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MWCC Dean of Students Jason Zelesky leads a tour of the new Student Center at Mount Wachusett Community College.

Walls are up and windows are going in at the new student center at Mount Wachusett Community College this week.

The $3.5 million project will create a 4,500-square-foot student space, which officials say will open by the start of the school year in September.

“An overwhelming majority of our students come here and spend the better part of their day here,” Dean of Students Jason Zelesky said. “There’s no comfortable, cozy recreation space for them to hang out in.”

The addition, called the Bemis Student Center, will include a study area, a “living room” with a hearth, an outdoor patio and vending machines.

Students will be able bring or rent from the college video game consoles to play on the two televisions.

“This is something our students specifically asked for,” Zelesky said.

The tables in the room will have built-in plugs, so students can easily charge laptops and other devices, he said.

Student service offices will be moved into new spaces off the student center as will campus police.

“We’re bringing student services and life together,” Zelesky said.

The space is being built on the footprint of a rarely used former plaza outside the the Haley Academic Center.

“We also called it the prison yard,” he said. “No students would hang out here.”

The paved area allowed water to leak into offices below and caused problems with heating and cooling systems in adjoining parts of the building, according to Zelesky and Associate Vice President of Facilities Jon Wyman.

Zelesky said the project will fix these issues.

The expansion is the first construction collaboration between a community college and the Massachusetts State College Building Authority in the state, according to Zelesky.

Of the total cost, the college will pay for $2.3 million through a 20-year loan. Bemis Associates Inc., a Shirley company, donated $500,000 to the project and the state Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance funded the remaining $700,000.

Erland Construction, a Burlington company, started the project in mid-May and plans to complete it within a hundred days.

The quick summer turn around means students won’t be disrupted by the construction, Communications Specialist Sam Bonacci said.

“It was done to ensure there is minimal impact on the students,” he said.

The plan for the project was developed under the administration of former college President Daniel Asquino, who also oversaw the construction of the new science center that opened last September.

Ariana Neal is a site supervisor at the Allencrest Community Center Summer UP site but first started at the program as a camper.

Ariana Neal has been involved with Summer UP for over 10 years, first attending and then working at the free camp where she came out of her shell and became comfortable interacting with others. It was through this camp that Neal was able to embrace being an organizer and grow into the person she is today.

“It let me get out of my comfort zone, because I was really quiet,” she said. “The staff encouraged me. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to run the games. They encouraged me in leadership.”

The Summer UP camps are safe spaces for elementary and middle school students from Leominster, Fitchburg and Gardner to spend their summer hours. With five different locations, many of the participants can even walk to the locations that provide activities and meals for free. Mount Wachusett Community College’s Division of Access and Transition operates the sites in collaboration with the Mayors’ offices of the cities of Fitchburg, Leominster and Gardner as well as various community based agencies.

Neal, now 21 and a site supervisor at the Allencrest Community Center Summer UP site, first went to Summer UP Around the age of 10. It was here that she came out of her shell, she said, and then was able to grow into a leader.

The program not only serves elementary and middle school ages, but brings on teenagers to help run the program as camp counselors. This not only allows for a natural progression for campers, but often provides them their first jobs, said Neal.

“It’s a job skill and learning experience for those middle school and high school students,” she said, explaining that it is a great resume builder. “We give them the opportunity to develop their leadership roles, learn how to interview, and dress appropriately.”

But the Summer UP Experience is not just a personal one for Neal. What keeps her coming back is the impact it makes on the community. Summer UP creates not only a safe space for these kids to socialize, but also provides breakfast and lunch. While it might seem like a small detail it is vital for these children, many of whom are food insecure, to continue to get well-rounded meals, according to Neal who is a rising senior studying public health at UMass Lowell.

“It keeps them out of trouble. It gives them structure. It gives them that positive environment,” she said.

Summer UP has locations in Fitchburg at Park Hill Park and Lowe Park, in Gardner at Jackson Park and Olde English Village, and in Leominster at Allencrest Apartments. The program runs until August 10, Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Children under the age of 7 must be accompanied by an adult.

A student at Mount Wachusett Community College examines a sample during a class.

