Student Stories

STEM Starter Academy event April 2014

High school students extract DNA from strawberries during a STEM Starter Academy demonstration.

Approximately 250 students from several North Worcester County high schools sampled college life and STEM careers during Mount Wachusett Community College’s STEM Starter Academy event on April 4. The event, coordinated by the divisions of Academic Affairs and Access, Transition & Development, featured a variety of science and health sciences demonstrations, hands-on experiments, and information about financial aid and college readiness, and served as a prelude to MWCC’s STEM Starter Summer Academy.

Mount Wachusett is currently recruiting 30 students to participate in its STEM Starter Summer Academy, which will run July 7 through Aug. 21 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Gardner campus. Participating students will receive two free college courses, textbooks, a $1,750 stipend, academic support, tutoring, and community service and industry tours.

Funded through a $300,000 grant from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, the summer academy is open to students who graduate from high school in 2014 or earlier; place into English Composition and Intermediate Algebra or higher; and enroll in one of MWCC’s STEM starter qualifying majors in the fall 2014 semester.

Qualifying STEM majors include biology, biotechnology, chemistry, clinical laboratory science, computer information systems, dental hygiene, fitness leadership and exercise science, natural resources, nursing, physical therapist assistant, physics or pre-engineering.

Courses offered during the summer academy include intermediate algebra, statistics, introduction to functions and modeling, life science for allied health, introduction to biotechnology, and introduction to psychology.

For more information about the STEM Starter Summer Academy and other STEM programs at MWCC, contact the admissions office at 978-630-9110 or admissions@mwcc.mass.edu.

Kevin Hines with MWCC Nursing & Human Services students.

Kevin Hines, seated, with MWCC Nursing & Human Services students following his presentation.

Had someone just smiled and asked if he was okay that September 2000 afternoon in San Francisco, 19-year-old Kevin Hines would not have jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. The voices in his head, caused by the brain illness of bipolar disorder prevailed, convincing him that he must die. Mid-air, he prayed he would live. Miraculously, he did.

Hines, one of 33 people to survive a jump off the 220-foot bridge and author of Cracked, Not Broken: Surviving and Thriving After a Suicide Attempt, was the keynote speaker during the second annual Mental Health Awareness Conference, sponsored by The SHINE Initiative, Mount Wachusett Community College and Heywood Healthcare.

The half-day conference, held March 27 at the Colonial Hotel, was attended by more than 300 people, including healthcare professionals, educators and students. A panel presentation focused on the stigma associated with mental illness and its impact on seeking diagnosis and treatment; the importance of early diagnosis and treatment, and veterans’ post-war health issues. More than 150 MWCC students majoring in nursing and human services participated in the conference and a suicide prevention training session that followed.

President Daniel M. Asquino, Paul Richard, executive director of the SHINE Initiative, and Dawn Casavant, vice president of external affairs for Heywood Hospital, delivered welcoming remarks, and Human services major, Renee Chandler, shared her award-winning poetry reflecting on living with mental illness. College Counselor Melissa Manzi, MSW, LCSW, and College Health Coordinator Diane Kin, RN, BSN, HNC, led a QPR (question, persuade, refer) suicide prevention training program that focuses on how to assist someone is in distress.

Panelists included Dr. Heather Brenhouse, assistant professor of behavioral neuroscience Psychology at Northeastern University; Dr. Stephanie Rodrigues, assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry’s Division of Addiction at the UMass Medical School; and Bryan Doe of the Massachusetts Department of Veterans Affairs.

Approximately 57 million Americans experience a mental health disorder in any given year. Between 70 to 90 percent of these individuals have a significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life with combined treatment of medication and therapy.

“Ultimately, resources and time are spent on things that are a priority. Let us make certain that mental health awareness, treatment of mental illness and the sensitivity of mental illness are everyone’s priority,” President Asquino said.

Hines’ presentation provided an inside-look at the thought process and actions, as well as the effect on his family. Born to poor, young parents who struggled with mental illnesses and substance abuse, Hines said he and his birth brother would frequently be left alone in seedy hotel rooms. Within a year, they were taken into child protective services, and bounced in and out of several foster homes. Hines’ brother died as a result of neglect and untreated health conditions, while Hines was adopted by loving and supportive parents, Pat and Debbie Hines. In adolescence, what he describes as a “brain disease” began to surface, and at 17, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This imbalance in his brain chemistry resulted in paranoia, mania, horrific hallucinations and grandiose illusions, which he attempted to mask from his family and doctors.

