General News

Karen Shultz, Director of Academic Support and Testing Services at MWCC, holds up the plaque denoting the Testing Services center’s Test Center Certification from the National College Testing Association (NCTA).

Mount Wachusett Community College’s Testing Services center has earned national recognition as just one of five centers in New England to have Test Center Certification from the National College Testing Association (NCTA).

During a 15 month process, the college’s testing center underwent a rigorous review of its testing procedures by the NCTA. The NCTA is a non-profit organization that is devoted to high quality administration of testing programs and offers certification that demonstrates exemplary testing practices in line with the organization’s standards.

The MWCC Testing Services center offers a wide variety of tests for prospective and current students, alumni and community members.

“As a certified testing center we provide exceptional service not only to our own students, but also for individuals who need a certification test or a proctored exam for their online education,” said Karen Shultz, Director of Academic Support and Testing Services at MWCC. “Being in North Central Massachusetts, we see traffic for testing to meet not only educational needs but professional requirements. It is an honor to provide testing services and be a part of their success and growth.”

While NCTA Professional Standards are viewed as the gold standard in the industry, only 158 centers nationwide have been certified. In New England, MWCC’s Testing Services center is one of only five NCTA certified centers, with three others being located in Massachusetts and one in Vermont.

“We did not achieve certification simply by completing an application process. It was the strength of the Testing Services team and their daily work that enabled us to apply for certification. Now we have the certification that ascribes the level of quality and competence of our team and our center,” Shultz said.

Testing Services Center is located at Mount Wachusett Community College’s Gardner Campus. More information about the array of testing services available at the center can be obtained by calling 978-630-9244 or visiting the center’s website at mwcc.edu/testing.

Students take on stigma

April 5, 2017

MWCC psychology students Erika Holm, Will Cooney, Liz Gagnon and Taylor Cameron stand at an information table where they were discussing mental health and were asking students, staff and faculty to sign an anti-stigma pledge.

(Story By Andrew Mansfield Courtesy of The Gardner News) Advocates for the treatment of mental health conditions have long spoken about the need to reduce misconceptions and the blame sometimes placed on people.

Joining the cause to help further educate the Mount Wachu­sett Community College campus about the topic on Tuesday were students from Professor Sheila Murphy’s Abnormal Psychology class.

Murphy and students set up an informational table in the hallway outside the cafeteria which featured brochures and posters going over mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and addiction.

“It can happen to anybody,” student Liz Gagnon said, adding that breaking the stigma is a “huge factor in being able to make real changes.”

On that point, their table also included an anti-stigma campaign pledge for fellow students and staff to sign when they visited.

Signing the pledge was a way for people to show their support for not using hurtful language when speaking about mental illness.

Acknowledging the whole person and not just their condition is a focus of the anti-stigma campaign. One of the handouts at the information table went over language that is considered respectful and language that is considered disrespectful.

For example, it would be considered respectful to refer to someone as a “person with schizophrenia” or “person with bipolar disorder” but would be considered disrespectful to simply refer to someone as a “schizophrenic” or “manic depressive.”

In addition, calling someone “crazy” or a “psychopath” or a “handicapped person” are terms they advise to avoid.

“It’s really dismissing who they are as a person,” student Will Cooney said. “It takes away from the legitimacy of it.”

By reducing stigma, the idea is to foster a more encouraging social environment for open dialogue. The students’ table also included information on resources for treatment.

“I feel like they’re already tough topics so to have stigma and labels added on, it’s hard to ask for help,” student Erika Holm said.

“We want people to feel they can get the proper help they need,” Gagnon added.
Tuesday’s showing from Mount Wachusett students came on the heels of college President James Vander Hooven on Monday signing onto the CEOs Against Stigma initiative by the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Massachusetts.

The advocacy organization states that 20 percent of U.S. adults are currently suffering from a depressive illness and that mental illness is the leading cause of disability in the workplace.

In specific regard to the prevalence of addiction, a national survey by the federal agency Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration published in 2014 provides statistics.

According to the survey, about 21.5 million people age 12 or older had a substance use disorder for alcohol or illicit drugs within the past year.

People who met criteria for dependence or abuse of a substance were defined as having a substance use disorder, the most common being for alcohol at 17 million.
Another aspect of mental health that Murphy and students spoke about on Tuesday were the concepts of choice and blame.

They pointed out there are often hereditary factors that play into the development of a mental health condition.

