Community Stories

mwccIn response to the sudden closing of all 137 campuses of the ITT Technical Institute, including two in Massachusetts, Mount Wachusett Community College is working with the Massachusetts Community Colleges Executive Office and other state and federal agencies to assist affected students with their academic pursuits.

The community colleges are also ready to partner with the U.S. Department of Education, the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office to assist these former ITT students, the MCCEO has affirmed.

The abrupt closure of the schools has affected more than 35,000 students nationally, including approximately 500 students in Massachusetts at campuses in Wilmington and Norwood. More than 100 of the Massachusetts students are veterans. The vocational institute closed Sept. 7, following an Aug. 25 decision by the U.S. Department of Education the for-profit college chain could no longer enroll students that receive federal financial aid.

“These students have had their hopes and dreams dashed just as the new academic year begins,” said Mount Wachusett Community College President Daniel M. Asquino. “MWCC and our sister colleges throughout the Commonwealth are ready to help these students get back on track with their educational goals.”

MWCC welcomes ITT Technical Institute students to enroll in academic programs and courses at our campuses in Gardner, Leominster and Devens, as well our many online academic programs,” said President Daniel M. Asquino. MWCC is recognized as a state and national model for its wrap-around support services for student veterans, available through its Center for Excellence for Veteran Student Success.

Mount Wachusett Community College is encouraging ITT students to submit a Request for Assessment of Prior Learning, as credits may be earned for college-level learning through alternative educational experiences such as ITT.

More information about this process can be found in the admissions office, where representatives are committed to assisting ITT students with the enrollment process at Mount Wachusett Community College.  For more information, contact Admissions at 978-630-9110 or

For general inquiries and help with federal student loans, please reach out to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office at 1-888-830-6277. The Massachusetts Community Colleges Executive Office (MCCEO) works on behalf of the presidents and trustees of the fifteen Community Colleges in Massachusetts – currently representing more than 184,000 students across every region of the Commonwealth. For more information on the 15 community colleges across Massachusetts, visit or call 617-542-2911.

ComCom + MassTransfer Logo - Horizontal - RGBMassachusetts students and families now have access to a new, full-service web portal that will allow them to explore a wide range of academic offerings at the state’s public colleges and universities and chart a course to an affordable bachelor’s degree through transfer from a community college to a state university or University of Massachusetts campus, the Baker-Polito Administration announced today.

The new MassTransfer web portal will, for the first time, allow the Commonwealth’s high school and college students to identify and compare a wide range of degree programs, transfer options, and college costs at all undergraduate campuses. They will be able to see what is required to transfer seamlessly between campuses, including course-by course “degree maps” available for some majors.

They will also be able to use a savings calculator to find the typical savings associated with earning an “A2B” – associate to bachelor’s – degree. The portal’s features also include a detailed description of the three different transfer options available to students, a course-to-course equivalency database to allow them to see exactly how various course credits will transfer, and an additional tool to view cost savings associated with an A2B degree earned through the Commonwealth Commitment program, announced in April by Governor Baker, Lieutenant Governor Polito, and the leaders within public higher education.

“This new online tool will save students valuable time and money while completing their degrees, and I hope that many students take advantage of the Commonwealth Commitment as early as this fall,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Our colleges and universities are critical partners in ensuring a strong workforce pipeline and through this new program, it will be even easier for students to take the classes and earn the degrees they need to succeed.”

“The national research is clear that even a few hundred dollars can make a powerful difference in whether students stay on the path toward college completion or leave school because they cannot afford to continue,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “We are thrilled to offer the students in our Commonwealth substantial savings off an already great deal on college credentials.”

“I am grateful to the leadership of all three segments of public higher education and the Department of Higher Education for stepping forward and collectively creating the Commonwealth Commitment to ensure we make college as affordable and transfers as seamless as possible for all students,” Education Secretary Jim Peyser said. “What’s incredible is that the savings a student will see in this new online tool could be even greater than what’s listed, with the addition of scholarships and other financial aid awards, which can lower the cost of an associate and bachelor’s degree even further.”