One of the few Golden Gate Bridge jump survivors to regain full mobility, Hines has since shared his story with over 300,000 people to raise awareness about mental illness, treatment, and suicide prevention. He has been featured in the critically acclaimed film “The Bridge,” on Larry King Live, 20/20, Anderson Cooper 360, and Good Morning America, as well as in hundreds of national and international print, radio, film, and television media outlets. A signed copy of his memoir is available at the LaChance Library.

 

Mount Wachusett Community College’s Anatomy and Physiology and Human Biology Club will host a “Delete Blood Cancer” donor drive on Wednesday, April 9 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Gardner campus. The event, which registers potential bone marrow donors with the Delete blood Cancer DKMS registry, is open to the public.

Delete Blood Cancer DKMS assists patients with blood cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma, and also helps patients with certain autoimmune disorders, including aplastic anemia, sickle cell anemia, and other rare genetic disorders.

The registry process takes approximately 10 to 15 minutes to fill out a form, review eligibility and health guidelines and swab the inside of the cheek. Swabbing helps determine a personal Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) type. HLA are protein markers on cells that are used in matching donors with patients. They are inherited, which is why most patients match with donors from the same ethnic background. Prospective donors will be listed on the registry by their HLA type. Volunteers may become a match in a month, a year or longer, or may never be called.

Blood cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths and kills more people under age 20 than any other disease in the U.S. Bone marrow and stem cell transplants can be life-saving treatment for blood cancers like leukemia and approximately 70 other diseases. Patients in need of transplants must find genetically compatible donors to provide marrow or stem cells. While 30 percent of patients can find a matching donor within their family, 70 percent must turn to the national registry to find one. Each year, more than 10,000 patients need transplants using donated marrow or cells. Only half will receive them.

Delete Blood Cancer DKMS started with one family’s search for a bone marrow donor and is today part of the world’s largest bone marrow donor center. The organization leads the fight against blood cancer by working with families, communities and organizations to recruit more donors and provide more patients with second chances at life. To date, the organization has registered more than four million potential donors and facilitated more than 40,000 life-saving transplants around the world. For more information, visit deletebloodcancer.org.

 

Robinson Broadhurst scholars 2014

This year’s Robinson Broadhurst Scholars at MWCC include, from left, Dakota Wood, Courtney Paradise, Devan Tenney, Shelby Slemmer and Laura Cosentino.

This academic year, five Murdock High School seniors are simultaneously earning their high school diploma and an academic certificate from Mount Wachusett Community College through the Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation Career Tech Scholarship program.

The one-year, full-time dual enrollment program, funded by a generous grant from the foundation, allows Winchendon students to earn academic credentials to enter the workforce or to apply toward an associate or bachelor’s degree.

Through this program, now in its second year, students are provided with scholarship funds to begin a trade or technical program in automotive technology, allied health, information technology support or accounting certificate. The Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation grant provides full scholarships for the students.

The scholarship program provides the students with an opportunity to learn a trade that will allow them to enter the labor force once they finish high school or soon after and earn a higher wage than they would with only a high school diploma. This year, all five participants are seeking a certificate in Allied Health. This year’s Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation Career Tech Scholars are Dakota Wood, Courtney Paradise, Devan Tenney, Shelby Slemmer and Laura Cosentino.

“We are most grateful to the Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation for their generous and continued support of this initiative to benefit Murdock High School students,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “This program not only helps students achieve their goal of obtaining a college education without accruing tremendous loan debt, but ultimately supports the economic development of our region by preparing young people with skills they can directly apply in the workforce.”

Completion of the program with a high school diploma and a college certificate will allow students to enter the workforce with a marketable skill, increase their lifetime income and provide the opportunity to continue with their higher education.

“The Robinson-Broadhurst program means everything to me. Without it, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet new people and experience what independence really means. I joined the program so I could feel my way through what I wanted to do with my life and build a good foundation to pursue my dream,” said Deven Tenney.

