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Sharmese Gunn, left, MWCC Gateway to College Senior Resource Specialist, and Lea Ann Scales, right, Vice President of External Affairs, Community Relations and K-12 Partnerships, accept the Gateway Program Excellence Award from Emily Froimson, President of the Gateway to College National Network.

Mount Wachusett Community College has been recognized with a 2016 Gateway Program Excellence Award from the Gateway to College National Network.

The award honors MWCC for exceeding all four of the Gateway to College National Network’s performance benchmarks: grade point average, one-year persistence, two-year persistence and graduation rate. The award was presented June 28 during Gateway’s College Peer Learning Conference at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

“The Gateway to College program opens doors and provides a true second chance for students to achieve academic success,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “We are proud to partner with the Gateway national network in this transformative work, and are delighted to be recognized with this year’s program excellence award.”

MWCC’s Gateway to College program is a free, full-immersion dual enrollment program for Massachusetts students ages 16 to 21 who have dropped out of high school, are at risk of dropping out, or have experienced a setback in high school. The program, also available to home schooled students, provides motivated students a fresh chance to achieve academic success while getting a jumpstart on college. Established in 2005 as the first Gateway site in New England, MWCC’s Gateway program is offered in partnership with the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District. Students simultaneously earn their high school diploma as well as college credits toward an academic degree or certificate. All classes take place on MWCC’s campuses.

“Thanks to the hard work of MWCC’S Gateway to College team, our students exceeded all four national benchmarks,” said Lea Ann Scales, vice president of external affairs, communications and K-12 partnerships. “More importantly, this award recognizes the success our students and graduates are achieving.”

More than 40 communities across the country have implemented the Gateway to College model as a strategy to address the needs of many off-track and out-of-school youth.

“Mount Wachusett’s program, based on a strong partnership and shared vision with your school districts as well as exceptional program and college leadership – is poised to build on its successes and can serve as an example for the rest of our network,” stated Gateway to College National Network President Emily Froimson. “You have not simply made a difference for students in Gardner Massachusetts; the work that your school district and college partnership has accomplished is a model for how we solve these persistent problems as a nation.”

“A theme of the conference, establishing relationships with students, rings true with the students we serve at MWCC, which has made this award possible,” said Sharmese Gunn, senior resource specialist.

MWCC is currently enrolling Gateway to College students for the academic year that begins Sept. 6. Applicants must attend a two-day information session to be considered for the program. Upcoming information sessions will take place on July 20 and 22, Aug. 3 and 5 and Aug. 10 and 12. For more information about the program or to register for an information session, call 978-630-9248 or visit mwcc.edu/gateway.

3 Chamber breakfast President Asquino groupVisionary. Collaborative. Energetic. Dedicated. Pioneering. Inclusive. A true leader.

These were among the words and phrases used by area legislators, mayors and business leaders to describe retiring Mount Wachusett Community College President Daniel M. Asquino during a breakfast sponsored in his honor by three regional Chambers of Commerce.

More than 200 business and community leaders gathered June 24 in the college’s South Café to toast, and occasionally roast, the long-serving president, who has announced his plans to retire in early 2017 following three decades at the helm of the college and 47 years in Massachusetts public higher education.

“Dan’s resume is long and is far reaching, not only in North Central Massachusetts, but throughout the Commonwealth and in higher education nationwide,” said retired State Sen. Stephen M. Brewer, who served as master of ceremonies. “He is a visionary leader whose emphasis on community engagement and collaboration has left a continuing legacy.”

The president was lauded for his leadership in key areas, including championing access to higher education; K-12, business and industry and community partnerships; civic engagement; and sustainability.

State Sen. Anne Gobi and State Rep. Jon Zlotnik shared remarks on behalf of the region’s legislative delegation. Additional speakers included Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke and Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella, who are both alumni of the college; Fitchburg Mayor Stephen DiNatale; Raymond LaFond, senior vice president at Enterprise Bank, who spoke on behalf of the college’s Board of Trustees and Foundation Board of Directors; and Jim Bellina, president of the Greater Gardner Chamber of Commerce.