“It is not necessarily your fault if it’s biological,” student Cameron Taylor said.
That can play a role in the case of addiction too with some people being more likely to develop a dependence after they begin to use based on their genetics.
Cooney explained that while it is smart to say no to harmful drugs such as opiates, many people make a bad choice at a young age.

“Once you’ve made that mistake, the body changes and it becomes dependent,” he said. “The neurons in your brain, the synapses in your brain fire differently.”
He added that most addicts feel remorse for their actions.

Murphy envisions a world in which mental illness and its impact on the brain are treated the same way as physical illness and its impact on the body, arguing “there is really no difference.”

She brought up the examples of cancer and diabetes, that if someone suffers from those, it is not looked down upon to seek treatment, it is considered normal.
But with mental health she said people are stigmatized and “we blame them.”
“It’s time to stop blaming someone,” she said.

Among her students, Gagnon is working toward a certificate in substance abuse counseling at the Mount.

Holm mentioned her interest in studying expressive therapy, which involves using creative art as a form of therapy which can be helpful for anxiety as an example.
Cooney is studying criminal justice at the Mount and has taken an interest in researching addiction. Cameron is a dual-enrollment high school student and plans to study nursing at the Mount next year.

Their mental health awareness and anti-stigma campaign is part of a service learning project they are doing for Murphy’s class.

“These four students have been amazing in putting it all together and promoting it across campus,” Murphy said.

President James Vander Hooven, Ed. D. talks with Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise Editor Charlie St. Amand at the North Central Chamber of Commerce’s Good Morning Breakfast Thursday.

Mount Wachusett Community College President James Vander Hooven, Ed. D., stressed the vital nature of the connection between the business community and MWCC at the North Central Chamber of Commerce’s Good Morning Breakfast Thursday.

“Everywhere I’ve gone I’ve had conversations with folks who are intimately aware of what is going on at the Mount and they want to be involved,” said President Vander Hooven. “It’s my hope that we can continue to build on that.”

During a question and answer discussion with Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise Editor Charlie St. Amand, President Vander Hooven reinforced his commitment to the businesses in the 29 communities served by the Mount. The college has a connection with and support of its communities that is unmatched in the United States, he said, and this puts the college in a position to be responsive to community and business needs.

This can be done in many ways, according to President Vander Hooven, but starts by being at the table with local businesses and working through not only the needs they know but those they haven’t event anticipated yet. President Vander Hooven explained that it is through these partnerships that the future story of MWCC will be written.

“Through innovation and the partnerships we can build with everyone in this room, we will tell our story in the workplace,” he said. “We are going to be preparing students for transfer or other degrees, but it’s also just as important to be providing the skills to them that our employers need and I think that is where the story is going to be told.”

Although he will be reaching out to the business community, President Vander Hooven invited those in the audience to reach out and engage the opportunities at the college.

Mount Wachusett Community College James Vander Hooven signs onto the CEO’s Against Stigma Campaign on Monday with Laurie Martinelli, Executive Director of NAMI Massachusetts.

James Vander Hooven, Ed. D, signed onto the CEO’s Against Stigma Campaign on Monday as he began his second week as Mount Wachusett Community College’s president.

“I cannot control the family or community support mechanisms our valued employees may or may not have at home. What I can control is our ability here, in the workplace, to be supportive of each other through the difficult times. This is an expectation I have for our College community,” President Vander Hooven said of his signing on to the The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Massachusetts (NAMI Mass) CEOs Against Stigma campaign.

NAMI Mass launched the CEOs Against Stigma campaign in 2015 with a grant from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office. CEOs Against Stigma partners with the leaders of businesses, organizations and municipalities across the Commonwealth to educate and combat stigma. President Vander Hooven’s signing of the pledge Monday continued a commitment to fighting this stigma that previous President Dr. Daniel M. Asquino made last year.

“Mental health conditions affect one in five adults and are the leading cause of workplace disability. Even in the best workplaces, mental illness remains a secret on account of stigma,” says Laurie Martinelli, Executive Director of NAMI Massachusetts. “We are thrilled to have President Vander Hooven of Mount Wachusett Community College sign onto our CEOs Against Stigma campaign. His leadership role will help transform the way people think and act at MWCC.”

As part of this campaign, participating employers host In Our Own Voice, a NAMI signature program featuring two people living with mental illness who share their personal stories and how they are achieving recovery. The In Our Own Voice program has been recognized by a leading national mental health researcher as the most effective anti-stigma program in America.

