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Mount Wachusett Community College’s third annual STEM Starter Academy came to a close on Thursday, Aug. 18, following a seven-week schedule that provided two free academic courses with textbooks, academic support, and a stipend for participants.

More than 30 students from throughout the region enrolled in one or two courses such as a four-

PHOTO: Stem Starter Academy students enrolled in Mount Wachusett Community College’s summer biology course Life Science for Allied Health, with Dean Janice Barney and Assistant Dean Veronica Guay, checked out the new science classrooms nearing completion at the Gardner campus.

Stem Starter Academy students enrolled in Mount Wachusett Community College’s summer biology course Life Science for Allied Health, with Dean Janice Barney and Assistant Dean Veronica Guay, checked out the new science classrooms nearing completion at the Gardner campus.

credit lab science and one general elective. In addition to earning up to seven free credits toward their STEM Pathway, the students toured the college’s new science, technology, engineering and mathematics building, received presentations on STEM careers, and explored MWCC’s transfer opportunities for its graduates.

“We are excited to complete our third annual summer program for local learners pursuing a degree in STEM fields,” said Veronica Guay, Assistant Dean of the School of Business, Science, Technology and Mathematics. “This summer’s Academy was outstanding. We nearly doubled the number of participants who attended in 2015 as the word is spreading about this amazing opportunity. Students have increased confidence in the areas of time management, study skills and ability to access to the college’s numerous student services. Some of the greatest areas of growth for the students include their interactions with college faculty, the willingness to access academic tutoring, and to assist one another and establish study groups. We are already looking forward to welcoming the summer 2017 STEM Starter Academy students!”

Funded through a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, the STEM Starter Academy is open to high school graduates or qualifying MWCC students who place into college-level English and math courses and are enrolling in one of MWCC’s STEM majors in the fall.

Qualifying MWCC STEM majors include analytical lab and quality systems, biology, biotechnology, chemistry, computer information systems, exercise and sports science, fire science technology, graphic and interactive design, interdisciplinary studies-allied health, medical laboratory technology, natural resources, physics, pre-engineering, and pre-pharmacy.

Courses offered during the summer academy included intermediate algebra, introduction to functions and modeling, life sciences for allied health, chemistry, statistics and introduction to psychology. In addition to the coursework, the students will also participate in MWCC’s Summer Leadership Academy on Aug. 23 and 24.

“Our students have had an outstanding summer and are ready to continue their studies this fall with two courses already under their belt,” said Christine Davis, MWCC’s STEM Starter Academy recruiter. Students from approximately a dozen area towns enrolled in the rigorous program, and tackled classes in an accelerated format that will prepare them for their careers, she said.

Many of the academy students are also recipients of STEM SET scholarships at MWCC. These awards of up to $3,500 per year are available to qualifying STEM majors through a grant the college received from the National Science Foundation.

In another MWCC STEM program supported by the DHE this summer, nearly 40 high school seniors participated in a four-credit introduction to physical science course and toured the college’s new science and technology building that is nearing completion.

For more information, contact MWCC’s admission’s office at 978-630-9110 or admissions@mwcc.mass.edu.

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.

Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke, Board of Trustees Chair Tina Sbrega, Student Trustee Jasson Alvarado Gomez, MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino

Media Arts & Technology Major Jasson Alvarado Gomez was sworn in as Mount Wachusett Community College’s Student Trustee for the 2016-2017 academic year. Pictured, from left: Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke, Board of Trustees Chair Tina Sbrega, Student Trustee Jasson Alvarado Gomez, MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino

Mount Wachusett Community College student Jasson Alvarado Gomez is stepping in to two key leadership positions for the upcoming academic year.

On Thursday, Aug. 11, the Media Arts & Technology major was appointed to the college’s Board of Trustees, following a spring election by his peers. This fall, the Worcester resident will be appointed to the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education as a full voting member representing all students attending the state’s 29 colleges and universities.

“Jasson is making a tremendous difference in the lives of students and residents of our area through his active participation on campus and in the community,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “Being appointed to these two key positions is a wonderful achievement for him and I’m certain he will serve MWCC, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the students, quite admirably.”

