General News

MWCC’s Otaku United club members Rebekah Cohen, Jonathan Cohen, Andrea Bartlett, and Cassandra Cohen stand with preschool, kindergarten and first grade students at the Waterford Street School with Principal Dan Hill after handing out books.

For the third year, hundreds of kindergarten and first grade students in Gardner will end the school year with fun summertime reading to take home, thanks to a donation of over 1,300 books from a group of Mount Wachusett Community College students.

Otaku United, a club that celebrates Asian culture, donated over 1,300 books to Waterford Street School, Coleman Street School, Elm Street School, and the Garrison Center. The books were purchased with nearly $2,000 that was raised in April through a silent auction of a wide range of gift cards and items donated to the club to support the cause.

The age-appropriate books were purchased through the Scholastic Reading Club. Each kindergarten and first grade student at Waterford received two books to take home.

This is an incredibly important time to encourage reading, said Waterford Street School Principal Dan Hill, explaining that it’s important to maintain reading momentum through the summer. The donated books will augment the district’s summer reading challenge program, Hill said.

“Reading is very important,” said Hill. “The kids are very excited. We are very much pushing early literacy.”

MWCC Early Childhood Education major Andrea Bartlett who was also the auction coordinator, said the club appreciated the support it received from MWCC faculty, staff and students during the auction that took place on campus.

“It’s very important for children to have access to books and have them in the home,” said Bartlett, adding that she had high hopes for next year’s book drive.

Students from the Dental Hygiene and Dental Assisting at Mount Wachusett Community College celebrate after their pinning ceremonies.

Mount Wachusett Community College is expanding its Dental Assisting Certificate program for the coming school year by opening up enrollment for all students to this in-demand field.

“Because of the low supply of dental assistants, job security is good at this time,” said Dr. Michael Meyer, Dental Director for Community Health Connections. “There is constant evolution in the practice of dentistry resulting in ongoing opportunities for advancement in the field of dental assisting.”

The Certified Dental Assistant is an integral member of the dental healthcare team who typically assists the dentist during procedures. In addition, the dental assistant takes dental x-rays and dental impressions and performs various lab procedures.

The decision was made to change the program from a selective enrollment to open enrollment to better serve the community and the high demand for dental assistants. A change in the requirements for dental assistants have created a shortage of qualified dental assistants in Massachusetts, said Dr. Meyer. While previously dentists had been able to train assistants on the job, there are now increased educational and certification requirements a dental assistant must meet before obtaining employment.

“The need for formally trained dental assistants has increased sharply,” said Dr. Meyer. “I would highly recommend a career in dental assisting. The knowledge and skills obtained from the dental assisting program can be applied regardless of geographic location.”

Employment of dental assistants is expected to increase by 6.4 percent over the next four years with the job currently providing a salary between $15.17 and $27.30 an hour.

The Dental Assisting Certificate can be completed in one year and is offered at MWCC’s Fitchburg Campus. More information about the dental programs offered by MWCC is available at mwcc.edu/dental.

The mural being painted by current and former MWCC students is set to be complete later this summer.

(This story was written by Andrew Mansfield and appeared in The Gardner News) People will soon be able to take a trip across the whole city simply by walking along the West Street Parking Lot.

Past and present Mount Wachusett Community College students have been working on a mural on the rear wall of the parking lot for the past month or so.
Along the wall, the mural transitions from paintings of several different city scenes, such as the downtown skyline, Dunn Pond and City Hall.

Several local artists, led by Ben Mikels, went back to work for another session of painting on Friday.

“Every time I come and see more stuff done, I get excited,” he said. “The Mount loves getting involved with the city.”

The West Street Parking Lot is located across the street from the Gardner Ale House on Parker Street. Joining Mikels to work on the project Friday were artists Camilo Almarales, Kayla Rameau and Corinne Goodrich.

They have all been art students at the college. Mikels, Goodrich and Rameau have graduated and Almarales is still attending.

Other past or present students have been working on the project when they can as well. Mikels indicated work on the mural has taken place for about a month now.
The project also includes painting the electric boxes that service traffic lights at intersections throughout the city.

The weather and availability of the painters are factors in the timeline for when the overall work will conclude, but it is slated to wrap up over the summer.

The city and Mount Wachu­sett Community College have partnered on public art projects over the last several years. One recent example is the mural at Jackson Playground.