Founded in 1982, NAMI Mass is a nonprofit, grassroots education, support and advocacy organization. It is the state’s voice on mental illness, with 21 local chapters and more than 2,000 members. Its mission is to improve the quality of life for people with mental health challenges and their families by educating the public; fighting stigma, discrimination and stereotypes; and promoting recovery. To that end, the organization offers free, peer-led programs that provide resources, insights, coping skills and genuine support. To learn more about NAMI Mass, please visit namimass.org.

Writer and Director Paul Dalio speaks with Paul Richard, executive director of the SHINE Initiative, during a question and answer session.

A packed room listened to stories of personal struggles and strength on Tuesday at the fourth Mental Health Awareness Conference held by Mount Wachusett Community College and the SHINE Initiative.

In a continued effort to raise awareness about mental health and wellness, the two groups brought together four speakers to discuss their personal experiences with mental health and addiction. Each year, approximately one in five Americans suffer from some mental illness such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia and the conference is designed to shine a light on mental illness.

During his welcome address, Mount Wachusett Community College President James Vander Hooven, Ed.D., recognized the school’s students in the audience, asking them to stand. This group included over 100 nursing students. He told the gathered students that this year’s graduation will be moving for him because of the cumulative good that MWCC’s graduates will be doing in their communities.

“You will be saving lives and I hope you recognize that. I hope you recognize and value that as much as I do,” he said.

President Vander Hooven then talked about his experience realizing that asking for help is a sign of strength and not weakness. He said that while he has had the benefit of supportive family and friends, he cannot control the amount of support those at the school have amongst their families, friends or communities. But what he can do, he said, is pledge to support those in the MWCC community as they seek the assistance they need.

“It took me a long time to get to a point where I would consistently seek help when I experienced my own symptoms of depression,” said President Vander Hooven. “I know that what we experience does not define us.”

This year’s keynote speaker was writer and director Paul Dalio who talked about his experience managing bipolar and how it influenced his film “Touched with Fire”. He spoke about the difficulty in managing bipolar and the importance of letting people know that even though they have been diagnosed and life will change, with the right care they will be able to tap into their creativity while avoiding the detrimental cycle of mania.

“You can be stable and you can have the creativity and the fire. And I am definitely more stable than I was. I’m much more creative now than I was before bipolar,” said Dalio to Paul Richard, executive director of the SHINE Initiative, during a question and answer session. “Part of it is you live through the depth of life and it enriches your perspective.”

Dalio’s feature film, “Touched with Fire,” stars Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby and has been acclaimed by critic Stephen Holden of the New York Times as “an extraordinarily sensitive, nonjudgmental exploration of bipolar disorder and creativity.” It draws inspiration from Dalio’s bipolar diagnosis and experiences dealing with his illness and artistic nature. Dalio has been outspoken about his hospitalization and treatment while being a voice for the contributions of people diagnosed as bipolar.

In addition to Dalio, a trio of speakers discussed everything from living with mental illness, new treatments for addiction and the governmental challenges in helping to break the cycle of addiction.

Dr. Judson Brewer, Director of Research at the Center for Mindfulness at UMass Medical School in Worcester talked about his mindfulness research and how he has turned this towards helping people break the cycles of cigarette smoking and emotional eating. By having people be mindful of why they are being urged to do something such as smoking, it is possible to have them break the cycle as they examine that the behavior will not solve their actual concerns, he said.

“There’s an urge for the pleasant to continue and the unpleasant to go away. That leads to a behavior,” said Dr. Brewer. “If we can understand mechanistically what is happening, we can work with things … and drive a wedge between the urge to act and the action.”

Dr. Barrie Baker, Director of Clinical Activities at Tufts Health Public Plans, discussed her own struggles with what has been classified as bipolar even though she has never had a manic episode. She has been lucky to have support when she needed it, she said, and it is important to extend that support to others going through mental health challenges.

“We as medical professionals can’t even talk about it amongst ourselves,” she said explaining that we all need to do our part to break the stigma against mental illness. “I’m damn good at my job. I’m really good but no one would have given me the chance. You can function. You can do your job. You can be a productive member of society.”

Massachusetts State Senator for Worcester & Middlesex Districts Jennifer Flanagan spoke about the ongoing struggle to get Massachusetts residents treatment for addiction, specifically focusing on the fight against opioids, heroin and fentanyl. These drugs are ripping through our communities, she said, and it often takes people over five times through rehab to finally get clean. She addressed the numerous nursing students from Mount Wachusett in attendance, urging them to work with the addicts they will encounter as they undertake the long journey to sobriety.

“You are all going to see it. And you are probably not going to know what to do about it. But stick with them,” Flanagan said.