Bellina, along with Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce President Melissa Fetterhoff and Roy Nascimento, president of the North Central Chamber of Commerce, presented Dr. Asquino with a $1,000 donation to the MWCC Foundation for the newly created Class of 2016 scholarship fund.

“Thank you, President Asquino, for giving us leadership by example,” Bellina said.

Senator Gobi shared a story of working with determined MWCC students on a legislative bill focused on consumer protection as an example of the president’s impact on encouraging young people to become engaged citizens. “Students and the community. That’s something that President Asquino has never, ever forgotten.”

President Asquino acknowledged that there is still much to do during the remainder of his tenure, including completing construction of the college’s $42 million science and technology building and campus renovations. “My focus right now is on Mount Wachusett Community College.”

He said he is most proud of the service provided to students by the college’s faculty and staff, the college’s economic impact on the region, and leadership in academic, workforce and community endeavors.

“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve you and to achieve my dream,” President Asquino said. “I certainly will miss all of you. I’ll miss the opportunity this position has given me to give back.”

In addition to the three chambers, event sponsors included Advanced Cable Ties, Inc., Heywood HealthCare, MWCC, HeathAlliance Hospital, Heat Trace Products, Workers’ Credit Union, GFA Federal Credit Union, RCAP Solutions, Perkins, Fidelity Bank, GVNA Healthcare, Inc, Lynde Hardware & Supply, C.M. Chartier Contracting, MassDevelopment, Gervais Ford, Apple Valley Center, IC Federal Credit Union, The Shine Initiative, Enterprise Bank, Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster, United Way of North Central Massachusetts, Daly’s Property Shoppe, and the Gardner Redevelopment Authority.

Theatre at the Mount Jeff Boisseau and LG Karyn Polito

Lt. Governor Karyn Polito and Theatre at the Mount Technical Director Jeff Boisseau during the June 23 reception.

Mount Wachusett Community College’s Theatre at the Mount is the recipient of a $49,600 grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund to update its sound system.

The Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund, administered through a partnership between MassDevelopment and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, fosters the growth of the creative economy by supporting building projects in the nonprofit arts, humanities and sciences. This new round of funding includes 68 capital grants totaling $8.9 million and 23 planning grants totaling more than $400,000. Grants range from $7,000 to $300,000 and are matched from private of other public sources.

The grant, which will be matched by MWCC, will be used to replace the theater’s aging analog sound system. The updated digital sound system will improve the audience experience, particularly for patrons who require hearing assistance or other special needs.

“Making high quality theater affordable and accessible for everyone is our highest priority,” said Professor Gail Steele, director of Theatre at the Mount. “This grant will allow us to make major strides in achieving our goal.”

The award was announced during a reception in Worcester on Thursday, June 23 with Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. Jeff Boisseau, technical director and set designer, and Joseph Stiso, vice president of planning, development and institutional research, accepted the award on behalf of the college.

“Our administration is proud to support these capital investments in the creative economy,” said Lt. Governor Polito. “The rich history of our cities and towns is an important draw for out-of-state visitors, and these grants will help direct private investments into these projects.”

Now entering its 40th year, Theatre at the Mount is in the midst of a makeover, including a new lobby, box office and ADA improvements as part of a $41 million addition and renovation project to the Gardner campus.

“We’re very grateful to receive this grant,” Boisseau said. “We’re hoping to have these new features installed before we reopen later this year.”

Located in the college’s Raymond M. LaFontaine Fine Arts Center, Theatre at the Mount serves the community as a premier regional theater presenting high quality entertainment at affordable prices. TAM’s season consists of five full-scale musicals and plays, a spring children’s show and a fall touring production performed at local elementary schools. Additionally, TAM offers summer drama programs for children and teens and sponsors the annual TAMY Awards program, which celebrates excellence in high school musicals.