“With college costs identified as a chief barrier to college completion, we knew we needed a more seamless, efficient system to allow students to transfer from one campus to another and graduate in a more timely and cost-effective manner,” said Carlos E. Santiago, Commissioner of Higher Education. “The new MassTransfer portal provides all the information students need to complete their academic journey without delay and added debt. I think many students will be pleasantly surprised by the academic excellence, diversity of degree programs and affordability available at each of our public campuses.”

Through the Commonwealth Commitment program, students who enroll full-time at one of the state’s 15 community colleges will be able to transfer to a state university or UMass campus and graduate with a bachelor’s degree in one of a number of select programs. They must maintain a 3.0 cumulative grade point average and graduate in no more than four and a half years. Students in the program will realize substantial savings off the “total sticker price” of a traditional bachelor’s degree, qualifying for a freeze in tuition and mandatory fees, 10% per-semester rebates, and a full tuition credit in their last two years of school worth an average of $1,200.

During the student’s enrollment, he or she would receive part of the savings in the form of per-semester rebates, which could be used for textbooks, transportation costs, child care or other expenses that can often derail a student’s college aspirations. A student wishing to live in a dorm could also apply the savings to defray the cost of on-campus housing.

The list of degree programs offered through the Commonwealth Commitment program includes liberal arts and sciences programs such as Biology, Psychology and Economics, as well as degrees leading to careers in fields such as Printmaking, Facilities Management and International Maritime Business.  The full list of programs offered in Fall 2016 and Fall 2017 is available here.



The Clarkson S. Fisher Federal Building & U.S. Courthouse. "New Deal" WPA Art. Built in 1932 and designed by architect James Wetmore. The exterior of the Trenton Federal Building is a well executed design with a "Stipped Neo-Classical" form, both Classical and Art Deco terra cotta detailing. The "New Deal Art" murals are by Charles Wells.

“New Deal” WPA art, Clarkson S. Fisher Federal Building & U.S. Courthouse, Trenton, NJ, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, photograph by Carol M. Highsmith.

Following an inaugural year with Henry David Thoreau and last year’s examination of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the Mount Wachusett Community College Humanities Project will begin its third year this fall with an artistic focus on “Imagining Work.”

During the upcoming academic year, students, faculty, staff and members of the greater community will delve into the many ways artists, writers and photographers have expressed the changing nature of work over the past 150 years. From farm to factory in the 19th century to our present-day knowledge economy, the effects of automation, globalization, immigration, war, and race on the identity of the American worker will be explored. A variety of events scheduled at the college and in the community are free and open to the public.

Funded through a multi-year challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the MWCC Humanities Project strengthens the college’s humanities curriculum; supports collaborative and interdisciplinary teaching and research in the humanities; examines the intersection between the humanities and other academic disciplines; and engages the college and the greater community in the discussion of enduring themes from the world’s many cultures and traditions.

The theme will focus on the Great Depression photographs of Dorothea Lange, the Great Migration paintings by African American artist Jacob Lawrence and the poetry of Diane Gilliam Fisher, author of the award-winning book, Kettle Bottom, which depicts the Virginia mining wars.

“Year three of the Humanities Project is focused on something that MWCC students, faculty, staff and community members know a lot about – work,” said English Professor and Project Coordinator Michelle Valois. “Can the mundane be the subject of great works of art?  Can we find beauty in something we do day in and day out?  Our study will focus on paintings, photographs and poems that have transformed work into more than just a paycheck. These works of art show us the struggles and the joys of the American worker.”

This summer, participating faculty representing multiple disciplines met for a two-day workshop to develop curriculum and activities centered on the theme. Among several presentations, Stephen B. Jareckie, consulting curator of photography for the Fitchburg Art Museum, spoke on early 20th century photography, and artist and MWCC art history instructor Donalyn Schofield discussed the artwork of Jacob Lawrence.