“I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to get a year of college done while I was completing my senior year of high school,” said Shelby Selmmer. “I knew that I had the chance to earn college credits before I graduated and to get an early start in my college career.”

The program is led by Veronica Guay, Director of Dual Enrollment, and Shaunti Phillips, CVTE Transition Counselor, in MWCC’s Division of Access & Transition, in partnership with Murdock Guidance Counselors.

 

 

Kathy Matson

For her dedication and commitment to serving others, Mount Wachusett Community College student leader Kathy Matson has been presented with Campus Compact’s national 2014 Newman Civic Fellows Award.

A Business Administration major, Matson represents college students across Massachusetts in her role as the student member on the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, and as a liaison between the board and the state-wide Student Advisory Council, on which she also serves. As a member of the Board of Higher Education, she advocates on behalf of students across the Commonwealth for public policy changes that will impact the ability of students to succeed in higher education. Two policy issues she has helped champion include the restructuring of the math sequence and the integration of civic education at all 29 public colleges and universities across Massachusetts.

In addition to working two jobs and consistently making the President’s List and Dean’s List, the Baldwinville resident has provided more than 400 volunteer hours to various organizations and student groups during this academic year alone. She serves as president of MWCC’s Student Government Association, as an officer in the Phi Theta Kappa and Alpha Beta Gamma honor societies, as a Student Ambassador in the Admissions office, as a SALT Ambassador in the Financial Aid office, as a mentor with the Students Serving Our Students office, on the MWCC Alumni Association, and is an active volunteer with numerous Student Life events. She is a second time MWCC student, having first earned an associate degree in Criminal Justice in 1985.

“We are extremely proud of Kathy for her leadership on campus, at the state level, and in the community,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “We are delighted that she has been recognized with this distinguished award. As a student leader, she serves in many capacities and diligently works on behalf of students throughout the Commonwealth. She has a true passion for helping others.”

The Newman Civic Fellows Award recognizes inspiring college student leaders who have demonstrated an investment in finding solutions for challenges facing communities throughout the country. College and University presidents nominate student leaders representing the next generation of civic leaders. This year, 197 students from 36 states received the national award.

The award is named for educator Frank Newman, co-founder of Campus Compact, past president of the University of Rhode Island and author of Higher Education and the American Resurgence. Since 1985, Campus Compact has grown to represent more than 1,100 college and university presidents committed to fulfilling the civic purposes of higher education.

“Being named a Newman Civic Fellow is an amazing honor,” Matson said. “I received this recognition for my civic engagement and volunteerism, but being civically engaged and volunteering is a way of life for me and not something that I do for recognition. I am appreciative to the president, staff and peers at the college who submitted my nomination. They have all been an inspiration to me during my time at MWCC.”

Matson’s ability to be a strong advocate for students make her an exceptional role model, said Fagan Forhan, director of MWCC’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement.

“Kathy is an excellent illustration of what it means to be an engaged student and citizen, and exemplifies hard work and determination. She provides alternative perspectives and a strong clear voice as an advocate for herself and others. Kathy is not afraid to be the dissenting voice in a discussion and is always willing to engage in dialogue and debate about important social issues facing our students. Her no nonsense attitude serves her well in this capacity as she empowers other to make positive change in their lives.”

Outside MWCC, Matson is an active volunteer within her community, including serving on the Templeton Community Emergency Response Team as administrative assistant to the Emergency Management Director. In addition, she also volunteers her time to maintain a database of over 4,500 families and volunteers for MassHOPE, the Massachusetts Home School organization.

She and her husband Calvin have three grown sons who are also alumni or current students at MWCC and are entering military service. Prior to returning to MWCC for her second degree, Matson was a stay-at-home parent who home schooled her children for 22 years.

This is the second consecutive year a Mount Wachusett has received the prestigious recognition. In 2013, Human Services major and student veteran Bryan Sanderson of Lunenburg received the award for his initiative founding the Students Serving Our Students peer mentor program.

 

Job Fair Fashion Extravaganza March 2014

Student John Day organized a career fashion show to promote the upcoming Job Fair 2014. Pictured at left, three students who are dressed to impress, and on the right, three who are not.