Following the presentation, Mount Wachusett Community College nursing students participated in QPR (question, persuade, refer) suicide prevention training.

President James Vander Hooven.

James Vander Hooven, Ed.D., has officially stepped into his role as the third president of Mount Wachusett Community College since the school was founded in 1963.

“MWCC has a long history serving as an integral part of the communities of North Central Massachusetts and responds to the region’s ever-evolving needs in order to best serve our students. We plan to build upon that history and create an equally bright and important future for this college at its Devens, Fitchburg, Gardner and Leominster locations,” said President Vander Hooven. “We have an opportunity not only to educate, but to be a conduit for the personal transformation and growth of our students and the ongoing growth of our communities.”

President Vander Hooven has been on campus since February, which allowed for a transition period with Dr. Daniel M. Asquino who announced his retirement last year and served as president at MWCC for over 30 years. President Vander Hooven used this transition time to meet with students, faculty, staff and community members and said he looks forward to continuing the process.

“I have met faculty who strive every day to impart knowledge and support students as well as staff who work tirelessly towards everyone’s success in so many ways. During this time, I have also been able to meet some of our students who persevere in ways both large and small to better themselves through education and personal growth,” said Vander Hooven.

President Vander Hooven has been committed to access and opportunity to higher education since first stepping into a nontraditional classroom, as an instructor, where he was the youngest person in the group. At that point, he began focusing his energy and time on increasing opportunities for students of all ages and backgrounds.

As the president of Tohono O’odham Community College in Tucson, Arizona, President Vander Hooven successfully raised more than $9 million for the construction of the college’s new main campus. He has also served as Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management at Lakes Region Community College in Laconia, New Hampshire, and Regional Dean of Academic and Student Affairs at National American University in Denver, Colorado.

President Vander Hooven attained his Bachelor of Arts degree in English from The Ohio State University. He received his Master of Arts degree in American Studies from the University of Wyoming. In 2009, he was awarded his Doctorate in Higher Education Leadership from the University of Maine, where he focused on student access. His dissertation was titled, “Lessons From Success: The Experience of Women Who Successfully Completed an Associate Degree While Parenting Children.”

He lives in Keene, New Hampshire.

Membership to the Mount Wachusett Community College Fitness and Wellness Center through the new Veterans Move program includes classes.

The Mount Wachusett Community College Fitness and Wellness Center is now offering a new program called Veterans Move that provides veterans and their spouses full memberships at the cost of $15 per month when obtained on a physician’s referral.
The program came directly from a need in the community, with many physicians seeking an affordable facility in North Central Massachusetts for their patients, said Director of the Fitness & Wellness Center Jared Swerzenski. Before this, many veterans have been making use of the facility in Bedford, which is almost an hour away, he said.
“When I was approached with the opportunity to create this program, I thought it would be a great partnership. Many of these veterans are suffering from significant joint and knee ailments and will be able to use the pool and equipment to help with rehabilitation,” said Swerzenski. “Mount Wachusett Community College has created such a positive environment for veterans with the school’s varied programming and support systems so this program is a natural fit for the MWCC Fitness Center.”
MWCC Fitness and Wellness Center supports veterans in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The facility includes a six-lane, Olympic sized swimming pool, three full-size indoor basketball courts, two regulation racquetball courts and state-of-the-art weight training/cardiovascular equipment. In addition, the center offers more than 90 free group fitness classes a week, which include Zumba, Yoga, Group Active, Group Groove, Group Power, SilverSneakers and much more, all led by certified instructors and trainers.

Mount Wachusett Community College President Daniel M. Asquino addresses the crowd during a naturalization ceremony, encouraging them to get involved in their communities.

Mount Wachusett Community College served as the backdrop welcoming 271 Massachusetts residents from 58 different countries as new U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony on March 15 in the Fine Arts theatre.

The ceremony was carried out by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. The Honorable Timothy S. Hillman, United States District Judge, presided over the ceremonies with the clerk of the court administering the Oath of Allegiance to America’s newest citizens.

As the event began, Mount Wachusett Community College President Daniel M. Asquino addressed the soon-to-be citizens as the proceedings got underway. He encouraged those being nationalized to get involved, reminding them that the country was built by immigrants who strove for change and engaged actively in governing a new country.

“Congratulations to all of you who are about to become a citizen of the United States of America,” said Asquino who explained what it meant to be a citizen. “It is being engaged, voting, taking care of one another, your neighbors and your citizens … as you become citizens and leave us today make our democracy better than it is now.”

