th Annual Massachusetts Jobs and Workforce Summit in Devens on Wednesday, Oct. 14.“We don’t have employees. We have 130 family members,” he said.

Mr. Tomasetti, a member of Mount Wachusett Community College’s Board of Trustees, participated in one of six plenary sessions focusing on “The Future of Work,” presented by the Workforce Solutions Group in Devens. The event featured a number of prominent speakers, including Secretary of Labor and Workforce Ronald Walker, II, Secretary of Educatino Jim Peyser, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash, Attorney General Maura Healey, Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan.

A key theme of the summit focused on the strength of Massachusetts’ community colleges to prepare the 21st century workforce. Mr. Tomasetti could attest to that. At Advanced Cable Ties/ACT Fastening Solutions, dozens of employees have participated in a wide range of workforce development classes offered by MWCC, such as LEAN manufacturing training and supervisory skills, he said.

Mr. Tomasetti, who founded the business at his home in 1994, nurtured his company to become a leading manufacturer of cable ties and wiring accessories proudly made in the U.S. The company now produces 1.7 billion cable ties each year in a high-tech manufacturing facility that is currently expanding by an additional 42,300-square feet and 60 new jobs.

But yearly production and manufacturing space aren’t the only areas of growth at ACT. Over the past two decades, Mr. Tomasetti and his wife, Donna, have invested in their dedicated workers. Despite estimates that more than half of U.S. manufacturing jobs will become automated over the next 20 years, Mr. Tomasetti said that is not the case at ACT.

“Technology and automation have allowed us to expand,” he said. Over the past decade the company has become completely automated, and not one person lost their job. “We have an excellent, dedicated workforce and we decided to stay with them, rather than outsource.”



Sentinel & Enterprise Meg Hutchinson photo

Singer-songwriter and mental-health advocate Meg Hutchinson talks about her battle with mental illness at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Leominster on Thursday afternoon. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / JOHN LOVE

LEOMINSTER — Amid personal stories of struggle — and triumph — the message was clear: Mental illness touches all of society.

More than 300 health-care professionals gathered at the DoubleTree Hotel Thursday to further their mission to promote open discussion of mental-health issues.

“Things are changing, but so much more needs to be done to put mental health on the same playing field as physical health care,” said Dr. Anne Procyk, one of the guest experts who participated in the conference’s panel discussion.

People from varying fields and backgrounds attended, but all were in agreement when it came to the biggest issue facing those suffering from mental illness.

“The goal is to educate people about mental health, to make them more aware and more sensitive,” said Melissa Manzi, a college counselor for conference sponsor Mount Wachusett Community College.

This was the third awareness conference sponsored by the college and it’s in collaboration with Heywood Hospital and the SHINE initiative. With more than 300 attendees each year. Manzi said they have reached the point where people had to be turned away because there wasn’t enough space left.

“We’re involved because we see our students having mental health issues affecting them. We look at it as a need for everyone to be educated,” said Manzi.

Among the featured guests were Procyk, a naturopathic physician researching the correlation between physical and mental health, Dr. Phoebe Moore, a clinical and adolescent psychologist specializing in youth anxiety orders, and Robert Bureau, a Rehabilitation Counseling Graduate Program faculty member from Assumption College who has been living with bipolar disorder since 1977.

“When I first started to share my diagnosis I was terrified,” said Bureau. “The pain of hiding it can just be overwhelming.”

Bureau was not the only guest expert who shared a story of struggle.

Cambridge-based musician Meg Hutchinson was there to speak of her nine year experience fighting bipolar disorder.

“Of the last 18 years, I’ve spent nine shadow-boxing with something I couldn’t understand,” she said.

Hutchinson described to the audience how she began slipping into a depression at 19 and how it remained prevalent and untreated for much of her life.

“I spent mornings trying to practice with my face to make it look right. I could smile, but I couldn’t get the light back in my eyes,” she said.

In addition to her story, Hutchinson performed two songs, one of which was based on Kevin Briggs, the California patrol officer who has prevented 200 suicide attempts on the Golden Gate Bridge.

Events like mental-health awareness conferences and other community outreach efforts have been some of the strongest forces in removing the stigma surrounding the issue, experts said.

In 2004 Fidelity Bank created the SHINE Initiative in an effort to promote awareness.

“For the past few years we’ve been working on establishing relationships with schools, universities and whoever else wishing to join in the conversation,” said SHINE Director Paul Richard. Richard also said that SHINE has begun focusing more on illness facing children and adolescents.