Community Development and Planning Assistant Director Joshua Cormier has been coordinating the projects on the city side.

“The reasons we’re doing this is we have all these blank canvases, so to speak, just sitting there,” he said. “It’s to give visitors and residents an uplifting view.”
With the West Street Parking Lot mural, he said the idea is that each image of the city is like a large-scale postcard.

Residents or visitors can take photos standing in front of the mural.

Cormier said the mural will also include some symbols of local businesses. In addition to the creative look and beautification the mural provides, it helps market what the city has to offer.

Cormier explained the city provides funding for the supplies needed, indicating this project is costing the city a few thousand dollars.

“We’re investing a little bit of money and they’re investing a lot of time,” he said.
The student artists gave credit to Mount Wachusett Community College Professor Thomas Matsuda, the chairman of the Art Department, for his role in organizing these projects with the city.

“He pretty consistently pushes kids to do stuff in the community,” Rameau said.
The projects have provided students with a chance to have their artwork become a permanent fixture in the local scene, an opportunity the students at West Street Parking Lot on Friday seemed happy to partake in.

Bob Mayer (right) discusses the services available at the Mount Wachusett Community College Veteran Success Center with Massachusetts Secretary of Veterans’ Services Francisco Ureña. Mayer helped organize the upcoming Veteran’s Resource Fair that will help connect veterans with various organizations and services on June 20.

Mount Wachusett Community College will be hosting a free Veteran’s Resource Fair with over 20 organizations on Tuesday, June 20 in an effort to connect veterans and their families with services.

The fair is a gathering of companies, organizations and nonprofits that provide services to local veterans and their families. While it takes place at Mount Wachusett Community College’s Gardner Campus from 5 to 7 p.m. on June 20, it is not limited to veteran educational matters. According to MWCC’s Director of Veterans Services Bob Mayer, whether someone is looking to change careers, overcome a setback or working just to get by, there will likely be a service that can help at this fair.

“This free resource fair only requires a small amount of time,” said Mayer. “The time invested could yield dividends over a lifetime.”

Some of the expected organizations include the Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center, the North Quabbin Trail Association, Shoulder to Shoulder, Mass One-Stop Career Center, North Central Mass Workforce Investment Board, SAVE of the Massachusetts Department of Veteran Services, VA Vet Centers, VA MOVE, and VA VITAL. The organizations will cover topics including family retreats, legal services, housing and homeownership, financial education and assistance, educational benefits and disability claims.

Light refreshments will be served and registration is encouraged at mwcc.edu/vetfair.

Dental Assisting and Dental Hygiene graduates celebrate following a dental pinning ceremony in May welcoming them into the dental field.

Mount Wachusett Community College will host a hands-on demonstration of dental technology and techniques during a Dental Showcase on Thursday, June 15.

The event will provide an opportunity for visitors to explore whether a career in the dental field, through a degree in Dental Assisting or Dental Hygiene, is right for them. This will take place through a series of hands-on, interactive experience from 3 to 5 p.m. at MWCC’s Fitchburg Campus at 326 Nichols Road in Fitchburg.

Among the hands-on activities will be demonstrations of digital dental impressions and digital radiology. Visitors will also be able to attend an information session at 3:15 p.m., talk to current students and faculty, tour the campus and learn about the admissions process. Also involved in the event are dental companies Henry Schein, Dexis Dental and CrossTex.

This event is designed to give visitors a feel for the latest technology in the high-demand dental field, said MWCC’s Chair of Dental Education Programs Cindy Cadoret, and allow people to explore whether a career as a dental assistant or hygienist could be a good fit for them.

“I get calls every week from dental offices asking me to post a job and let alumni know that there are job opportunities,” said Cadoret.

Attendees are encouraged to RSVP by registering online at mwcc.edu/dentalshowcase, emailing admissions@mwcc.edu or calling 978-630-9110.

Students from numerous communities were named to the Mount Wachusett Community College President’s List and Dean’s List recently.