In a statement earlier this month, Gov. Charlie Baker noted the new investments will drive tourism and benefit residents and visitors for years to come. Since 2007, CFF has invested nearly $92 million in the state’s creative sector for projects in more than 130 cities and towns.

“We thank Governor Baker and his administration for its continued support of this vital source of creative capital,” said Anita Walker, executive director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

The grants are highly competitive. In this round of funding, the state received 146 applications seeking nearly $25 million for projects with total development costs of more than $200 million. Steele, Boisseau and Grant Writer/Development Specialist Moira Adams are the lead investigators for the project. In 2013, Theatre at the Mount received a $30,000 CFF grant to replace its lighting system.

Upcoming Theatre at the Mount productions include Almost, Maine on June 24, 25 and 26, and Hairspray on Aug. 12, 13, 19, 20 and 21. Due to current construction, these performances will take place at Oakmont Regional High School in Ashburnham. For more information, visit mwcc.edu/tam or contact the box office at 978-630-9388.

 

MCO Award Pratt Santiago Levasseur

MWCC librarians Ellen Pratt, left, and Suzanne Levasseur received their Course of Distinction Award from Massachusetts Higher Education Commissioner Carlos Santiago during the MCO annual conference.

In January 2001, shortly after attending a conference on tele-learning, Mount Wachusett Community College President Daniel Asquino founded Massachusetts Colleges Online, which grew into a consortium of the state’s 15 community colleges and nine state universities.

In appreciation for his leadership, the consortium presented President Asquino with a Contributor of Distinction Award during its annual conference this spring at Greenfield Community College. MWCC librarians Ellen Pratt and Suzanne Levasseur were among the faculty members statewide to receive Course of Distinction Awards for their online courses.

More than 2,600 courses are offered through MCO. The Course of Distinction (COD) award is named after the Bay State’s unique association with the “Sacred Cod.” The award recognizes faculty from throughout the state who have developed and teach innovative and exciting online courses.

MCO Dan Vin Commissioner

President Asquino receiving his Contributor of Distinction Award from Dean Vincent Ialenti and Commissioner Carlos Santiago.

“Would an organization like MCO have been created without the leadership of Mount Wachusett Community College President Daniel Asquino? Probably. Would it have happened so quickly? No way,” Vincent Ialenti, MWCC Dean of Academic and Institutional Technology, said in presenting the award. The president, who plans to retire in early 2017 after nearly 30 years at the helm of MWCC, was recognized for his role as the founder of Mass Colleges Online and for being one of its “greatest advocates,” Ialenti said.

Pratt, MWCC’s distance education and outreach librarian, and Levasseur, reference and instructional services librarian, were reconized for their Research Skills course, which introduces students to the skills necessary to write a college paper and develop critical thinking. More than 3,300 students have enrolled in their course over the past two years.

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Doug Petersen, second from left, this year’s Harold E. Drake, Jr. Citizen of the Year, is joined by Jay Davis Drake, President Dan Asquino, Foundation Executive Director Carla Zottoli and Foundation Board of Directors Chair Ray Martino.

Service to the community and to students was the prevailing theme of the Mount Wachusett Community College Foundation’s annual celebration, which offered guests a “passport into the future” of MWCC and its students, as well as an opportunity to reflect back on key figures in the college’s history and hear from several inspiring, recent graduates.

Long-serving community volunteer Douglas J. Petersen was recognized with the 2016 Harold E. Drake Jr. Citizen of the Year Award. Jay Davis Drake, a former chair of the MWCC Board of Trustees and a former member of the foundation, presented the award to Mr. Petersen in memory of his father, treasurer and former president of Royal Steam Heater Co. and Lynde Hardware & Supply, Inc.

The award recognizes community members who exemplify Harold Drake’s extraordinary commitment to the North Central Massachusetts region.

