Community Stories

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Student Government Association President Cathy Teague leads the Class of 2015 to their Commencement ceremony.

Unlike Mount Wachusett Community College’s first commencement in 1966, when 71 graduates received associate degrees in six academic programs, the college this year awarded 842 associate degrees and academic certificates to 785 graduates enrolled in nearly 50 program options.

During the college’s 50th commencement on May 20, President Daniel M. Asquino asked the graduates to reflect on their accomplishments and their journey ahead.

“Lives change here like nowhere else. Over the past 50 years, tens of thousands of students have crossed this stage and they are now contributing members of our communities,” he said. “I challenge you to go forward and use your skills and the education that you received to continue these pursuits and to improve your life, that of your family and friends and that of our community, your state and your nation, and that you manifest an overall behavior that generates happiness, goodwill and contagious optimism.”

Kevin Berg

Kevin Berg

Keynote speaker and 2015 Alumnus of the Year Award recipient Kevin Berg urged the graduates to embrace change, persist toward their goals with drive, determination and desire, and accept the help and support of others as needed.“To me there can be no greater honor than being asked to give the Commencement address at the institution that started me on my path in becoming the person I am today,” said Berg, who grew up in Gardner and is now executive vice president of production for CBS Network Entertainment in Los Angeles. “My path clearly had its genesis right here at Mount Wachusett.”After studying broadcasting and communications at MWCC, he worked for six months at a news station in Boston. In the summer of 1984, he moved to LA, where he landed a job in television production and quickly moved up the ranks working with award-winning director Marty Pasetta and then at CBS.

 

Jim Garrison and President Asquino

Long-serving Board of Trustees chairman Jim Garrison received an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters and the 2015 Service Above Self Award for his leadership and generosity. In appreciation, he also received a standing ovation.

MWCC also presented business leader, philanthropist and college advocate James O. Garrison with an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters and the 2015 Service Above Self Award. The award recognizes those who have made significant contributions to MWCC and the 29 North Central Massachusetts cities and towns that make up MWCC’s service area. In addition to extensive community service, Mr. Garrison is a former chair of the college’s Board of Trustees and benefactor of the Garrison Center for Early Childhood Education and Early Childhood Education scholarships.“His philanthropic endeavors have resulted in countless improvements and changes to MWCC that have enhanced the learning environment for college students and children and the vital role the college plays in the community,” President Asquino said.

Student speaker Yasmine Kanaan of Still River, a Business Administration major, shared her poignant story of how MWCC helped her overcome obstacles, redirect her life and discover her potential.

Yasmine Kanaan

Yasmine Kanaan

“My rise was not easy, and my journey continues as I work hard to better myself and put the pieces of my life back together,” she said. “I have gone from a lost young adult with no goals and no identity, to a student with a high GPA, an associate’s degree in business that I was able to complete in one year, and an acceptance to the University of Massachusetts Lowell. This was all possible because this college embraced me and opened so many doors for me. We all owe this day and our success to the Mount for creating that stepping stone, that opportunity for each of us to be able to have a better and brighter future, for creating an environment that makes it easy to transition back into school, and for faculty who are very willing to help and advise us in any way they can.”

Student Trustee Phillip M. Stan was presented with the Trustees’ Award. Bryce Bodley-Gomes of Ashburnham and Cindy Caron of Jaffrey, N.H. received President’s Keys. John Day of Gardner was presented with this year’s Dean’s Key.

Five retiring professors were awarded emeriti status: Joel Anderson, Media Arts & Technology; Paul Laverty, Mathematics; John McNally, Health Sciences, Fitness & Wellness; Elena Natalizia, Criminal Justice; and John Reilly, Business Administration.

Garrisons with Dan and Tina

Peggy and Jim Garrison, with Board of Trustees Chair Tina Sbrega and President Asquino, were recognized for their generous contributions to the college and its students.

Prior to MWCC’s 50th Commencement ceremony, college and local officials paid tribute to Jim and Peggy Garrison for their generous support over the past several decades to the college and students.

Named in their honor, the Garrison Center for Early Childhood Education on the Gardner campus serves as an educational setting for college students as well as a preschool in collaboration with the Montachusett Opportunity Council. The center will be adorned with a plaque commemorating their gifts.

“Jim and Peggy Garrison epitomize the essence of what it means to be caring, engaged citizens in a democratic society. They give freely of their time, talent, and resources to philanthropic efforts that advance humankind,” the plaque reads.