Senator Stephen Brewer reminded those gathered of the commitment the United States has made to immigrants; offering a promise of welcome. To these new citizens being welcomed, he emphasized the refrain of E Pluribus Unum – out of many one – that epitomizes the melting pot that is the United States.

“You become a part of the greatest country in the world and we welcome you,” Senator Brewer told the gathered crowd.

Gardner Mayor Mark P. Hawke took a somewhat lighter tone as he noted that although the crowd represented members of 64 communities, none of those gathered to become citizens were from Gardner. He spoke of Gardner’s history as a location for immigrants and the positive impact they had on the area’s culture and economy before encouraging those at the ceremony to become a part of the future of the city.

“We do have a rich history of immigrants in the city and I seriously do hope you consider the city of Gardner if you ever consider relocating in the future,” said Mayor Hawke to laughter from the audience.

On Wednesday, 271 people took the Oath of Allegiance at Mount Wachusett Community College during a naturalization ceremony.

The real stars of the event were the 271 citizenship candidates who originated from the following 58 countries: Albania, Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brazil, Burma, Cambodia, Canada, People’s Republic of China, Colombia, Cote D’Ivoire, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Hong Kong, India Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Laos, Lebanon, Liberia, Mexico, Moldova, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Russia, Senegal, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, and Vietnam.

The candidates reside in the following Massachusetts cities and towns: Acton, Ashburnham, Auburn, Bedford, Billerica, Boston, Boxford, Bradford, Burlington, Cambridge, Chelmsford, Clinton, Concord, Danvers, Dracut, Dudley, Fitchburg, Georgetown, Gloucester, Greenfield, Groton, Haverhill, Holden, Holyoke, Hudson, Lancaster, Lawrence, Leominster, Littleton, Lowell, Manchester, Marlborough, Maynard, Methuen, Middleton, Newburyport, North Adams, North Andover, North Billerica, North Oxford, Palmer, Paxton, Pepperell, Petersham, Pittsfield, Reading, Salisbury, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Southbridge, Springfield, Sudbury, Templeton, Tewksbury, Webster, Wenham, West Springfield, Westborough, Westfield, Westford, Westminster, Wilmington, Winchendon, and Worcester.

As he closed the ceremony, Judge Hillman again encouraged the new citizens to make use of their newfound rights and become involved.

“I am proud to call each and every one of you a fellow American,” said Judge Hillman. “Perhaps you or one of the children in this room today, hopefully more than one, will become a great leader of this nation.”

For more information on USCIS and its programs, please visit www.uscis.gov.

Project Healthcare Spring Orientation attendees stand around Worcester Commissioner of Health and Human Services Dr. Matilde Castiel after her keynote address Friday.

The spring orientation for Project Healthcare, a program that is working to diversify the health care workforce, took place on Friday, March 10 with a keynote address from Worcester Commissioner of Health and Human Services, Dr. Matilde Castiel to over 100 attendees.

“A degree in medicine means you can do a whole lot of other things,” said Castiel who has a medical degree but has founded nonprofits including the Hector Reyes House as well as working in an emergency room and as a professor. “If you feel that there is something in our community that needs to be changed, you can change it.”

In her current role, Castiel oversees the divisions of Public Health, Youth Services, Human Rights and Disabilities, Veterans Affairs, and Elder Affairs, and Homelessness along with advancing important new initiatives that fall under the scope of youth violence and the current opioid crisis.

The orientation at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Leominster on Friday was for a program with the goal of increasing the number of underrepresented minority and disadvantaged health care providers by creating a high school to college pipeline of students who plan to enter the health care field.

“Project Healthcare aims to fulfill a regional and national need to create a more diverse and culturally competent health care workforce. Having culturally competent workers will improve patient care and health outcomes by decreasing racial and ethnic inequities in the health care system,” said Melissa Bourque-Silva, Director of the National Workforce Diversity Pipeline at Mount Wachusett Community College.

Project Healthcare is a partnership between Mount Wachusett Community College and Leominster High School, Fitchburg High School, and the Leominster Center for Technical Education Innovation; and is designed to recruit 120 9th and 10th graders with an interest in health care professions to enter a Workforce Diversity Pipeline program. This program is designed with a scaffolding approach, so the students can attain a credential to enter the healthcare field at a young age, which will then lead into a healthcare certificate program, associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree and beyond, according to Bourque-Silva.