Upcoming fall events include a gallery talk with Tracie Pouliot, founder of the Chair City Community Art Center and Oral History Bookmaking Project; the third annual hike for the humanities fundraiser at Wachusett Mountain; a pizza party and poetry readings from Kettle Bottom; an interactive art project creating replicas of Lawrence’s paintings; and a student poetry and prose slam.

Spring events will include a poetry reading with author Diane Gilliam Fisher; a presentation by University of Massachusetts, Lowell Professor Robert Forrant on female mill workers in Lowell from 1825 to 1860; and film screenings with Fitchburg State University Professor Joe Moser, including “Grab a Hunk of Lightning,” about the life of Dorothea Lange, Charlie Chaplin’s “Modern Times,” “The Devil and Miss Jones,” and “The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter.”

For more information, visit


Project Healthcare students from Fitchburg and Leominster High Schools participate in an activity at the MIT museum

Project Healthcare students Rohanji Novas and Preya Patel from Fitchburg and Leominster High Schools participate in an activity at the MIT museum.

Incoming freshmen at Fitchburg and Leominster’s public high schools will have an opportunity to join a program administered by Mount Wachusett Community College that prepares students for careers in the healthcare field.

In November, MWCC was awarded a five-year, $2.25 million federal grant to create the Project Healthcare program in collaboration with Fitchburg High School, Leominster High School and Leominster Center for Technical Education Innovation. The grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health, is helping to address a national initiative to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities.

The goal of the program is to increase the number of underrepresented minority and disadvantaged healthcare providers by creating a high school-to-college pipeline of students who plan to enter the healthcare field. Health disparities – differences in health outcomes that are closely linked with social, economic, and environmental disadvantage – are often driven by the social conditions in which individuals live, learn, work and play. The workforce pipeline initiative aligns with federal initiatives to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities, known as the HHS Disparities Action Plan.

The program provides counseling, coaching, field trips, guest speakers, and dual enrollment courses for up to 120 high school students. This spring, 98 students were recruited to participate in the program. In addition to continuing support for these students during the upcoming academic year, college administrators will recruit additional students from the class of 2020 to join the program.

“We were able to accomplish a lot in just the first six months of the program,” said Director Melissa Bourque-Silva of MWCC’s Division of Access & Transition. “I know that our hard working staff and productive partnerships will keep our students motivated to learn and grow. I’m very excited to see what this year will bring.”

Within five years, the two cohorts of students who entered ninth grade in fall 2015 and fall 2016 will graduate from high school prepared to enter MWCC’s Pre-Healthcare Academy. By the end of their second semester at MWCC, students will have completed 15 college credits. By earning dual enrollment college credits, students can complete a healthcare certificate program within the first year or two of college, and an associate degree within three years of entering college. Students are motivated to transfer to a four-year institution to continue with healthcare studies.

In addition to Bourque-Silva, MWCC educators Shaunti Phillips, Heidi Wharton and Train Wu serve as the program’s senior outreach specialists and career coaches.

This spring, during the school day and after school, students learned about career and college research with a healthcare focus, took field trips to healthcare facilities, participated in hands-on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) activities, and heard from multiple guest speakers including doctors and nutritionists, Bourque-Silva said. This summer, several participants obtained their CPR certification.

“We are delighted to have six classes of such courses already scheduled during the school day, and we’re looking forward to having several more scheduled in the coming school year during after-school hours,” said Dr. Christopher Lord, Principal of Leominster High School. “This gives students an opportunity to get a taste of the rigors of college life while in high school,” he said.

“Our students are so fortunate to be participating in the Workforce Diversity Pipeline Grant with MWCC. At Fitchburg High School, we seek to prepare students for college preparation as well as the careers of the 21st Century,” said Principal Jeremy Roche. “Exposing our students to these kind of relevant, engaging and purposeful experiences in the health care fields is a tremendous opportunity and one that will hopefully reap benefits in the immediate school year, but more importantly, for years to come.”