The following Mount Wachusett Community College students who completed a minimum of 12 semester hours with a grade point average of 4.0 were named to the President’s List for the spring 2017 semester:

President’s List Spring 2017

 

Massachusetts

Athol: Stephanie Buck, Jillian Euvrard, Samantha Farley

Ayer: Brittany Bechtel, Brenton Bourne

Barre: Ann Giaquinto Scott, Sofia McDonald Games

Concord: Matthew St Jean

Fitchburg: Thuy Truong, Travis Vincent, Maria Yanez

Gardner: Cassparina Carlson, Ramsey Clayter, Patrick Conlin, Timothy Landry, Jessica McKay, Nicholas Taylor

Groton: Rebekah Miele

Hardwick: Karin May

Holden: Maricela Diaz-Sotomayor, Faith Kurtz

Hubbardston: Alison Germagian, Gregory Germagian, Eden Shaveet, Lauren Stohler

Leominster: Kahlil Beauregard, Sarah Crete, Galadriel Hahn, Jared Kuczwara

Lunenburg: Anne Allan, Florencia Bouchard, Gail Mercier, Lara White

Marlborough: Lauren Noronha, Evangelia Sunberg

Northborough: Darrege Bruny

Orange: Tammy Goodgion

Shirley: Crystal Hansen

Shrewsbury: Courtney Hurley

Springfield: David Anderson

Sterling: Kelly Devillers

Templeton: Tara Dugan, Paula Rosario

Townsend: Kaitlyn Fales

Westminster: Armand Brown, Lisa Ferrara-Caron, Kaitlyn Gagne

Wilbraham: Christopher Monette

Winchendon: Mary Pietrzak, Nancy Regan, Thomas Sutherland

Worcester: Constance Tazelaar, Jessica Tobar 

 

New Hampshire

Fitzwilliam: Kierstin Springmann

Jaffrey: Margaret Hart-Smith, Tatiana Joaquin, Rebecca Myott, Meghan Rothermel, Katrina Ung, Julia Van Houten

 

Dean’s List Spring 2017

The following Mount Wachusett Community College students who completed a minimum of 12 semester hours with a grade point average of 3.0 to 3.99 were named to the Dean’s List for the spring 2017 semester:

 

Massachusetts

Ashburnham: Kevin Chambers, Rebecca Gardner, Jennifer Guerriero, Katherine Herndon, Keyanna Latour, Connor Leamy, Kelsey March, Justin Streeks, Stephen Streeks, Rachel Vargeletis

Ashby: Chantel Boisvert, Dalton Couture, Eldon Garhart, John Gilbert, Toria Lielasus, Carey Parkhurst

Athol: Ashley Bacigalupo, Alexander Batutis, Zachary Bergquist, Christina Bruce, Kelly Cacciolfi, Katie DuPont, Elizabeth Gagnon, Marissa Hartford, Amanda Melanson, Alisa Nano, William Sawin

Auburn: Megan York

Ayer: Andrea Inostroza, Elizabeth Jones, Katherine Jordan, Heather Sinofsky

Baldwinville: Benjamin Bresee, Rachel Courtemanche, Tara DeWitte, Jayson Drop, Julie Ehnstrom, Rachel Fortier, Jacqueline Rosario

Barre: Kathryn Hood, Santo Mammone, Gabrielle Walker

Blackstone: Shelby Maiorana

Bolton: Kayleigh Cavanaugh, Joseph Thibault

Boston: Wei He Yiu

Brookfield: Nicole Jacobson

Cherry Valley: Nicholas Mancuso

Clinton: Eliza Barrios, Serena Ferri-Lima, Colleen Hannen, Jennifer Lopez, Erin O’Connell

Dennis: Josef McNamara

Devens: Joseph Dowling

Dracut: David Mungai, Noelle St Martin

Dunstable: Jeremy Ralls

East Templeton: Colleen Moran, Courtney Wentz

Fitchburg: Danielle Acevedo, Kaelan Adams, Nana Adwubi, Jazmin Beauchesne, Megan Burnap, Marvin Calderon, Elizabeth Campbell, Cassandra Croft, Maria Ferreira, Julie Fluet, Rebecca Gilbert, Elida Griffin, Destiny Johnson, Grace Kiigi, Trevor Leger, Victoria Lillie, Katelyn Lingus, Stephenie Mancini, Lucas Millen, Bria Monette-Harris, Kennedy Owino, Nathan Pierce, Juan Ramirez, Nataly Ramos, Jean-Pierre Reyes Caraballo, Eduardo Rodriguez, Desiree Santana, Joshua Surrette, Ashley Thibault, Jaylyn Torres, Henry Vaillancourt, Staci Wolski, Timothy Woods