“This Center is named in recognition of their generous gift toward the construction of the facility and their additional gift of $1,000,000 for scholarships to students who study in the field of early childhood education. It is their belief that those who care for our precious children deserve to have all barriers to higher education eliminated. Further, they correctly believe that the foundation to success and compassion begins in the early years and that children have the right to be supported by parents and caregivers who are keenly interested in their development.

Jim and Peggy Garrison will be forever instrumental in the success of our city, our community, and our nation by their efforts to nurture the development of compassionate and engaged human beings from their formative years forward.”

First MWCC graduation 1966

MWCC’s first Commencement exercises took place on June 12, 1966 with 71 graduates. This year, the college will award more than 840 degrees and certificates to 781 graduates. Pictured, from left, 1966 graduates and award recipients Mary Pieloch and Doris Townsend; Dr. Arthur F. Haley, President; graduate and award recipient James Eacmen, Jr.; and Commencement speaker Dr. Howard B. Jefferson, president of Clark University. (Photo courtesy of The Gardner News)

Fifty years ago, lifelong Gardner resident Helen Lepkowski was among a handful of Mount Wachusett Community College faculty members to congratulate the college’s first graduating class.

On Wednesday, May 20, the former business division professor and her husband, Ed, a former MWCC trustee, will maintain their longstanding tradition of attending the celebration. Unlike the first ceremony, where 71 graduates received associate degrees in six academic programs, the college will award more than 840 associate degrees and academic certificates to 785 graduates enrolled in nearly 50 program options.

Mount Wachusett’s first commencement, held outdoors on Sunday, June 12, 1966 at the Elm Street campus, featured Dr. Howard B. Jefferson, the third president of Clark University, as the speaker.

“It was very small and it was just wonderful and intimate. It was a beautiful day,” Mrs. Lepkowski recalled. “It’s always a wonderful opportunity to be there and there are always people you know who are graduating or are there for the occasion.”

MWCC’s 50th Commencement ceremony will begin at 6 p.m. in the college’s Fitness & Wellness Center.

Among this year’s highlights, Gardner native Kevin Berg, executive vice president of production for CBS Network Entertainment in Los Angeles, will deliver the commencement address. Berg also will receive an honorary doctorate of Humanities, as well as the 2015 Alumnus of the Year Award.

Community leader and long-serving volunteer James O. Garrison will receive is the recipient of Mount Wachusett Community College’s 2015 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. Garrison, former MWCC Board of Trustees chair and benefactor of the Garrison Center for Early Childhood Education and Early Childhood Education scholarships, will receive an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters. Prior to the commencement ceremony, President Daniel M. Asquino and the Board of Trustees will recognize Mr. Garrison and his wife, Peggy, for their generous gifts and commitment to students during a rededication of the Garrison Center.

Business Administration graduate Yasmine Kanaan has been selected to deliver the Class of 2015 Student Address.

Five retiring professors will receive emeriti status: Joel Anderson, Media Arts & Technology; Paul Laverty, Mathematics; John McNally, Health Sciences, Fitness & Wellness; Elena Natalizia, Criminal Justice; and John Reilly, Business Administration.

New this year, two food trucks will be on site to curb appetites: The Dogfather Truck of Worcester, and Dylan and Pete’s Ice Cream Truck of Boston. The MWCC Alumni Association will return with flowers for sale, and the Phi Theta Kappa honor society will conduct its 12th annual Project Graduation food drive. Graduates and their guests are asked to bring a non-perishable food item to the commencement rehearsal and/or ceremony. Donations will be delivered to the Gardner Community Action Committee, the Winchendon Community Action Committee, and MWCC’s Students SOS office.

Cathy Teague

Cathy M. Teague

The state Department of Higher Education will kick off the 2015 commencement season by recognizing top students from across Massachusetts at the fifth annual 29 Who Shine award ceremony on May 14 at the State House. The award honors 29 outstanding public college and university graduates, one from each community college, state university and UMass campus, for their academic achievement and community service.

Mount Wachusett Community College student Cathy May Teague of Winchendon will be among the students recognized by Governor Charlie Baker, state education officials, campus presidents and others attending the ceremony.

“I want to congratulate the outstanding Class of 2015 graduates for the recognition they have received and thank them for their substantial contributions to their local communities,” said Gov. Baker. “Each of the ‘29 Who Shine’ honorees, in addition to being an accomplished student, is civically engaged in ways that improve the quality of life in Massachusetts.”