An aspiring filmmaker, Alvarado Gomez is a 2015 graduate of MWCC’s Gateway to College dual enrollment program in partnership with the Ralph C. Mahar Regional High School, and previously attended Burncoat High School in Worcester.

At MWCC, he 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.

While at Burncoat, Alvarado Gomez was a member of the National Honor Society, the Foreign Language Honor Society, the Dreamers Club and the JROTC, and is a recipient of the JROTC Outstanding Cadet Award and Community Service Award. He previously volunteered with the YMCA in Sutton and the Boys & Girls Club of Blackstone Valley.

Alvarado Gomez, who will earn an associate degree in May 2017, said he is grateful for the support and encouragement he received from MWCC faculty and staff, and believes the experience and insight he has gained serving on the Student Government Association has helped prepare him to be a voice for all students.

“This is an opportunity for me to be a better leader, and an opportunity to show what I can do for the community. I’m going to do the best that I can so I can leave something good behind for the students.”

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.

Charlene Dukes President Asquino Walter BumphusPresident Daniel M. Asquino was recently recognized for his three decades of leadership at MWCC by the American Association of Community Colleges. President Asquino, who announced plans to retire in early 2017, was among approximately two dozen retiring CEOs honored during the AACC’s 96th annual convention in Chicago.
Dr. Asquino is currently the longest serving president among Massachusetts’ public institutions of higher education. He was appointed in August, 1987 to succeed the college’s first president, Arthur F. Haley. The college’s Board of Trustees has appointed a search committee to find his successor.
Pictured: Charlene Dukes, left, chair of the AACC Board of Directors and president of Prince George’s Community College, joins AACC President and CEO Walter Bumphus, right, in thanking President Asquino for his years of service to MWCC, the AACC, and public higher education.
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.

 

Bionostics Floyd 2A consortium of four Massachusetts community colleges and partnering vocational-technical high schools, local workforce investment boards, the Northeast Advanced Manufacturing Consortium and employers has received a $4 million federal TechHire grant to provide workforce training in advanced manufacturing in Worcester, Middlesex and Essex counties.

The Massachusetts Advanced Manufacturing TechHire Consortium (MassAMTC) is a strategic partnership of training providers, employers and the workforce investment system. With this four-year grant from the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration, MassAMTC will provide training, work-based experiences, support services and job placement assistance in advanced manufacturing to 300 young people and 100 other unemployed, underemployed, or dislocated workers.

Led by Mount Wachusett Community College in collaboration with Middlesex Community College, Northern Essex Community College, and North Shore Community College, MassAMTC has the support of major regional industry association partners, including the Northeast Advanced Manufacturing Consortium, which represents 13 different advanced manufacturing employers.

Additional partners include the North Central Workforce Investment Board (WIB), Greater Lowell WIB, Metro North Regional Employment Board, North Shore WIB and Merrimack Valley WIB, Lowell Technical High School, Lynn Vocational Technical High School, Essex Technical High School, Whittier Regional Technical High School and Greater Lawrence Technical High School.

“I congratulate Mount Wachusett, Middlesex, North Shore and Northern Essex community colleges on receiving a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to accelerate their advanced manufacturing training partnership program,” said Congresswoman Niki Tsongas. “Boosting American manufacturing and increasing educational opportunities are two essential components to our nation’s future, and this funding will allow Massachusetts to continue to lead in both areas by providing top-tier training and credential programs that also bolster our local manufacturing companies and workforce.”

“We are excited to begin this new partnership,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “Best practices and curriculum from each institution will be shared and implemented, thereby benefiting employers and employees of the entire North Central and Northeast region.”

More than $150 million in the H-1B TechHire grant program were awarded in July to 39 partnerships, providing training in 25 states across the country. More than 18,000 participants will receive services, with a focus on youth and young adults ages 17 to 29 with barriers to employment, as well as veterans and individuals with disabilities, limited English proficiency, criminal records, and long-term unemployment.