Framingham: Hanna Gyamfi

Gardner: Leslie Ackers, Brittany Bohn, Tanya Botelho, Matthew Brown, Taylor Butler, Jessica Cahill, Tianna Caisse, Cynthia Cajigas, Chelsea Caron, Dylan Cernoia, Ashley Comley, Brendan Conlin, Briana Cormier, Cynthia Cormier, Timothy Cronin, Tiffany Cunningham, Harli Curtis, Bertha Dancause, Wendy Dobbins, Heather Dobbs, Abigail Elbourn, Summer Fagerstrom, Rachael Gerde, Moses Gomez, Richard Griffin, Karin Heins, Jessica James, Amanda Johnson, Erin Jones, Nicole Joseph, Gertrude Kamau, Lilac Keenan, Lisa Kowalczyk, Elizabeth LaPan, Allyson Landry, Jonathan Marshall, Brianna Martinez, Nicholas McCarthy, Matthew McCullough, Carlee Mills, Patrick Moore, Charles Njaaga, Lora Novakowski, Timothy Nowlan, Janice Perez, Sahil Prajapati, Kari Quinlan, April Rapuano, Trevor Raux, Tressa Rezendes, Marissa Schecker, Julia Scott, Jerrika St John, Jessica St John, Laurie Tucci, Adam Wilbur, Tracy Wirtanen, Calvin Wong, Jeffrey Yates

Groton: Casey Cota

Harvard: Paulina Sarnik

Holden: Samantha Zaines

Hubbardston: Cristen Comptois, Gabrielle Deloge, Brianna Stevens

Hyde Park: Jerica Washington

Jefferson: Dillon Citarella

Lancaster: Nicole Boufford, Gabrielle Depari, Linda Hume

Leicester: Shelby Ayres

Leominster: Joslin Ahola, Meghan Arce, Samantha Aviles, Elizabeth Brown, Marcus Burnett, Jonathan Cabrera, Daniella Caetano, Kevin Canales, Nixtina Collado, Lisa Doherty, Melissa Fahey, Anna Gamaya, Olivia Gianakis, Lisa Hamel, Michael Harris, Emmett Heckman, Hieu Huynh, Loveth Ighodaro, Pywon Inthirath, Alan Knesek, Taisha Lopez, Alphoncina Lyamuya, Leila Mahijibhai, Luke Mann, Andrew Martinez, Luis Martinez, Deliciana Montoya, Priscilla Moreira, Fernanda Munari Joaquim, Brandi Neuberg, Amy Nguyen, Skye Nogler, Victoria Pantoni, Gilbert Revesai, Yecksika Rivera Lopez, Anysmarie Santiago, Teresa Silveira, Shauna Soroka, Alina Tang, Michael Tanis, Nicolas Teixeira, Seth Turner, Danielle Waseleski, Letecia Winters, Hannah Zanni

Littleton: Ryan Gee

Lunenburg: Christina Bernatchez, Amanda Bontempo, Carter Filiau, William Gedenberg, Nicole Ignazi, Bonnie Logan, Kelly McDonough, Kyle Miller, Valerie Poladian, Jean Rosa, Isabel Salvatore, Tricia Sicard, Jillian Smith, Arilyn White

Marlborough: Paola Molina, Jaclyn Musorofiti

Maynard: Andrea Lontine

New Braintree: Collin Bennett, Caitlin Stevens

New Salem: Shawnee Lewis-Phillips

North Brookfield: Kaitlyn Burnham, Jennifer Davie, Emily Routhier

Norwood: Robert Sorenson

Orange: Jennifer Ballou, Katelyn Batutis, Keira Bradshaw, Matthew Crumbley, Meghan Doyle, Julia Griffin, Sheila Hebert, Rachel Lundgren, Brianna Marsh, Anna Morin, Kiersten Samalis, Gregory Suprise, Salvatore Taverna, Nicole Wetherby

Paxton: Kayla Shabo

Pepperell: Samantha Archer, Cameron Clermont, Katy Sullivan

Petersham: Ryan Lawrence, James Moseley

Phillipston: Cole Duguay, Tyler Gearin, Olivia Howes, Tyana Maki, Jillian Manty, David Morris, Summer Moulton, Alexandria Richard, Robert Woodard