“Each one of our 29 honorees is from Massachusetts and planning to remain in Massachusetts,” noted Richard M. Freeland, commissioner of higher education. “Through their dedicated scholarship and deep engagement in their local communities, these students are making good on the taxpayers’ investment in their education.”

A lifelong resident of Massachusetts, Teague has her hands full as a full-time student, a mother of three young sons, and stepmother to two teenagers and a 20-year-old soldier serving in Afghanistan. Yet she makes it a priority to carve out time to serve fellow students as president of Mount Wachusett Community College’s Student Government Association, vice president of the college’s chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, and mentor to peers who are struggling with academic or personal issues by volunteering with the Students Serving Our Students (SOS) program.

Teague has taken a leadership role in civic engagement on and off campus, participating in many endeavors such as helping to build a home with Habitat for Humanity of North Central Massachusetts, food drives to assist those in need, and fundraising to benefit student-centered campus initiatives and community nonprofit organizations. As president of the SGA, she spearheaded the college’s annual Thanksgiving Food Drive, which served more than 80 families this past year. Additionally, she and her husband, Jason, reach out to help others in as many ways as possible, for example opening their home on Thanksgiving to veterans.

A first-generation college student, Teague participated in the college’s Rx program, a TRIO Student Support Services program designed specifically for health care majors.

“It became clear that in order for me to have a stable career, I needed a college education,” Teague said. “Because of the support, scholarships and positive encouragement I received at Mount Wachusett, I have grown into a confident person with a clear path.”

An outstanding student academically, Teague was recognized this spring as a member of the Phi Theta Kappa All-Massachusetts Academic Team and nominated to the All-USA Academic Team. She has been named to the President’s List and the Dean’s list for academic achievement and will be recognized as a Civic Scholar at Commencement for her extensive service learning and volunteer work. This spring, she also was named to Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities.

Teague is applying to become an AmeriCorps VISTA, and plans to continue her studies at MWCC to earn a Physical Therapist Assistant degree to achieve her career goal of working with children as a PTA.

The 29 Who Shine campaign asks each honoree to select a faculty or staff mentor to accompany them to the celebration in Boston. Teague named Elaine R. Gagne, an adjunct professor of English, reading and first year experience. The Athol resident also works as a technology teacher for grades K-6 at the Orange Elementary School.

“Professor Gagne has given me endless encouragement through personal and academic challenges. She helped me unlock my potential, allowing me to grow not only as a student but to grow into many leadership roles. She also taught me that if my dreams don’t scare me, they are not big enough,” Teague said.

“I am so proud of Cathy. When I had her in FYE, I knew she was going to go far,” Gagne said.

Sam Leveillee MWCC GID exhibit 2015

MWCC student Samuel Leveillee recevied Best in Show in the collegiate category for his digital photo art “Let Your Imagination Soar.”

For the first time, Mount Wachusett Community College’s annual spring graphic design exhibit was opened to high school students, resulting in two best in show awards in the high school and collegiate divisions, as well as dozens of awards in categories ranging from website, magazine and logo design to DVD cover, portrait illustration and advertising.

The juried exhibit, currently on display at the college through the summer, featured 75 pieces in 14 categories created by MWCC Graphic and Interactive Design students, as well as 25 pieces in five categories created by high school students. The college received more than 75 submissions from students at Oakmont Regional High School, Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School, and Murdock High School.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our students and faculty, and was thrilled to share the design exhibit and awards reception with the students and teachers from area high schools,” said Professor Leslie Cullen, chair of MWCC’s Graphic and Interactive Design department. “This was our most well-attended, successful opening receptions yet. We hope to expand the show next year to include more high schools.”

This academic year, the college revamped its Computer Graphic Design programs in print and web design into Graphic & Interactive Design program, which combines studies in both areas. More than 100 people attended a recent opening reception and awards ceremony, including MWCC GID faculty and alumni, graphic design teachers from Oakmont and Monty Tech and their students and families, as well as MWCC alumnus Robert Parks, who performed on acoustic guitar for the event.

MWCC student Samuel Leveillee of Templeton, won best in show in the college category for his digital photo piece, Let Your Imagination Soar. Leveillee, who is graduating in May and transferring to Hampshire College to pursue a bachelor’s degree, also received best in category awards for magazine design, digital illustration, and web & interactive design, as well as honorable mention in the DVD cover category.

Laurynn Bedard Oakmont RHS MWCC GID exhibit 2015

Oakmont Regional High School student Laurynn Bedard won Best in Show in the high school division in the digital illustration category for her digital self-portrait.