Though children are at risk, Richard pointed out that anyone can be affected, and therefore everyone should be informed.

- Peter Jasinski, Sentinel and Enterprise, Oct. 9, 2015

To view more photos and videos, click here.



Frankenstein image - JPG

An image of Frankenstein’s creature created by MWCC Graphic and Interactive Design alumnus Dylan Safford to illustrate the MWCC Humanities Project second-year theme.

Mount Wachusett Community College Humanities Project, “Myths, Monsters, and Modern Science: Frankenstein’s Legacy,” continues with a free panel presentation and discussion on contemporary science.

“Frankenscience? The Myths and Realities of Contemporary Science,” will take place Wednesday, Oct. 14 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Levi Heywood Memorial Library in Gardner. Panelists include Lara Dowland, chair of MWCC’s biotechnology/biomanufacturing program, and MWCC biology professors Thomas Montagno, Carrie Arnold and Heather Conn. Topics will include cloning, transplantation, prosthetics, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture and the food supply.

The second year of the Humanities Project takes an in-depth look at Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein, and its relevance in today’s world. Throughout the year, free events will take place at the college’s Gardner campus and in the community at public libraries and other venues. The MWCC Humanities Project is funded through a matching $500,000 grant the college received from the National Endowment for the Humanities to deepen and sustain quality humanities programming and curriculum throughout North Central Massachusetts.

Other fall  events include “Monsters on the Big Screen,” a lecture by Fitchburg State University film and English Professor Joseph Moser Tuesday, Oct. 20 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in Gardner campus North Café; a Halloween Hike for the Humanities, fundraiser for the matching NEH grant, on Saturday, Oct. 31 at Wachusett Mountain in Princeton; a screening of Kenneth Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein on Nov. 5 from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. in MWCC’s North Cafe; a lecture “Mary Shelley: The Woman Behind the Monster,” with Tufts University Professor Sonia Hofkosh on Nov. 12 from 6:30 to 8 p.m., at the Leominster Public Library; and a brown bag lunch discussion,What Makes a Monster?” on Nov. 18 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. at MWCC’s Gardner campus, room 345.

All events are free and open to the public. Registration is not required. For more information visit


Dr Amjad Bahnassi

Dr. Amjad Bahnassi

Mount Wachusett Community College and Heywood Healthcare are presenting an open forum, “Radical vs. Real: Islam in the Modern World,” on Monday, Oct. 19 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the South Café at MWCC’s Gardner campus. This forum is free and open to the public.

The event stemmed from discussions between Heywood Healthcare President Winfield Brown, MWCC President Daniel Asquino, Heywood physician Dr. Tariq Malik and others on promoting understanding about the difference between the Muslim faith and the violent, radical organizations making global headlines.

Dr Saleem Khanani

Dr. Saleem Khanani

Topics will include an overview of Islam, the world’s second largest religion; political unrest in the Islamic Middle East; and radical Islam vs. real Islam; followed by a question and answer session. The forum will be led by members of the Islamic Society of Greater Worcester, who have participated in similar dialogues at colleges, libraries and other venues throughout Worcester County.The speakers, who are all U.S. citizens, include Dr. Saleem Khanani, a hematologist and oncologist affiliated with Heywood Healthcare and St. Vincent Cancer and Wellness Center in Worcester; Noman Khanani, teacher of Islamic studies; and Dr. Amjad Bahnassi, medical director of Behavioral Health Services in Worcester. MWCC Legal Studies Professor James Korman is serving as moderator. Light refreshments will be served.

Noman Khanani

Noman Khanani

“There are so many misconceptions about the religion and the people, Muslims,” Dr. Khanani said. “The goal of the forum is to motivate the audience to learn about Islam directly from Islamic resources, rather than be influenced by the media hype. The activities of the minority do not reflect the beliefs of the majority.”Dr. Khanani was born and raised in Pakistan, where he graduated from medical school. In 1992, he emigrated to the U.S., where he completed his residency at St. Vincent’s and later worked at UMass Medical Center.

His son, Noman Khanani, is a graduate of Hartford Seminary’s master’s in Islamic Studies Program with a concentration in Muslim-Christian Relations and also holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and economics from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  He teaches and presents sermons in Muslim communities throughout central Massachusetts.

Dr. Bahnassi was born in Syria, where he graduated from medical school. He was trained in psychiatry at UMass Medical Center, and is an assistant professor of psychiatry at UMass Medical School.