Princeton: Ella Walsh

Royalston: Dylan Hall, Loryn Killay, Melissa Persson, Michael Young

Rutland: Nolan Craine, Kyle Deane, Alexis Fischer, Jill Giannotti, Ross Lemoine, Eric Reidy, Luke Schiemann

Shirley: Elizabeth Estrela, Kelly Russell

South Barre: Morgan Blavackas

Spencer: Dawnmarie Jones, Linda Maher, Elizabeth O’Mara, Mary Remillard

Sterling: Christopher Giard, Tomielee Graca, Karen Monchamp, Sarah Urbina

Sturbridge: Jack Korman

Templeton: Daniel Eaton, Timothy Foss, Kristen Gaudet, Paige Starrett, Kyle Vaillancourt, Sarah Young

Townsend: Dan Baboci, Gillian Cormier, Ross Cote, Bailey Fluet, Alexa Nogueira, Kathryn Schatia, Michael Sullivan, Rachel Sullivan, Thomas Sullivan, Cheyenne Whittemore

Turners Falls: Erin Couch

Warwick: Lexis Kitzmiller

Webster: Mackenzie Christensen, Esther Gichuhi

Wendell: Shelby Sawin

West Brookfield: Brandon Molleur

West Groton: Ryan Roy

West Townsend: Kayla Blackwell, Sarah Ulmer

Westford: Erin Auger, Miles Roache, Donna Slattery

Westminster: Marco Giannunzio, Lisa Gifford, Bryanna Hache, Mason Hicks, Travis Martin, Rebecca Schlier, Samantha Shippell Stiles, Hannah Siden, Justina Smith, Joslyn Winter

Whitinsville: Michael Pantoja

Winchendon: Marcus Allen, Ashley Arsenault, Brandon Beals, Ivana Bellorado, Amanda Bettencourt, Trevor Bibeau, Cayla Clinkscale, Marygrace Daly, Samuel Davidson, Dmitri Eddy, Marissa Galat, Rachel Haley, Elise Hamblett, Maria Javien, Joseph LeBlanc, Michael LeBlanc, Di Lin, Lvov Mhyana, Justine Michaud, Abner Morales, Timothy Pare, Jay Pereira, Scott Ploskonka, Megan Skinner, Kristina Snay, Morgan St Pierre, Holly Tata, Stephanie Tenney, Ann Vaillancourt, Jacob VanHillo

Worcester: Aaron Aikins, Monica Boafo, Samuel Gabeaud, Carlyn Higgins, Joseph Kum, Eliud Mwangi, Guerda Pierre

 

New Hampshire

Fitzwilliam: Kenneth Roy

Hampstead: Nicole Reynolds

Hooksett: Jason Wright

Jaffrey: Courtney Emond, Sierra Landry

Nashua: Nancy Kaneshiro

New Ipswich: Aimee Matson, Ashley McHugh, Macey Traffie

Peterborough: Christian Piscopo

Richmond: Jennifer Haynes

Rindge: Jade Hill, Kelsey Martin, Jammie Mascitti, Jessie Mascitti, Bridget Murphy, Kacy Sauvola, Sharlene Seppala, Austin Stacy

Stoddard: Lindsay Martinez

Troy: Linda Mclean

Mount Wachusett Community College students thanked police and other criminal justice community partners from communities including Ayer, Gardner, Greenfield, Lunenburg, Orange, Templeton, and Westminster at a recent recognition luncheon.

At the end of every semester, MWCC hosts a recognition luncheon where participating criminal justice students thank their internship hosts for all they have learned and for the incredible mentoring each has enjoyed. To thank them for providing real-life, career experiences for the students, department chair Reed Hillman presented certificates of appreciation during a gathering at the Gardner campus.

“These fortunate students acquired a wealth of information about how progressive agencies serve their citizens and our students are uniformly grateful for the opportunity they have been provided,” Hillman said.

Police and criminal justice officials throughout the region provided internship opportunities for a number of MWCC Criminal Justice majors during the spring semester. Participating students completed a minimum of 120 hours over the 15-week semester.

The student center will open up to a new outdoor space that will feature wifi and seating.

The construction of a $3.5 million student center at MWCC has kicked off with the 4,500 square foot facility set to be completed in only 100 days. The student center is being partially funded by a generous donation of $500,000 from Bemis Associates, Inc through the Bemis Community Investment Fund.