Students and area employers are gearing up for MWCC’s annual job fair, which will take place Wednesday, April 2 in the Commons. The event is open to MWCC students from 10 to 11:30 a.m., and to students and the general public from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Attendees are encouraged to dress for success and bring their resumes.

The MWCC Job Fair is an annual event on-campus that is growing in popularity each year as evidenced by the increased attendance of participating employers, students, and community members, said Patricia Brewerton, Coordinator of Career Planning and Placement.

MWCC students attended workshops throughout the spring semester focusing on resume writing skills, dressing for success, and developing soft skills that are critical to the interview process. To showcase the upcoming job fair, student John Day organized a boisterous career fashion show on March 25. The fashion extravaganza featured students dressed in appropriate and inappropriate attire for the workplace.

A wide range of local employers offering job opportunities in a number of growth oriented fields will be in attendance, including human services, criminal justice, business, retail, and the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

Jillian Johnson in library

Student Trustee Jillian Johnson, who aspires to become an orthodontist, began her academic studies at age 16 in MWCC’s Pathways Early College Innovation School.

Motivated teens interested in paring two years of time and expenses off their college education should check out the Pathways Early College Innovation School at Mount Wachusett Community College. Praised by state education officials, parents and participating students, the two-year, dual enrollment program allows high school juniors to simultaneously earn their high school diploma and a transferable associate degree in the academic program of their choice.

Twenty new students will be accepted into the program for the fall semester, beginning Sept. 3. A series of required, two-day information sessions have been scheduled throughout the spring and summer.

One of the first two innovation schools created in Massachusetts in 2010 under Governor Deval Patrick’s education reform bill and the state’s first early college innovation school, Pathways provides high school juniors and home schooled students the opportunity to accelerate the pace of their academic careers using school choice funds to cover tuition and fees.

“Pathways has given me a support net that I will use for the rest of my life,” said Jillian Johnson, a Liberal Arts and Sciences major who serves as student trustee on MWCC’s Board of Trustees. “I have grown as a person and would not be who I am today without it. I have discovered new passions and rediscovered old ones. This program has shown me to not just meet expectations, but to surpass them. It taught me to go above and beyond. I recommend this program for any student who is willing to put in the work and wants something more than just average,” she said.

“This program was ideal for me. I love the atmosphere, the teachers, and my peers. Everyone wants to see you succeed and encourages you to do your best. Pathways taught me to not ignore opportunities and to experience new things. I have become a new person and I’m proud of my accomplishments and who I am thanks to the Pathways program.”

Her mother, Julie Johnson, also praised the program for the opportunities it creates. “It was great for Jillian to have an alternative to high school. She needed to be challenged and put in an environment that supports and encourages personal and academic growth. Pathways allowed Jillian to finish her high school requirements while tackling new subjects to work toward her associate degree. The flexibility of the Pathways program allowed Jillian to become her own person and have the independence and responsibility that a young person needs. I have nothing but good things to say about the program. It was the perfect match for her.”

The Pathways innovation school is a partnership between MWCC and the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District. Students are enrolled in college courses and integrated into campus life, and receive personalized advising from MWCC’s Division of Access & Transition throughout their studies. Massachusetts Secretary of Education Matthew Malone, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Mitchell D. Chester and Higher Education Commissioner Richard Freeland have been among the officials to visit the Pathways school and praise it as an innovative, successful model.

To be eligible, students must live in Massachusetts, possess a minimum high school grade point average of 3.0, be at least 16 years old and entering grade 11 by the start of the fall semester, and be recommended by the sending school.

“Pathways students are motivated and mature,” said Pathways Director Natalie Mercier.  “They are not just passing classes at MWCC, they are thriving,” she said.

Upcoming information sessions will take place April 8 & 10; May 6 & 8; June 10 & 12; June 24 & 26; July 8 & 10; July 22 & 24. The first day of each session is the information portion and will be held in room W11 from 6 to 7 p.m. On the second day of each sessions, students are required to take the Accuplacer test. This will take place at noon in the Testing Center, room 129.

For additional information or to arrange an appointment, contact  Natalie Mercier at nmercier@mwcc.mass.edu or 978-630-9248.