Oakmont sophomore Laurynn Bedard of Westminster won best in show among high school students for her digital self-portrait, which also one best of category in digital illustration.“To have art work that was showcased at Mount Wachusett Community College was an incredible honor,” she said. “I have never participated in an exhibit that was strictly for the appreciation of graphic design work, but I have participated in other local community art shows that encompassed mixed media art and graphic art. I was very shocked and immensely humbled to receive the Best of Show award for the high school categories. There were so many talented students that submitted fantastic work. I can’t express how grateful I was and still am for the award.  I enjoyed the show, and it is a great memory that I will not forget,” she said.

“The opportunity to have Oakmont students submit their graphic design work to a local show that was focused on graphic design was awesome; usually that is not the case, said Oakmont graphic design teacher Lawrence M. Szalay. “It was well received by the Oakmont students. They expressed enjoying both the high school and collegiate work that was exhibited. Oakmont students had success and it was truly a great experience for me to witness the pride they have in creating strong graphic design work. The awards and accolades presented to students on all levels in all categories were great.”

VFW donation to MWCC Foundation

The Ovila Case Post 905 VFW recently presented a $1,000 donation to the MWCC Foundation to support scholarships for student veterans. Pictured, from left, MWCC Foundation Executive Director Carla Zottoli, MWCC Director of Veteran Services Bob Mayer, past Commander Donald Progen, Commander-elect Joseph LeBlanc and President Daniel Asquino.

The Ovila Case Post 905 Veterans of Foreign Wars in Gardner 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-elect Joseph LeBlanc and past Commander and MWCC alumnus Donald Progen, and thanked the post members for their continued 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.

 

business_tableMount Wachusett Community College’s Summer Business Luncheon Series returns this year with a focus on entrepreneurship and marketing for small businesses, as well as an overview for businesses of all sizes interested in applying for state workforce training grants.

The college’s Division of Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development has bundled several professional lunch & learn workshops geared for entrepreneurs, owners of small businesses, managers and nonprofit organizations. All sessions will take place from 12 to 1 p.m. at MWCC’s Leominster Campus, 100 Erdman Way.

“Leaders and managers with entrepreneurial abilities are vital to the sustainability and growth of the economy in Massachusetts,” said Jeremiah Riordon, Associate Vice President of Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development. “Businesses with 19 employees or less represent 86 percent of all Massachusetts firms, making this summer’s series a perfect training opportunity to help businesses grow for increased profits.”

The series will kick off on June 5 with an information session geared toward businesses of all sizes that are interested in learning more about the Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund grant program.  This session will provide an overview of General Program Training Grants as well as Consortium Grants, Express Program Training Grants & Technical Assistance Grants. MWCC will highlight client successes in fundable areas such as lean, continuous improvement, leadership, and ESL, as well as other technical and non-technical training areas in healthcare, manufacturing, banking, technology and other industries. This overview will cover the features and benefits of each program, the amount of available funding, and how to apply.

On June 12, the session “Establishing Your Business” will help owners of small businesses determine their tax entity classification and whether they should establish their companies as sole proprietorships, corporations or as a Limited Liability Company (LLC). Any option can offer a range of advantages for entrepreneurs, however a corporation or LLC protects entrepreneurs’ personal assets.

On June 19, the session “Three Tips for a Better Business Website” will provide participants with the essential ingredients needed to enhance their websites to drive business. This non-technical session will focus on ideas and suggestions for improving business websites. Attendees will leave the workshop with understanding the importance of good web design.

On July 10, the session “Marketing Communications” will help businesses discover an approach to developing brochures using design elements to enhance interest and create impact. This workshop is designed to encourage participants to consider branding and how customer perceptions affect business.

On July 24, the session “Marketing and Sales on a Lean Budget” will help businesses develop an overall online prospecting strategy that facilitates growth of revenue and meets sales objectives. With an emphasis on direct marketing, participants will discover proven, essential campaign strategies for finding and acquiring new customers and generating sales.

On August 7, the session “Legal Dos and Don’ts” will provide the fundamental rules and regulations that ensure your business is a safe and healthy place to work. Participants will learn more about critical compliance requirements, as well as scenarios to avoid from a seasoned attorney specializing in business law.

On August 21, “Small Business Consulting Advice,” a Q&A session, invites small businesses to take advantage of technical assistance support. This session is geared toward micro-enterprises (five employees or less) and will highlight business counseling assistance and resources available.

The cost for each session is $15 and includes a complimentary lunch. Seating is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Register for one or more sessions online at mwcc.edu/noncredit, by phone at 978-630-9575, or email training@mwcc.mass.edu.