“This project will create an epicenter of student life and activity at the heart of Mount Wachusett Community College’s Gardner campus,” said MWCC’s Dean of Students Jason Zelesky. “Our accelerated timeline creates the least disruption for our students and will have the student center operational for students as they begin their fall classes.”

The new student center will be located at the heart of the campus and fill a vital role for the college’s students. As commuters, said Zelesky, it is vital that students have a space to pass the time between classes, socialize and build a sense of community. This fall, they will have just that in a space that will be directly across from the cafeteria and face out to Green Street.

“The new student center will provide our students with a multipurpose space that they deserve and need,” said Zelesky who explained that the college has had student-dedicated spaces in the past but this will surpass them all and truly be student-centered from the outset. “We are so excited to be able to provide a comfortable social space that will be the center of campus life and student activities.”

The student center will feature versatile space where students can relax, hang out and socialize.

The goal was to create a versatile space where students can relax, hang out and socialize. The student center will feature a lounge and meeting space, group study area, game room and televisions. In addition to indoor space, the center will open out to a green space with outdoor wifi and seating.

Site work for the student center began the day after MWCC’s Commencement with demolition beginning before the Memorial Day weekend.

The center is being built through a partnership with the Massachusetts State College Building Authority. This is the first time that a community college has worked with the MSCBA on a building project and the college is excited about the partnership, said Zelesky.

Eden Shaveet graduated from MWCC’s Gateway to College program recently; receiving her high school and Associate’s degrees. Photo Courtesy Sentinel Enterprise)

On Friday, May 19 Eden Shaveet graduated with her high school degree and Associate’s degree after thinking just a few years earlier that she would never return to school.

Shaveet left traditional school at the age of 14 and never thought she was going to get her high school diploma let alone her Associate’s degree that she earned through the program. Shaveet reclaimed her education at the Gateways program and exceed all expectations, achieving recognition on the President’s List for maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPA throughout her entire college career and becoming an integral part of campus life as a Student Leader in Civic Engagement. She will be attending Elms College in the fall to pursue her baccalaureate degree.

During her speech, Shaveet highlighted the need for continued support for programs like Gateway to College:

“Hi. My name is Eden Shaveet. I’m 19 years old. I’m a Gateway student, I work at the college, and I love what I do.
That’s how I usually introduce myself to people. But today I thought I would introduce myself in a way I haven’t yet done before.

So Hi. My name is Eden Shaveet. I’m 19 years old. And I have attended 9 different schools throughout my lifetime. By the age of 12, I had been subjected daily to verbal and physical harassment by my peers to the point that I no longer wanted to attend school. At 13 I was shoved into a locker. At 14 I left school. By 15 I was purchasing and using substances I acquired from people in parking lots. At 16, I had adopted self-harm as my only means to cope. And at 17 I had lost all hope in myself.

Not as happy as the first intro, right?

But that’s the reality. And it’s a similar reality to those experienced by a lot of people, many of whom you may have never expected it from. And that makes us uncomfortable, right? So we don’t talk about it. And that creates a silence that often goes unacknowledged.

But it’s from that discomfort and from that silence that we are able to recognize the flaws in our perceptions that ultimately lead to the flaws in what we consider to be normal, appropriate, fair, and acceptable in our society.

Given my background as a former dropout and my current work in local public schools, I consider myself to be an advocate for education. And through this work, drawing from both personal experience and observation, something has made itself glaringly evident: As it currently stands, the education system in this country as a whole, inherently places certain populations of students at a significant disadvantage.

Eden Shaveet listens to her story being told by MWCC’s Commencement Speaker Attorney General Maura Healey at the college’s Commencement.

Populations such as students from low-income households, students who are first generation, students who dropped out or are at risk of dropping out, students who are disengaged from their communities, students who are bullied – all of these students are being underserved by a system intended to educate them equally and fairly, and it is the job of programs like Gateway to College, Talent Search, Upward Bound, and Gear Up to even the playing field and provide opportunity to these students that may not have been granted to them otherwise. Yet there are still people who believe that these programs lack meaning and value. There are still people who refuse to see any purpose in providing support to students in this capacity. In my everyday life, I have encountered people who have challenged me to defend the significance of the programs I have been a part of and worked for, with no intent to listen, and every intent to refute. Someone once even challenged me to defend Gateway to College as an alternative route to education, because they believed that as a student, I should have just been able to “stick it out” in my previous circumstances and to stop seeking assistance that wasn’t necessary. Well from a student’s perspective, I can tell you with the utmost amount of certainty that in the absence of such outreach programs I would not be where I am today and the fact that we have to fight to keep these programs functioning in our schools and communities is absurd.