Mount Wachusett Community College has launched a new Veterinary Technician program that will allow graduates to fill a growing need in the job market at a heavily reduced cost compared to other area programs.

“The Veterinary Technician truly is the registered nurse of the veterinary sciences,” said Veronica Guay Assistant Dean of the School of Business, Science, Technology and Math. “It is very much a hands-on position and they are trained to work on multiple types of animals.”

The two year Associate’s Degree program will allow students to gain all the knowledge they need to take the Veterinary Technician National Exam test. Students passing that test will be able to fill the important role of Veterinary Technician that is is integral in running a modern veterinary clinic, according to Guay.

Not only does the program launch students into an in-demand career, with conservative growth estimated at 19 percent per year, but the college’s tuition and fees are far less than area four-year colleges and universities, according to Guay. At just over $8,700 a year, the program can be completed for nearly $60,000 less than the two-year Veterinary Technician program at a Worcester four-year college. This will allow students to get out and work with less debt hanging over their head but the same certification, according to Guay.

“The pricing is highly competitive,” she said, explaining that ultimately what employers care about is whether a student passes the certification test. “The leveling factor of the Veterinary Technician position is the certification exam.”

The Veterinary Technician program was made possible by a $340,781 grant from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Workforce Skills Cabinet. The money is being used to outfit labs and fund a synthetic canine. The SynDaver canine will allow students to learn the intricacies of surgery and other procedures without the potential of harming a live animal, according to Guay. Students will then be able to put what they learn into practice through externship placements with area veterinarians where they will work with live animals.

The Veterinary Technician program is currently accepting applicants for its first semester, which begins in February. Those interested should apply now for the program, according to Guay, in order to streamline the process and ensure they meet math and other requirements.

“It’s very competitive and you have to be ready,” she said of the selective program.

Mount Wachusett Community College student Julia Van Houten is pictured with one of her drawings at the opening of a juried art show at the Cultural Center at Rocky Neck in Gloucester, MA.

Mount Wachusett Community College student Julia Van Houten is currently displaying three of her drawings in a juried show featuring 11 artists at the Rocky Neck Art Colony in Gloucester.

The selective art show is a first for the 19 year-old Van Houten, who is from Jaffrey, NH. She had been looking at different competitive art shows to submit to when she found the Rocky Neck Art Colony show and was then accepted.

“I’m trying to see if the art world is ready to let me in,” she said, explaining that she hopes to eventually curate work in an art gallery. “I’m hoping to get my bachelors at an art school and finish out my last two years there before finding a career in the field.”

One of the accepted pieces was completed as part of Van Houten’s Drawing 1 final at MWCC. She said that she never would have completed if not for being in that class last semester.

“The art department is very proud of Julia. It is quite an accomplishment to begin exhibiting while still in college, especially in her first year,” said MWCC Professor Thomas Matsuda who was one of Van Houten’s professors. “I was very impressed with the drawings she did in my Drawing 1 class. I am glad that one of the drawings was recognized and will be viewed by a wider audience.”

Van Houten said the education she has received in her first semester at MWCC has allowed her to explore many different facets of art. It has also been a chance for her to apply herself academically, she said. Van Houten earned a 4.0 in her first semester at MWCC.

“In high school, I didn’t try as hard as I should have. So when I got here I was able to focus and work really hard and so far it has been paying off,” she said.

Mount Wachusett Community College student Julia Van Houten’s sketch is currently on display in a juried art show at the Cultural Center at Rocky Neck in Gloucester, MA.

The education she is receiving will be a stepping stone to further art education, said Van Houten. During her time at MWCC, she has already taken classes in art history, drawing, 2D design as well as general education courses.

“It’s giving me a background of everything I need. It is setting me up with everything before I go to a different school or a different career. It’s very expansive knowledge,” she said.

The show is being held at the Cultural Center at Rocky Neck, 6 Wonson Street, Gloucester. It will run until August 6.

Mount Wachusett Community College Adjunct Instructor Wesley Stanhope holds his Course of Distinction award he received recently for his Renewable Energy Sources course.

Mount Wachusett Community College Adjunct Instructor Wesley Stanhope received a Course of Distinction award for his Renewable Energy Sources course at the 12th annual Massachusetts Colleges Online (MCO) E-Learning Conference that was held recently at Greenfield Community College.