First-year participants are reporting that the program has opened their eyes to the academic and career opportunities that will be available to them. “I probably wouldn’t have wanted to go to college,” one Fitchburg High School student noted. “But now since I have the opportunity, I want to.”

booksThe North Central Educational Opportunity Center (NCEOC) at Mount Wachusett Community College has been awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to continue providing adults in the region with comprehensive services to successfully transition to college or other postsecondary education.

MWCC was awarded $236,900 for the first year of a five-year grant totaling $1.18 million. The NCEOC, housed within MWCC’s Division of Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development, was created in 2002 through federal funding, with additional financial and in-kind support from the college.

Designed to provide support for first generation college students and those with income challenges, Educational Opportunity Center programs are one of the nationwide TRIO programs created through federal legislation more than 40 years ago.

The NCEOC program serves 1,000 adults from throughout North Central Massachusetts at MWCC’s Gardner and Leominster campuses. Two-thirds of the participants are low-income, first-generation college students.

“Using federal funds to partner with local institutions to address the needs of the region is a key tool in ensuring all people have the opportunity to pursue higher education,” said Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (MA-3).

“The significant return on these investments will have ongoing reverberations for many years to come, as more students are encouraged and able to complete their college careers and enter the workforce with the skills necessary to succeed. Mount Wachusett received these funds after a rigorous grant process, which speaks to both the quality of their application and the school in general. They exemplify the growing trend of Third District institutions becoming academic leaders in the Commonwealth. I look forward to seeing the far-reaching benefits take hold,” she said.

“A college education should be within reach for all who seek it. We must ensure that this applies to everyone regardless of age, income, or where they live. Whether it’s the hardworking parent who put off a college education in order to provide for their kids or someone who just never thought college was in the cards for them, it’s never too late,” Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-02) said. “With this grant, Mount Wachusett Community College will be able to continue the incredible work they’re doing to support lifelong learners and put a college education within reach for all Massachusetts residents. This is a smart investment that will help to lift families up and grow our whole economy.”

“We are grateful for the continued support of our Congressional delegation for this outstanding program, which has helped thousands of students over the past 15 years and, with this renewed funding, will continue to do so in the years ahead,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “We also appreciate the many community agencies and organizations that partner with us on this initiative. We are all committed to student success.”

The North Central Educational Opportunity Center actively assists participants in the planning and implementation of a student learning plan, which may include high school equivalency preparation, English as a Second Language courses, technical or professional training and college courses.

The center provides free and confidential client-centered services in English and Spanish that are tailored to the learning needs of each participant, including assistance with applying to the public or private college, university or vocational school of their choice, applying for financial aid, and academic and career counseling.

As a federally funded program, the NCEOC assists area residents with their academic and career goals no matter where they want to go to school, whether it is Mount Wachusett, one of the state universities or a career training program. The program also provides services specifically designed for veterans and their dependents, as well as current military personnel.

UBMS 2016 Super Seniors

From left, Chandler Giuffre of Athol, Nathanial Gagnon of Winchendon and Sanjiv Sundaramurthy of Gardner, were among the area Upward Bound Math and Science students recognized for their academic achievements by MWCC’s Division of Access & Transition.

When Sanjiv Sundaramurthy heads off to the University of Arizona this fall to study physics, he’ll bring everything he needs for his dorm room, including first-hand experience with college life and free, transferable college credits toward his bachelor’s degree thanks to the Upward Bound Math and Science program at Mount Wachusett Community College. 

The 2016 Gardner High School graduate has just completed his second year in UBMS, a year-round federal TRIO program administered by Mount Wachusett Community College for Gardner, Athol and Winchendon students. 

More than two dozen high school students participated in the program’s six-week residential component, which took place this summer at Fitchburg State University and included academic courses, extracurricular activities, career exploration and field trips.