Pictured from left, QCC President Gail Carberry; QCC biotechnology student Jose Cruz; Governor Deval Patrick; MWCC Allied Health student Jenna Bonci; MWCC President Daniel Asquino; and Beth Nicklas, Massachusetts Life Sciences Center General Counsel and Vice President for Academic and Workforce Programs.

Governor Deval Patrick has announced nearly $1 million in grants to support life sciences related capital projects for Mount Wachusett Community College and Quinsigamond Community College to better respond to the region’s growing need for skilled workers in biotechnology, biomedical engineering and pharmaceuticals. The Governor made the announcement at QCC on March 6.

“In order for Massachusetts to continue to create jobs and prosper, we must train our workers for the jobs of the 21st century global economy,” said Governor Patrick. “Our innovation economy relies on a well-educated, well-skilled workforce, and these grants will expand opportunity and grow jobs in central Massachusetts.”

MWCC was awarded a $500,000 grant to upgrade aging and outdated equipment and add new equipment that aligns with current industry standards for its core life sciences courses in biology, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology and plant science. These courses provide the basic foundation for MWCC’S existing biotechnology, natural resources and clinical laboratory science degree programs and three new proposed degree programs in quality and analytical technology, liberal arts and sciences biology and chemistry to be rolled out in fall 2014. The funding will make it possible for MWCC to substantially improve its curriculum to integrate more hands-on, real-world laboratory experiences and add an organic chemistry course, an equipment heavy foundational course for biological sciences and molecular biology studies. The grant will enable MWCC to fully upgrade its laboratory science equipment and to ensure employers have the skilled workforce they require for creating and retaining jobs in the life sciences.

“As Mount Wachusett Community College prepares to break ground this fall on a new science and technology building, the continued support of the Commonwealth, through this generous grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, could not be more timely and appreciated,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “This funding will enable us to provide cutting-edge equipment for our new laboratories, as well as much-needed upgrades to existing laboratories to enhance the academic experience for our students and ensure that employers have the skilled workforce they need for creating and retaining jobs in the STEM fields.”

Student Jenna Bonci, who is preparing for a career in health care, also represented MWCC at the event.

“I believe that all students enrolled in life science courses and programs at the Mount will benefit from this updated equipment and from the commitment it represents to their academic success. With this grant, students will be able to transition to their future jobs with a better understanding of the ever-changing equipment and strategies within the life sciences,” she said.

Earlier that day, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that Massachusetts added over 55,000 jobs in 2013, the largest number of jobs created in a single year in nearly 15 years.

Under Governor Patrick’s leadership, Massachusetts has emerged as the global leader in life sciences. Through the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC), Massachusetts is investing $1 billion over 10 years in the growth of the state’s life sciences ecosystem. To date, the MLSC has awarded more than $330 million to support life sciences-related capital projects across the state, creating thousands of jobs and more than 1.3 million square feet of new education, research and manufacturing space.

“The life sciences sectors are now the fastest job producers in Massachusetts so a key strategy of the Life Sciences Center is to use our capital dollars to ensure that students all across the Commonwealth are prepared to compete successfully for these jobs,” said Dr. Susan Windham-Bannister, Ph.D., President & CEO of the MLSC. “The projects at Quinsigamond Community College and Mount Wachusett Community College are great examples of our investments to achieve that objective. Community colleges, and the six high schools we are recognizing today, play major roles in training the next generation of our state’s life sciences workforce, and they ensure that training for innovation economy jobs is inclusive and available all across the state. Our grants help ensure that these schools can provide students with first-rate training facilities.”

“One reason our innovation economy is strong and growing is because of our state’s strong higher education institutions,” said Secretary Housing and Economic Development Greg Bialecki. “This funding will help ensure that these facilities are equipped with the tools and support they need to provide world-class education and training opportunities.”

“Mount Wachusett Community College is uniquely poised to innovate in the life sciences sector because it is a top public educational institution,” Senator Stephen M. Brewer. “I am honored to support this grant, and to represent the Mount Wachusett community in the Senate.”

“This funding comes at a perfect time for Mount Wachusett Community College, as they begin making major renovations to their science facilities in the coming months,” said Senator Jennifer L. Flanagan. “Many thanks to the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center; the Mount, as they always do, will do great things with this support.”