The event also recognized the academic success and civic engagement of MWCC students and showcased the new science and technology building under constructions and continuing renovations to the Haley building for an audience of college supporters, benefactors, students and community leaders. Guests proceeded through the campus with “passports” in hand, stopping at various destinations to learn more about the college and its programs. Stations included the Center for Civic Learning, the LaChance Library, the School of Business, Science, Technology and Mathematics, the Veterans Success Center, K-12 Partnerships and the Division of Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development.

Joined by his family, Mr. Petersen said he was humbled to receive the award. Among his many professional associations, business ventures and community causes, he serves as chairman of the boards for the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce and the United Way of North Central Massachusetts, and is also a member of the MWCC Foundation Board of Directors and a member of the HealthAlliance President’s Council.

“Doug has made a fantastic difference in our community,” said President Daniel M. Asquino.

In one of several surprise announcements, Dr. Asquino was presented with the Foundation’s Harold E. Drake, Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award for his three decades of service to the college and to the community.

Foundation Executive Director Carla Zottoli announced two new, endowed scholarships created through the generosity of Hubbardston residents Barbara and Jim Carpenter in recognition of Mrs. Carpenter’s parents, George and Bernice (Johnson) Babineau. The Babineau-Johnson Nursing Scholarship and the Babineau-Johnson Veterans Scholarship were each endowed for $50,000 by the Carpenters, which will help MWCC students for “generations to come,” Zottoli said.

To underscore the importance of creating endowed scholarships, the Foundation also transferred $10,000 from its general scholarship fund to create a new scholarship fund by selecting a winner from among the guests’ “passports.” Outgoing Student Trustee Tom Berger was the chosen winner, and will be able to name the scholarship and work with the foundation to determine the criteria of the annual scholarship.

Recent graduates Benjamin Spurr of Barre, a Navy Veteran who is now headed to UMass, Amherst to continue his studies in biological sciences and biotechnology, and Bella Ballin of Worcester, who will transfer this fall to Carnegie Mellon University to continue her studies in chemistry, were this year’s student speakers, sharing details about the way the college and the foundation helped transform their academic experience.

The foundation also recognized 81-year-old Aurea Carrion of Leominster, who graduated last week with an associate degree in Human Services, and presented a video of graduate Chelsea Garrity of Barre, who is now on a service trip to Costa Rica, giving her Commencement speech.

Several past recipients of the Citizen of the Year Award were among the attendees, including Ronald Ansin, Kim Ansin, former Senator Stephen M. Brewer, James Garrison, Charles Bowles and Richard Flanagan. The event was sponsored by Royal Steam Heater Co. Workers’ Credit Union, Enterprise Bank & Trust, Heywood Hospital, Fidelity Bank, North Middlesex Savings Bank, Rollstone Bank & Trust and Simonds International. Proceeds from the event support student scholarships.

“Our foundation scholarships help hundreds of students achieve the dream of education,” Zottoli said. “It is truly their passport to a brighter future.”

4-Color_MWCC_Sphere_400x400Mount Wachusett Community College is adding five new programs to its academic offerings.

The new programs include credit certificate programs in Substance Abuse Counseling, Community Health Worker and Public Relations, and associate degrees in Liberal Arts & Sciences Law Track and Liberal Arts & Sciences Earth Systems Track.

“These new certificate programs will serve needs expressed by local employers. People who have a degree in a related major, or those who are currently working in the field, are encouraged to enroll in these programs to update their skills,” said Dr. Melissa Fama, Vice President of Academic Affairs. “The new tracks in our Liberal Arts & Sciences degree were developed in response to students who expressed interest in transferring to four-year colleges and universities in these fields.”

Through discussions with area providers, the college developed the new substance abuse counseling certificate, which prepares students to obtain Massachusetts state recognition as a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC) and to seek employment within the industry. Area facilities are poised to open to serve the needs of clients in various stages of recovery. This certification would allow for individuals to seek employment within the industry.