“Through our discussions with local leaders, we are presenting this forum to bring a better understanding of the Muslim faith to our students, professors and staff, as well as our greater community,” said President Asquino.

“It is my hope that this open forum will help clarify many misconceptions about Islam, the second largest religion throughout the world, while helping us to embrace the diverse cultural fabric which is the hallmark of our country and our region,” said Mr. Brown.

manuf-day-1 copy

Jacqueline Belrose, MWCC Vice President of Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development; President Daniel M. Asquino, Thatcher Kezer, Senior Vice President of MassDevelopment, Devens; Melissa Fetterhoff, President of the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce; Dennis Bunnell, chair of MWCC’s Advanced Manufacturing Advisory Board; advisory board member John Gravelle, CEO of Sterling Manufacturing; State Rep. Susannah Whipps-Lee; and advisory board member Fred Flohr, Senior Director of Operations for Georgia Pacific Dixie Business.

Mount Wachusett Community College celebrated National Manufacturing Day on Oct. 2 with a free expo featuring demonstrations, speakers and tours of its Manufacturing Workforce Certification Center and Devens campus.

The third annual networking and informational event brought together industry representatives, educators and students who toured the manufacturing and skills-training labs and participated in hands-on demonstrations. The event was sponsored, in part, through a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT III) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.

“We are proud to once again sponsor an event in recognition of National Manufacturing Day to raise awareness about the job opportunities available in North Central Massachusetts and the industry partnerships that actively work to close the gap between trained workers and employer needs,” said President Daniel M. Asquino.

Later this fall and winter, the college will acquire an additional $430,000 worth of training equipment through the TAACCCT grant, including portable training devices that address the fundamentals of automated manufacturing processes, he said. The equipment will be brought to schools, businesses and other locations for on-site instruction.

National Manufacturing Day was established in 2012 to help change public perception of manufacturing and underscore the shortage of skilled workers in Massachusetts and in the country. Featured speakers at MWCC’s event included Thatcher Kezer, MassDevelopment’s senior vice president of Devens, and State Representative Susannah Whipps-Lee of Athol.

Representative Whipps-Lee, co-owner of Whipps, Inc,. a company founded by her father that designs and builds equipment for the wastewater industry, shared how the family business grew from a small start-up with two employees and $1,800 in annual sales to 70 employees and $28 million in sales by investing in their workforce through local training programs.

“We have always relied on our local educational institutions to help us grow our business. Mount Wachusett Community College has always been the go ‘go-to’ place as far as how we can help our local industries, how we can help our local hospitals get the skilled workforce they need,” she said.

“The Commonwealth understands the needs of business and the needs of our workforce and how we can gather people together to get them trained. Our delegation in central Massachusetts is very dedicated to the workforce and the people in this part of the state.”

Mr. Kezer noted the progress being made in the region and in the state to identify longstanding infrastructure issues, such as transportation, to expand opportunity for workers.

Demonstrations throughout the morning included CAD design & 3-D printing, mechatronics, a manufacturing aptitude challenge, biotechnology and quality.

Manufacturing partnerships awards were presented to members of MWCC’s Advanced Manufacturing Advisory Board by Jacqueline Belrose, Vice President of Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development, and board chair Dennis Bunnell. Recipients include: Tom Clay of Xtalic Corp; Fred Flohr of Georgia-Pacific Dixie Business; Mark Freeman of Steel-Fab, Inc.; Leo Gibbons of H.C. Starck, Inc.; Eamonn Goold of Bristol-Myers Squibb; John Gravelle of Sterling Manufacturing; Eric Longo of Bemis Associates, Inc.; Raymond Martino of Simonds International; Steven Rocheleau of Rocheleau Tool and Die Co. Inc.; Tim Sappington of the North Central MA Workforce Investment Board; Kelly Schick of Bristol-Myers Squibb; John Witkowski of Nypro-Jabil Healthcare; and Melissa Fetterhoff of the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce.

MWCC Kaila-SecPeyser-CommSantiago

MWCC Student Kaila Lundgren shared the stage with Massachusetts Secretary of Education Jim Peyser, left, and Commissioner of Higher Education Carlos Santiago at the Department of Higher Education’s first Go Higher! event of the academic year.

Kaila Lundgren, a Pre-Healthcare Academy student at Mount Wachusett Community College, shared the stage with Massachusetts Secretary of Education Jim Peyser and Commissioner of Higher Education Carlos Santiago during the state’s first Go Higher! event, held Sept. 24 at Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School.