The program aims to reduce student debt through dual enrollment coursework; while simultaneously giving students an advantage for admission into competitive healthcare undergraduate programs here at MWCC and elsewhere. The program offers counseling, coaching, field trips, guest speakers, and dual enrollment courses for its members until the grant ends in 2020. This program is funded through a federal grant from the United States Department of Health and Human Services: Office of Minority Health.

Senator Brewer cuts through the red tape ribbon at the naming ceremony for the Senator Stephen M. Brewer Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement. Also pictured from left to right are MWCC Graduate John Day, MWCC Student Trustee Jasson Alvarado-Gomez, his wife Valerie, MWCC President Dr. Daniel M. Asquino, Brewer’s sister-in-law and brother, the Center’s Director Shelley Errington Nicholson and MWCC Student Jana Murphy.

The Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement at Mount Wachusett Community College was named in honor of Senator Stephen M. Brewer on Tuesday, March 7.

The dedication celebration highlighted the impact the Senator had during his decades of civil service in his numerous roles that culminated with his position as the influential Chair of the Commonwealth’s Senate Committee on Ways and Means. The ceremony also detailed the ongoing work of the Center that supports the civic engagement of over 2,800 students at the college with more than 400 community organizations. As a result of the Center, every year MWCC students provide an average of 135,000 hours of service to the community for an economic impact of $3.63 million.

The commitment to civic service and engagement from both Senator Brewer and The Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement make the naming of the center in the senator’s honor an ideal match, said MWCC President Dr. Daniel M. Asquino.

“One can’t become a truly conscious member of society in a democracy unless one has an appreciation for the essence of democracy. That is engagement, compassion, caring, involvement and sacrifice for the common good. These are the qualities epitomized by Senator Stephan Brewer and that is why we are here today,” said Asquino.

In attendance were a number of governmental representatives, some of whom took the stage to speak about Senator Brewer’s wide-ranging influence, commitment to the entire Commonwealth and personal interactions that defined his time in the legislature. The various officials highlighted the Senator’s commitment to truly serve – whether that meant putting large budgetary changes into real terms describing how people would be impacted by cuts or being there when tragedy struck.

State Senator Jennifer Flanagan said Senator Brewer epitomizes public service, while Fitchburg Mayor Steven DiNatale spoke to the Senator fundamentally being a good person and State Representative Jonathan Zlotnik said that the Brewer name is perfect for the Center.

“We have all learned so, so much from Senator Brewer throughout the years,” said Senator Anne Gobi who filled his seat after his retirement. “He took to heart those words of Hubert Humphrey that we take care of those in the dawn of life, in the twilight of life and in the shadows of life. And for the students who are going to benefit from being at this center, if you can keep those things in mind you will pay the right homage to this gentleman right here.”

In addition to those that knew the Senator during his career, three speakers from the college talked about the ongoing influence of the Center and the Senator. Jasson Alvarado-Gomez, Student Trustee at Mount Wachusett Community College, told the story of how a comment the Senator made to him one day, saying that he would be a senator himself someday, in the halls of the school opened his eyes to the vast possibilities the future held.

“I want to tell you something. Someday, when I become a senator, I am going to go back to college and I am going to tell some kid sitting by himself you are going to be a future senator,” said Alvarado-Gomez.

The other two speakers addressed the influence the Center, which helps students not only reach out into the community but connect with other students and the community at the school.

“During my first semester, the Center became my anchor, it became a second home. It is the reason I feel connected to Moun Wachusett Community College and why I am so proud to be a student here,” said Jana Murphy a current student and AmeriCorps VISTA member. “But it wasn’t until I hit my first rough patch that I realized how important it is to feel that kind of connection to your school. It was this connection that kept me from dropping everything when I had a hard time in my classes, or when life in general became overwhelming.”

“The Center is a vital part of this school. It helps those in need. It gives people hope. It shows the student population that we do care about their success. They are not alone,” said John Day who graduated in 2015 and now works part-time at the school while pursuing his Bachelor’s degree at Fitchburg State University.

When Senator Brewer took the stage he talked about the commitment to learning that he sees in the students at Mount Wachusett Community College and how you cannot help but be inspired by the “miracle of learning” while at the school. The Senator said that he hoped the lessons of his life could have an impact on the lives of others.

“We know that none of us can do everything, but each of us can do something,” he said. “Thank you for this honor and responsibility.”

The dedication included a ribbon cutting with red tape standing in for ribbon to represent all the red tape that the Senator cut through during his years in the legislature. The Senator will have an office in the Center and continue his work inspiring and assisting students looking to make an impact on the world.