“This is great. It’s good to be able to reach out to students and just teach,” said Stanhope. “It’s great to get recognition for it.”

Stanhope’s class was one of 11 COD winners selected from over 5,000 courses offered through MCO, a consortium built out of the 15 community colleges and nine universities in Massachusetts. The winners were selected for their use of technology to enhance the learning process. Stanhope said a vibrant online course can be created through discussions and sharing of ideas. In addition to receiving the award on June 6, Stanhope presented his course at the conference as part of the Best Practices Showcase.

According to MWCC’s Dean of Distance Learning and Instructional Technology Vincent Ialenti, Stanhope uses multiple platforms and VoiceThread technology to provide his students with a vibrant and interactive online learning experience.

“You try different ways of gauging how everyone is doing and you try to keep everyone active and collectively engaged together,” said Stanhope who uses VoiceThread to create a slide presentation overlaid with his spoken lecture.

Stanhope’s class uses case studies to provide an overview of the costs and benefits of various energy sources and systems. The renewable resources at MWCC’s Gardner campus, which include solar panels and two wind turbines, help make the coursework tangible for students, he said.

“You have the wind turbines and everyone sees them from miles around. They generate a lot of electricity for this campus,” said Stanhope.

Mount Wachusett Community College Adjunct Instructor Wesley Stanhope and Dean of Distance Learning and Instructional Technology Vincent Ialenti hold awards they recently received at the Massachusetts Colleges Online (MCO) E-Learning Conference that was held recently at Greenfield Community College.

Stanhope’s class is one of over 140 online courses offered at MWCC. These courses allow students to learn at their own pace and within their own schedule with 41 percent of all students at the school taking at least one online course during their time at MWCC, said Ialenti. These courses are especially important for students with busy or changing schedules, he said. But advances in technology mean that online students still get an engaging educational experience.

“Today’s online courses incorporate technology that enhances teaching and learning beyond the traditional classroom lecture. Stanhope’s course is a good example of this,” said Ialenti.

Ialenti was also honored at the conference for his longtime work in the world of online learning and as a founding member of MCO with a Contributor of Distinction for his many years as serving the organization.

A Certain Slant is the Literary Arts Journal created by Mount Wachusett Community College students.

A collection of original poetry, prose and artwork by Mount Wachusett Community College students was published recently.

The “A Certain Slant” publication not only includes 48 pieces of student work, but was edited by student Stephanie Arnold, cover art by Kyle Johnson and cover design by Ian Cook.

The entire magazine is available online by clicking this link.

 

MWCC Gateway to College Resource Specialist Sharmese Gunn will be on hand along with Gateway alumni to speak with interested students.

Mount Wachusett Community College will hold a special Gateway to College Meet and Greet with recent graduates of the free program that allows students to earn college credits while getting a high school diploma. The event on July 12 will take place at MWCC’s Gardner campus from 3 to 5 p.m.

“Gateway to College is the place to be for the student who wants out of their traditional high school and wants a jump start on their future academics,” said MWCC Gateway to College Resource Specialist Sharmese Gunn.

Students in MWCC’s Gateway program simultaneously earn a high school diploma through Ralph C. Mahar High School while earning free college credits toward an Associate degree or certificate at Mount Wachusett Community College. All classes take place on the Mount Wachusett Community College campuses.

The program is designed to meet the needs of students who have not earned a high school diploma, currently enrolled students, GED/HiSET recipients, home schooled students and students who left high school prior to graduating. Students must be at least 16 and no older than 21.

Gateway to College is a scholarship program. The scholarship pays for college tuition, fees, and first semester books, in addition to remaining textbooks throughout the program as long as a student maintains a semester GPA of 3.0 or higher.

More information is available at http://mwcc.edu/access/programs/gateway. In addition to the information session featuring conversations with recent graduates on July 12 from 3 to 5 p.m., enrollment sessions will be held on July 19 and August 2.

(Written by Yamileyka Rojas) Mount Wachusett Community College student volunteers recently completed the school’s second annual civic engagement and volunteerism trip to Costa Rica. The trip included numerous service-oriented projects but students said it was they who benefited from the trip.