Lundgren, a 2015 graduate of Ralph C. Mahar Regional High School, told an assembly of 350 seniors that she was inspired to become a registered nurse to help her 7-year-old brother, who lives courageously with a rare, chronic kidney stone disease called cystinuria, and by her mother, who became an RN after studying at one of Massachusetts’ community college while raising a family of five children.

One of six student speakers, Lundgren said she chose MWCC because of its fast-track option into the college’s nursing program through its Pre-Healthcare Academy. Following a year of earning good grades in co-requisite courses, including anatomy & physiology, psychology and statistics, she and other academy students are immediately accepted into the healthcare program of their choice at MWCC. In less than three years, she will be graduating with her nursing degree and practicing in a field she loves, she said.

Lundgren, who also coaches field hockey at Mahar, advised the students to pursue their dreams.

“Follow your heart.”

Go Higher!, previously known as Go Public! gives Massachusetts high school students a chance to discover the programs and opportunities available at the state’s 29 public college and university campuses. The event at Monty Tech launched a series of statewide events that will take place at various high schools throughout the academic year to promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs.

Secretary Peyser encouraged the high school audience to take a close look at the Commonwealth’s 29 public community colleges and universities for the abundance of program options that cost a fraction of private institutions.

“Massachusetts public higher education has a program and a course of study for you. Like all things in life, you get out what you put in,” he said.

Commissioner Santiago noted that two-thirds of all college students in Massachusetts are enrolled in the state’s public institutions. “College will transform you,” he said.

Monty Tech Superintendent Sheila Harrity and the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education hosted the event, which was also attended by State Rep. Stephen DiNatale.

In addition to Lundgren, students representing UMass Lowell, Fitchburg State University, Worcester State University, Quinsigamond Community College and Massachusetts Maritime Academy also spoke about their college experiences.



Meg Hutchinson

Singer, songwriter and advocate Meg Hutchinson will present the keynote address during the third annual Mental Health Awareness Conference.

Each year, approximately one in five Americans suffer from some mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. To continue to raise awareness about mental health and wellness, Mount Wachusett Community College, Heywood Hospital and the SHINE Initiative are presenting the third annual Mental Health Awareness Conference.

The free conference will take place Thursday, Oct. 8 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Leominster. Boston-based singer-songwriter, poet and mental health advocate Meg Hutchinson is the featured speaker. The conference will also include a panel presentation and luncheon. Following the presentations, 150 MWCC nursing students will participate in the QPR (question, persuade, refer) suicide prevention training. Seating is limited, and reservations are required.

“This conference provides yet another opportunity to share relevant and fact-based information about mental wellness with the community,” said Paul Richard, executive director of the SHINE Initiative, whose mission is to recognize mental illness in children and young adults as a mainstream health issue.

“For far too long, mental health has been viewed as a topic too delicate and too uncomfortable to speak openly about,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “It is imperative, on a local and national level, that open dialogue take place in our communities, in our schools, in our workplaces, and in our homes, because this is an issue that has everything to do with learning, employment productivity, and the quality and enjoyment of life. We are honored to again join the SHINE Initiative and Heywood Hospital in presenting this important conference,” he said.

“Heywood Hospital is proud to partner with MWCC and The Shine Initiative to raise awareness and remove the stigma associated with mental health,” said hospital President Winfield S. Brown. “One of Heywood’s top priorities is to increase local capacity to provide support services for those who suffer from mental illness or addiction, and continue to carry the message that suicide is preventable.”

Hutchinson, a frequent keynote speaker at universities, conferences and teaching hospitals around the country, grew up and attended schools in the Berkshires and now lives in the greater Boston area. She recently finished filming Pack Up Your Sorrows, a feature-length documentary that explores topics near to her heart: creativity, healing, mindfulness in education, mental health advocacy, and wellness, and how these elements converge in making the world a better place. The film is told through the lens of Hutchinson’s personal story and includes interviews with leading psychologists, neuroscientists, authors, historians and spiritual teachers.

Panelists include Robert C. Bureau, associate director and faculty member at Assumption College’s Rehabilitation Counseling Graduate Program; Dr. Phoebe Moore, assistant professor in the Psychiatric Department at UMass Medical Center in Worcester and a clinical child and adolescent psychologist who specializes in youth anxiety disorders; and Dr. Anne Procyk, a naturopathic physician practicing nutritional and integrative medicine to treat mental health disorders at Third Stone Integrative Health Center in Essex, CT.

For more information and to register for the conference, contact MWCC’s Division of Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development at 978-630-9525 or online at