 

 

Gail Steele

Professor Gail Steele

Professor Gail Steele, director of Theatre at the Mount, not only will be recognized with a community service award during the House of Peace and Education’s annual Celebrating Women event, she’ll also share the stage with one of the country’s greatest performers, Rita Moreno.

The Grammy, Tony, Emmy, and Oscar winning performer will headline the annual event to raise awareness of women’s issues and funding for House of Peace & Education, Inc., a non-profit serving women and children in North Central Massachusetts. This year’s event will take place on Thursday, May 21, at Great Wolf Lodge of New England in Fitchburg.

Under Professor Steele’s supervision TAM has received local, regional, and national acclaim. In her 38-year career, over 2,500 individuals have appeared in TAM productions and over 8,000 have participated in summer drama and choir programs. Many have gone on to pursue their own careers in theatre after literally growing up at Theatre at the Mount. In addition to her work at TAM, Professor Steele has shared her expertise and been active in many organizations throughout the community.

HOPE empowers women and children by providing employment and educational skills, and nurturing self esteem, so they can to transition into independence. Because HOPE is a no-fees organization, it must raise considerable funds each year to continue its many services.

This year’s event begins at 5:30 p.m. and consists of cocktail hour with cash bar, dinner, a performance by Boston’s Divas with a Twist, presentation of awards, and finally Rita Moreno’s inspirational story through spoken word and song. Tickets are available in advance only: online at www.hopegardner.org, by calling 978-632-0400, or stopping in at the HOPEful Boutique at 33 Parker Street in Gardner.

In addition to the HOPE Celebrating Women Award, in April, Professor Steele received the Community Leadership Award from the ARC of Opportunity of North Central Massachusetts for her leadership and creativity in launching a sensory-friendly theatre performance for families who support children with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities or on the autism spectrum.

News staff photo by KATIE LANDECK Mount Wachusett Community College nursing students Lori Belliveau and Diana Bronson give a presentation about their recent trip to Haiti and encourage other students to sign up for the Mount’s upcoming trip in January 2016.
Mount Wachusett Community College nursing students Lori Belliveau and Diana Bronson give a presentation about their recent trip to Haiti and encourage other students to sign up for the Mount’s upcoming trip in January 2016.

GARDNER – When the first team of Mount Wachusett Community College nursing students came back from Haiti in January, they all said the same thing: we want to go back.

“There is a lot of beauty (in Haiti),” said nursing student Lori Belliveau while presenting the trip to other nursing students on Monday. “And it makes you think a little bit about what we have versus what they don’t have.”

The nursing students traveled to Haiti with Forward in Health, a locally started nonprofit that is providing health care to 7,500 people in the impoverished Fonde Fred region of Haiti. The trip was organized by Forward in Health cofounder Paula Mulqueen.

The students worked in health clinics, visited orphanages and nursing schools, and also had the chance to explore a little bit of the island nation.

The Mount is planning another trip for next January. The trip costs about $1,600 per person, but students found they were about to raise money to pay for the trip.

“It didn’t cost me anything,” said Ms. Belliveau. “My friends, family and coworkers were very generous.”

There is also talk of creating an exchange program where Mount Wachusett students would have the ability to live with and attend classes with nursing students in Haiti for a week.

Then the Haitian student would be able to attend classes at Mount Wachusett for a week.

Ideally, Mount Wachusett officials said, the students in the exchange program would be able to speak at least a little French.

By the next trip, Mount Wachusett students will be able to work in the clinic that Forward in Health will officially open this summer after years of fundraising and overcoming numerous hurdles, including the devastating earthquake of 2010.

“We are at the brink of opening the clinic doors,” Ms. Mulqueen told the audience. “We are doing a massive inventory and a massive setup. The scheduled date to open is Aug. 4. Great stuff is happening.”

The clinic will include a triage unit and offer permanent medical assistance to the region.

Since Ms. Mulqueen’s first trip to Haiti in 2002, she has traveled to the country 52 times, taking anyone who wanted to go and was willing to work, ranging from high school students to surgeons.

“International nursing is suddenly a hot topic,” she said. “Everyone is now going all over the world to serve.”

When choosing where to go and with whom to serve, Ms. Mulqueen recommends looking into an organization’s history in the country, the sustainability of its work, the compatibility of its objectives with that of the volunteer, and the group’s safety record.

For more information about traveling with Forward in Health, visit forwardinhealth.org.

The Gardner News, Katie Landeck, May 5, 2015