“I was able to take everything I did in Costa Rica with me. It changed me as a person and made my outlook on life completely different from how it was before,” said MWCC Student Volunteer Morgann Kirker.

The week-long trip with host organization True Nature Education took place in the second week of May. It consisted of side-by-side service with local people, exploring Costa Rican culture, and numerous service learning projects. Student volunteer work included service at an animal sanctuary, participating in a beach restoration project, and serving at local schools.

MWCC students Thomas Berger Jr., Cristen Comptois, Morgann Kirker, Stevie LaBelle, Jana Murphy, Mary Remillard, Eden Shaveet, and Rachel Vargeletis made the trip. LaBelle, of Hubbardston, said that it was an opportunity for her to expand her experiences.

“I knew this trip would consist of conquering my fears and I was ready to make every bit of it count. Our host organization made sure that we were partaking in meaningful experiences and assisted us every step of the way,” she said.

LaBelle’s first service experience in Costa Rica began when she volunteered to make compost out of twigs and leaves with a wood chipper and was challenged to overcome her phobia of spiders. But the trip was not just about personal growth, but learning from the people she was interacting with.

Kirker, of Jaffrey, New Hampshire, said the trip balanced service work and fun activities. She took part in a number of different service projects. They included beach cleanup, cleaning and building cages at a monkey sanctuary, planting trees, and painting a house for a family in need. The group also participated in activities such as zip lining and horseback riding.

“This trip opened my eyes to the many opportunities that are out there to give back to any community, no matter what the circumstances are,” Kirker said.

MWCC’s Associate Dean of Students Gregory Clement and Director of MWCC’s Senator Stephen M. Brewer Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement Shelley Errington Nicholson accompanied the students and saw first-hand their hard work. According to Errington Nicholson, Costa Rica is recognized as a country in need of service and economic revitalization with poverty and deforestation being two of the major issues faced by the country and is therefore a prime location for service learning.

“The most meaningful aspect of these trips is witnessing the impact a group of people can make on global issues through local service,” she said. “Each of our students pushed themselves out of their comfort zones and filled the need that was at hand.”

The trip supplements the service learning that takes place in student’s classes, she said, building on that service and through volunteerism that is encouraged on and off campus.

“Every student who attended the trip has contributed to the community on a local level before the trip and will continue to be involved on the local level,” said Errington Nicholson.

The MWCC Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement plans to continue these global service learning trips annually and is in the workings for a trip to Peru in 2018.

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

The Gateway to College program at Mount Wachusett Community College that allows students who have dropped out of high school to complete their high school degree while getting college credit is accepting students for the coming school year.

“Any student who’s thinking about Gateway or any sort of dual enrollment program, I say do it. Go for it. You can lose nothing from it and you have everything to gain,” said Eden Shaveet, the 2017 MWCC Gateway to College Valedictorian.

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, which she earned through the program. Shaveet reclaimed her education at the Gateway to College program. She excelled academically and socially, becoming extremely involved on campus. She will be attending Elms College in the fall to pursue her baccalaureate degree.

“The Mount is inherently designed to include people. It’s a school that’s intended to help you fit in,” said Shaveet.

Gateway to College is a free program for Massachusetts high school students allowing them to earn college credits while getting a high school diploma. The program provides motivated students a fresh chance to achieve academic success while getting a jumpstart on college.

Students simultaneously earn a high school diploma through Ralph C. Mahar High School while earning free college credits toward an Associate degree or certificate at Mount Wachusett Community College. All classes take place on the Mount Wachusett Community College campuses.

The program is designed to meet the needs of students who have not earned a high school diploma, currently enrolled students, GED/HiSET recipients, home schooled students and students who left high school prior to graduating. Students must be at least 16 and no older than 21.

Gateway to College is a scholarship program. The scholarship pays for college tuition, fees, and first semester books, in addition to remaining textbooks throughout the program as long as a student maintains a semester GPA of 3.0 or higher. More information is available at http://mwcc.edu/access/programs/gateway/ and an information session featuring conversations with recent graduates will take place on July 12 from 3 to 5 p.m. Enrollment sessions will be held on July 19 and August 2.

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.