The students were recognized for their academic success during an awards ceremony on Aug. 4. Sundaramurthy was joined by Chandler Giuffre of Athol and Nathanial Gagnon of Winchendon as the event’s featured student speakers.

This fall, Gagnon, who has earned 30 college credits through UBMS, plans to continue his studies at MWCC before furthering his education in the field of biomedical engineering. Giuffre, who completed an associate degree in Liberal Arts – Pre-Engineering and Physics and earned his high school diploma this spring through MWCC’s Pathways Early College Innovation School, is transferring to UMass Lowell fall to continue studying physics and math. 

“UBMS is such a great program,” Giuffre said. “This program has allowed me to grow and develop into who I am today.” 

Fagan Forhan, Assistant Dean of K-12 Partnerships and Civic Engagement, congratulated the students on their achievements and thanked the many parents and grandparents in attendance for the encouragement they’ve provided. 

The UBMS program is offered to students who have an aptitude for math and science and are in grades 9 through 12 at Gardner High School, Athol High School and Murdock Middle/Senior High School in Winchendon. Two-thirds of the students are from low income or first-generation college families and have an identified need for services. The supervised residential component acquaints students with campus life while providing an opportunity to grow academically, socially and culturally, said Angele Goss, Director of MWCC’s UBMS and North Central Mass Talent Search programs. 

The students attended workshops on leadership and careers, took part in a variety of recreational and educational programs and went on field trips to colleges, universities and museums. 

MWCC’s North Central Massachusetts Upward Bound Math and Science program began in 2008 with a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. In 2012, the college received a five-year, $1.3 million grant to continue funding the program.

Gardner News Summer Up Mark Hawke July 2016

Mayor Mark Hawke visited Mount Wachusett Community College’s Summer Up program on Wednesday, held at Jackson Playground. Here, Hawke impresses children with his whistling skills. (Photos by Andrew Mansfield)

GARDNER – Fun learning and games have kept Gardner’s youth so busy this summer they can almost forget the heat of 90 degree days.

Mount Wachusett Com­munity College is in the midst of its 12th annual Summer Up program, run in collaboration with the city and held at Jackson Playground, which is free for families and lasts five weeks.

An average of about 70 kids a day stop by the playground and on Wednesday morning they were given a treat almost as good as a popsicle: A visit from Mayor Mark Hawke.

“It’s a safe environment. It’s structured, supportive, it’s fantastic,” Hawke said, adding the program fits well with the playground improvements the city has made in the last few years. He said the city donated $12,500 to help run the program.

Summer Up is held Mondays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for children ages 5 to 12. It also provides an employment opportunity for several teenagers who are counselors helping out the Mount’s adult staff.

Every week the children visit Greenwood Memorial Pool and are introduced to fun, safe STEM-related activities, standing for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“I really enjoy when you put Mentos inside of the soda,” said Jeremias Rodriguez, referring to a science experiment with the mint candy and Coke that produces a volcanic-like chemical reaction.  Rodriguez is 7 years old and in his second year going to Summer Up.  He said he also likes playing water dodge ball at the pool.

Anthony Frediani, 9, is in his third year at the program.  He enjoys spending time with his friends at the jungle gym and games like capture the flag. “I like playing basketball the best; my favorite game is knockout,” he said, which involves players competing against each other to make basketball shots.

STEM instructor JoAnn Pel­lechia is in her third year with the program, saying she loves the opportunity.  Making miniature greenhouses for plants, bird feeders, glow-in-the-dark slime, and buildings made from spaghetti and marshmallows are some of the activities she’s been teaching.  She teaches the teenage workers how to instruct the children in groups, working together.

“It’s keeps getting better each year,” she said.  “Teamwork is a very important component of the working force of the future.”

Gardner News Summer UP July 2016

Children form a circle to perform a song together.