According to a recent Gateway to College National Network study, the average GPA of students before they entered the Gateway program was a 1.62 on a 4.0 scale. By the end of their first term in the Gateway program, 83% of these same students earned a higher GPA than they had earned in high school, with over an entire grade-point improvement.

It is by unfortunate design that students of particular circumstances slip through the cracks in our education system, but it is contrary to such designs that programs like Gateway to College catch us before we fall, despite the barriers put in our way.

It’s no secret that barriers to opportunity emerge very early in life and that these barriers are highly indicative of a person’s likelihood to attain future success. Sometimes these barriers emerge in early childhood and sometimes they emerge even before a person exists, like a circumstance they were born into that they had no control over such as a lack of resources in an area they grew up in, that other areas or school systems did have access to. In our culture of desiring the “American Dream,” we’ve adopted this idea that if you want something badly enough, you can just work as hard as everyone else, and get it, right? But here’s the unpopular reality: Sometimes wanting it isn’t enough. Some people will never attain their aspirations due to the sheer fact that they lacked the support systems and opportunities that other people had readily available to them. The work of programs like Gateway to College and other outreach initiatives provide the resources we might not have otherwise received, and we are better off for it. We have to invest in our kids, invest in education, and support programs like Gateway to College, and so long as I’m around, so help me God, there will always be an advocate.

I’m eternally grateful to Gateway to College, and to Mount Wachusett for being a platform to offer this program to students like me who had nowhere else to turn. Thank you for opening your doors to me two years ago when any other school would have slammed them in my face.

I’m thankful for everyone who works in the division of Access and Transition, but especially to my resource specialist Sharmese Gunn for being my second mom whether I liked it or not.

Eden Shaveet stands with MWCC’s 2017 Commencement speaker Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey following commencement.

Because of you I am finally a high school graduate, a college graduate with my associate’s degree, and an accepted student on her way to a four year degree and beyond – a feat that could not have happened in the absence of these programs. None of this would have been possible without the tireless and often thankless work you have all dedicated your lives to. Thank you for giving me a chance, for seeing something in me that I couldn’t see in myself, for always encouraging me to embrace my story rather than hide it, and to always question “the norm.”
If there is anything I have taken away from all of you, it is this sentiment that I will now pass on to any student in the audience who is unhappy with where they are in school, or feels like they’re seen as nothing more than a number: Do not be afraid to be the only voice willing to question common practice. Because in many cases, the practices we have accepted as common and “the norm” are in fact the obstacles they claim to be averting. Do not be afraid to stand up, even if you are standing alone. You are more than what this system has predetermined you to be. Take that, and run with it.

And run with this:

In a system where over 1 million students will drop out of high school next year, where over 3.2 million students will be the victim of bullying while in school, where 1 out of every 4 students will exhibit the symptoms of mental illness as the result of chronic stress, and where 32% of traditional high school graduates in 2011 chose to not pursue higher education, but 73% of Gateway to College graduates did, allow my story, and the story of every Gateway to College graduate in this theater, across this State, throughout this country, past, present, and future be a testament to the idea that maybe, the problem is not with the student.

Thank you all so much, and congratulations to the class of 2017.”

Members of the 2017 Classes of the Pathways Early College Innovation School and the Gateway to College program graduated Friday night with their high school diplomas as well as college credits or degrees.

Over 60 students celebrated earning their high school diploma along with college credits or degrees through Mount Wachusett Community College’s dual enrollment programs Friday night.

This year’s graduates of the Pathways Early College Innovation School and the Gateway to College program were recognized during the May 19 graduation ceremony at MWCC. The programs are offered in partnership with the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District, the Athol Early College Experience and the Robinson Broadhurst Foundation, Inc. Career Tech Scholarship Program. They 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.

Gateway to College Valedictorian Eden Shaveet left traditional school at the age of 14 and never thought she was going to get her high school diploma let alone her Associate’s degree that she earned through the program. During her speech, Shaveet highlighted the need for continued support for programs like Gateway to College.