The Community Health Worker certificate program will prepare students for careers in the healthcare field, providing education and guidance to clients and patients about managing their medical procedures and diseases, such as asthma or diabetes. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment of community health workers in Massachusetts is projected to grow by 22% by 2022.

The Public Relations certificate program is designed to meet current job market opportunities for students who have a background in communications or public relations. The certificate program combines training in graphic design, writing, business, marketing and media arts technology.

The Liberal Arts & Sciences Law Track degree program is designed for students seeking a pre-law program with the goal of transferring to a four-year college or institution, and the Liberal Arts & Sciences Earth Systems track will provide students with a focused transfer program to pursue a bachelor’s degree in geology, meteorology or astronomy.

For more information, contact the MWCC Admissions Office at 978-630-9110 or email admissions@mwcc.mass.edu. For more information about our graduation rates, the median debt of students who completed certificate programs and other important information, please visit our website at http://mwcc.edu/catalog/gainful-employment.

Sheila Boria and Aurea Carrion

Sheila Boria and Aurea Carrion

Jose Mangual, academic counselor for students enrolled in MWCC’s English as a Second Language program, has a ready answer for prospective students who feel they are too busy, too old or not ready to enroll in courses.

He introduces them to students who once had the same concerns, but now are succeeding not only in the ESL program, but in MWCC academic programs as well.

“If someone says, ‘I’m too old, I’m in my 40’s and I’ll be the oldest student there,’ I say, ‘Have you met Aurea Carrion? She is 81!’ ”

Mangual served as host of the ESL program’s annual year-end celebration, which recognized the achievements of residents new to the U.S. from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Uruguay, Brazil, Egypt, Ghanna, Syria and Vietnam. The festive event, held at the Leominster campus, featured laughter, encouragement, and array of traditional food.

Special recognition was given to students who recently advanced in or completed their ESL courses, as well as to Ms. Carrion, who graduated with an associate degree in Human Services, and Sheila Boria, who earned an academic certificate in Human Services.

Carrion, who previously earned an associate degree from MWCC in 1990 in Secretarial Studies, worked as a liaison between the community and the Fitchburg and Worcester public schools. She retired from the Worcester Public School system in 2006.

Since then, she returned to MWCC to pursue her interest in the human services field and earned her academic certificate in Human Services in 2013. “I never get tired of studying,” she said. Her goal is to continue working in the human services field.

In addition to serving as president of the ESL club, Ms. Carrion has volunteered countless hours at the Leominster campus and most significantly, serves as an inspiration to fellow students. “It’s never too late!”

“I said if she can do it, I can do it. She was my inspiration,” said Ms. Boria, who will continue her studies and aspires to become a lawyer. “This is important to me. This is my future.”

 

 

2016 Gateway & Pathways valedictorians Christian and Bella 2

Valedictorians Christian Rossi, Jr. & Bella Ballin

Aspiring doctors, nurses, physicists, teachers and police officers, as well as many teenagers who are the first in their families to attend college, are among the largest dual enrollment graduating class at MWCC.

This year’s graduates of the Pathways Early College Innovation School and the Gateway to College program were recognized during a May 20 ceremony at MWCC. The dual enrollment programs, offered in partnership with the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District, as well as Athol High School, allow students to use school choice funding to earn their high school diploma while simultaneously earning college credits, an academic certificate, or an associate degree.

With 73 graduates from 26 towns and cities this year, the graduating class is the largest ever at MWCC. This year also marked the 10th graduating class of the Gateways program and the fifth Pathways graduating class.

MWCC President Daniel Asquino was the featured speaker, sharing personal anecdotes with the students and the hundreds of family members and friends gathered for the occasion.

When told as a child he couldn’t play sports because he was born with a disability, he persevered until he could. When told he didn’t swim well enough to become a lifeguard, he self-trained and not only became a lifeguard, but rescued three people who were clinging together for survival amid a rough surf.