Samantha Phelps-Pineo, 15, is one of the youth workers.  They undergo a week of training beforehand, being taught leadership skills and bullying prevention.  They are also taught job skills such as resume writing for their future careers. “I’ve been working here since seventh grade and I’m going to 10th,” said Phelps-Pineo. “I think this job gets you ready to do interviews for a bigger, better job.”

Lea Ann Scales, who is the Mount’s vice president for external affairs, communications, and K-12 partnerships, said the program is the “coolest thing going.”

“The mayor has been so innovative and creative and supportive.”

The $12,500 contribution from the city was a budget item approved by the City Council. “This is always in jeopardy because it’s funding,” said Hawke.  “I’ll give them credit. Without a blink of an eye they said absolutely, this needs to be done.”

The Mount also runs separate Summer Up programs at sites in Fitchburg and Leominster.  At all sites meals are provided to the children.

The Division of Access and Transition at the Mount coordinates the program, which costs about $40,000 per site.  For Gardner, after the city’s contribution and grant funding, the Mount is left to pay about $15,000.

Scales said the program fits a need for childcare over the summer and youth employment, and is also part of the civic engagement focus put in place by Mount President Dan Asquino. “It’s the college’s job to make sure our communities are vibrant,” she said.

Andrew Mansfield, The Gardner News, July 28, 2016


Signaling Success SummerUP 2016

Student participants in MWCC’s Educational Talent Search and North Central Massachusetts Talent Search programs recently joined peers on campus for Signaling Success training to enhance skills for success in work, school and life.

The U.S. Department of Education will award two grants totaling $573,600 to Mount Wachusett Community College through its Talent Search Program, Congressman Jim McGovern announced on July 21. The program supports efforts on campuses in Massachusetts and across the country to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds to succeed in higher education.

“Every student deserves access to a strong education and the bright future it brings. These grants will provide a critical boost to the great work Mount Wachusett Community College is doing to help more students succeed and reach their full potential,” Congressman McGovern said. “Where you grow up should never limit your ability to go to college and pursue your dreams. These grants will help to open new doors of opportunity for so many students right here in Massachusetts. I am proud to support our local schools and look forward to seeing all the good this funding will do for our communities.”

“Community colleges play a vital role in our nation’s economy, and we are grateful for our Congressional delegation’s continued support of students who benefit from these TRiO programs,” said Mount Wachusett Community College President Daniel M. Asquino. “These two grants will serve nearly 1,200 students in area school districts, providing them with the support needed to be successful in middle school and high school, and ready to meet the challenges and opportunities of post-secondary education.”

Each grant is anticipated to be continued for a total of five years to support the program, which are administered through the college’s Division of Access & Transition.

MWCC’s long-running Talent Search program, now entering its 26th year, serves 695 students annually at the Longso and Memorial middle schools in Fitchburg, Fitchburg High School, Gardner Middle School, Gardner High School, Samoset and Sky View middle schools in Leominster, Leominster High School and Leominster Center for Technical Education Innovation.

The North Central Massachusetts Talent Search program was launched in 2011 with a similar TRIO grant. The program is designed to prepare 500 students annually at Athol-Royalston Middle School, Athol High School, Clinton Middle School, Clinton High School, Ralph C. Mahar Regional School in Orange, Murdock Middle/High School in Winchendon and the Sizer School in Fitchburg.

The Talent Search program identifies and assists individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds who have the potential to succeed in higher education. The program provides academic, career, and financial counseling to its participants and encourages them to graduate from high school and continue on to and complete their postsecondary education.

The program also publicizes the availability of financial aid and assist participant with the postsecondary application process. Talent Search also encourages persons who have not completed education programs at the secondary or postsecondary level to enter or reenter and complete postsecondary education. The goal of Talent Search is to increase the number of youth from disadvantaged backgrounds who complete high school and enroll in and complete their postsecondary education.

For more information about MWCC’s Talent Search programs, click here.