“In the absence of such programs, I would not be where I am today and the fact that we have to fight for these programs is absurd,” said Shaveet. “Programs like Gateway to College catch us before we fall to barriers in our way… I am eternally grateful to Gateway to College and Mount Wachusett for providing these opportunities where otherwise none would exist.”

Shaveet reclaimed her education at the Gateways program and exceed all expectations, achieving recognition on the President’s List for maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPA throughout her entire college career and becoming an integral part of campus life as a Student Leader in Civic Engagement. She will be attending Elms College in the fall to pursue her baccalaureate degree.

Pathways Early College Innovation School Valedictorian Faith Kurtz is graduating with a 3.98 GPA. She has been accepted to attend WPI this fall to study Electrical Engineering.

“My professors here have been kind, reasonable and understanding people who have my best interests in mind and many have gone above and beyond,” said Kurtz.

In addition to her academic achievements, Kurtz threw herself into the community and logged over 200 volunteer hours in her first six months; embracing the motto that you won’t start succeeding until you start doing. She hopes to continue giving back to her community through engineering after finishing her studies at WPI.

“Every student here deserves the success they have because they have earned it … You can’t fake what you have done,” said Kurtz. “To everyone in the audience – thank you for supporting these outstanding individuals and I would ask you to continue supporting them in whatever their next endeavor is.”

Keynote speaker MWCC President James Vander Hooven encouraged the students to listen and contemplate their interactions with others because there is no telling what words will prove influential.

“Write these things down and learn strategies by incorporating them into your life,” said President Vander Hooven.

In closing, the president added his own words of advice and encouragement to the graduates.

“Don’t over complicate your lives. Simplify. Simplify. Simplify. Congratulations to each and every one of you. We are so proud of you,” said President Vander Hooven.

Established in 2010 as one of the first two innovation schools in Massachusetts, the Pathways Early College Innovation School provides motivated high school juniors and home schooled students the opportunity to accelerate the pace of their academic. MWCC’s Gateway to College program, established in 2005 as the first Gateway site in New England, provides a second chance for students ages 16 to 21 who have dropped out of high school, are at risk of dropping out, or experienced a setback, as well as an opportunity for home schooled students to complete high school and college studies.

 

The Gateway to College graduates were:

 

Ashburnham

Mia DeFalco

Dustin Estelle

 

Athol

Leah Breen

Legacy Brooks

Kimberly Favreau

Sasha McCraney-Montalvo

 

Baldwinville

Joelle Austin

Melinda Martin

Dylan Tambolleo

 

Barre

Julianna Ladd

 

Clinton

Victoria DaSilva

Serena Ferri-Lima

Angela Nicoli

 

Devens

Owen Kennedy

 

Fitchburg

Benjamin Almeida

Michael Hidalgo

Julia Mangiacotti

 

Gardner

Victoria Duprey

Nicholas Kapp

Taylor Putnam

Maurisa Weld

Hubbardston

Breanna Maysonet

Eden Shaveet

Zachariah Tancrell

 

Leominster

Daniella Caetano

Sharie Melendez

Alexandria Ridlon

Zachary Riley

Scott Russo

Jareth Skelton

Andrew Wegiel

 

Lunenburg

Rachel Wyman

 

Pepperell

Sydney Hudson

 

Petersham

Sarah Haynes

Richard Tripoli

 

Phillipston

Nicholas Allard

 

Templeton

Brendon Boulanger

 

Townsend

Jonathan Blouin

 

Westminster

Rebecca Schlier

 

Winchendon

Mary Grace Daly

Sydney Jaber

Sabrina Martin

 

The Pathways Early College Innovation School graduates were:

 

Ashburnham

Cassandra Cardillo

Rachel Vargeletis

 

Ashby

Aaron Kenney

 

Athol

Cameron Raymond

 

Athol Early College Experience

Zachary Bergquist

Natasha Ledoux

Lindsey Lee

 

Barre

Gabrielle Walker

 

Clinton

Jason Tovar

 

Fitchburg

Nathan Pierce

 

Gardner

Michael Sadowski

 

Holden

Faith Kurtz

 

Hubbardston

Alison Germagian

 

Leominster

Olivia Gianakis

 

Methuen

Alicia Schiller

 

Orange

Maris Clement

Benjamin Gilmore

Rachel Lundgren

Templeton

Zoe Hammond

 

Winchendon

Natalie Chretien

Jay Pereira (Robinson Broadhurst)