When told by a high school guidance counselor he “wasn’t college material” he served the country in the Navy, then went on to earn bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degree while simultaneously working and raising a family on modest means. When he wanted to become a college president, he was told he couldn’t because he was on the “wrong track” – an administrative path rather than an academic path. He is now completing his 29th year as president of MWCC.

“If I can do it, you can do it,” he encouraged the graduates. “Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t do it. Conquer the world. Do for yourself, do for your family, and don’t forget to give back to your community.”

Some of the graduates will remain at MWCC to continue their associate degrees, while many who have already reached that milestone plan to transfer to a public and private college or university. Several of the graduates plan to serve the country in the military or directly enter the workforce.

Bella Ballin of Worcester, who earned an associate degree in Liberal Arts: Chemical Science from MWCC two days before receiving her high school diploma, was the Pathways class valedictorian.

“Who would have thought that teens from all different towns and all different backgrounds would come together not only as a cohort or a class but as a family? Right from the start we managed to forge bonds so strong that we didn’t want to stray from each other. As our bonds grew, so did our maturity, adaptability, independence and knowledge,” she said.

This fall, she will transfer to Carnegie Mellon University to continue her studies in chemistry.

Christian Rossi, Jr. of Winchendon, homeschooled prior to enrolling in the Gateway program, graduated from MWCC Wednesday with an associate degree in computer information systems and academic certificates in cyber security and IT support specialist. He plans to transfer this fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

He wryly shared that while he thought he was well versed in many topics before enrolling, he came to realize there’s always more to learn, such as the day a classmate had a pizza delivered to the college for dinner rather than packing food.

“Now why I hadn’t thought of that, I cannot say, but I know that I will remember it in case I ever find myself hungry at my next school.”

MWCC’s partnerships with the public school districts represent “the pillars of support for our students,” said Fagan Forhan, Assistant Dean of K-12 Partnerships and Civic Engagement.

“It is through these partnerships that together, we have built a true community here at MWCC. We have created a place where students feel supported, encouraged and safe. We have built a place where new paths are forged and lives are transformed.”

Pathways Early College Innovation School graduates:

Bella Ballin, Yasmin Barroso, Kaci Bradshaw, Levi Bushnell, Angelique Chaput, Calvin Clinkscale, Holland Crane, Michael Frye, Chandler Giuffre, Sara Khan, Margaret Linzey, Renata Menezes, Emily Perkins, Tea Preston, Michael Racine, Jr., Lucy Rivers, Riley Saisa, Adrian Sanders, Kelsey Schecker, Rachel Stankaitis, Joseph Williams

Gateway to College graduates:

Thayna Aguiar, Kelsey Allaway, Rebekah Amburgey, Arturo Aponte-Cruz, Jacob Bancroft, Taysia Baronowski, Kyle Bates, Katriona Bell, Rene Bergeron, Anders Bigelbach, Nicole Boufford, Shane Carroll, Nicole Cibor, Emanuel Corbeil, Mariah Courtemanche, Emmilly DeMatos, Lyndsey-Leigh Flahive, Bailey Fluet, Coco Fortier, Stephanie Garnhum, Gregory Germagian, Cassandra Gurney, Leshay Hicks, Adoria Kavuma-Winburn, Alyssa Kazanowski, Jamison Lajoie, Lisette Llapa, Rafaela Lopes, Audrey MacDonald, Brianna Martinez, Hayley McAuliffe, Anastasia Panageotes, Camila Pereira, Raul Pereira, Nicholas Powell, Lorena Rocha, Christian Rossi, Jr., Courtney Ruble, Alexander Schilling, Lauren Scioli, Mya Shepard, Milagros Silva Olivera, Constance Tazelaar, Emilia Torres, Pablo Trillas, Jasmine Welch, Beth Winters, Christopher Zukowski