“Mount Wachusett Community College is an important part of our community and it is wonderful to see them have the opportunity to continue to grow,” said Representative Jonathan D. Zlotnik. “Many thanks to the Massachusetts Life Science Center for their support of the new upgrades for MWCC that will benefit students and educators for many years to come.”

Jerry Sabatini, front row, second from right, and the Indian Hill Big Band will present a free jazz concert on March 28 at 8 p.m. in MWCC’s theatre. Broadcasting and Electronic Media students will record the concert to create a DVD.

The Indian Hill Big Band, led by trumpeter, composer and educator Jerry Sabatini, will present a free jazz concert Friday, March 28 at Mount Wachusett Community College, 444 Green Street. The performance will begin at 8 p.m. in the theatre of the Raymond M. LaFontaine Fine Arts Center.

Founded in 1998 and based in Littleton, the Indian Hill Big Band performs America’s greatest music at venues throughout Greater Boston and beyond. Several of the members are active professional musicians from the local area who perform regularly with orchestras, chorales, musical theater organizations, ethnic music ensembles and other jazz groups.

Sabatini is recognized in the Boston jazz scene as an adventurous, creative and diverse trumpet player, improviser, composer and educator. Known for his wide range of musical taste, he performs in projects ranging from traditional jazz and Balkan brass bands to the music of the Middle and Far East and the avant guard. As an instructor, he directs jazz ensembles at Indian Hill Music School, Joy of Music Program in Worcester, and Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, where he also teaches jazz history.

The concert will serve as a live training event for MWCC’s media students, who are also involved with promotion and event management.

Audio Engineering students will record sound that night with nearly 40 microphones and later mix the raw recording in the college’s audio production studios.  The audio mix will be synchronized to a multi-camera video recording of the event produced by MWCC’s Video/Film students, who will record the concert with six synchronized cameras.

Photography students will take photos at the event for imagery needed by Graphic Design students who will create DVD package designs. The end result will be a full concert DVD and cable television program.

“As the music and performing arts program continues to grow at Mount Wachusett, I met with Susan Randazzo, Executive Director at IHMS, to explore prospects for partnership between our two schools, said Dr. Stephen Grieco, Dean of MWCC’s School of Liberal Arts, Education, Humanities and Communications. “This concert not only creates a collaborative partnership but allows for a unique learning experience for our students. As dean, I am excited to extend this opportunity to our community and am looking forward to this concert production led by Jerry Sabatini, his talented musicians, and our dedicated MWCC Media Arts & Technology faculty and students.”

During this public event, concert attendees agree to be recorded in the audience in photos, video and/or audio for DVD, Internet, television and other promotional materials. Seating will be available on a first-come, first served basis. Doors will open at 7:30 p.m.

The Indian Hill Big Band is an ensemble at the Indian Hill Music School, which offers private lessons and group experiences for all ages, styles, and levels. For more information, call 978-486-9524 or visit www.indianhillmusic.org.

Mount Wachusett Community College’s Broadcasting and Electronic Media program prepares students for careers in television, radio, cable TV, sound recording, photography and related electronic media programs. For more information, contact MWCC at 978-630-9110 or admissions@mwcc.mass.edu, or visit http://mwcc.edu.

 

Brittany Brewer began her academic career at MWCC through the ABE program.

For decades, Mount Wachusett Community College has been the regional go-to site that helps adults who never completed high school begin a new chapter in their lives by earning their General Equivalency Diploma (GED).

The supportive environment at Mount Wachusett has helped thousands of students, like 23-year-old Brittany Brewer of Gardner, set and reach new goals. Brewer, who left high school at age 16, enrolled in MWCC’s free Adult Basic Education classes at age 21 and earned her high school equivalency diploma in 2012. Since then, she enrolled in the college’s ABE Transition to College program, where she is earning great grades in English and math courses in preparation for pursuing a college degree in business and accounting.

The first in her family to attend college, Brewer is determined to build a better future for herself and her two-year-old son, Leo.

“He’s the reason I returned to school. I want him to have things in life that I never had. I don’t have any footsteps to follow, but I want to leave some for my son to follow. I’m making my own way to clear a path for my son.”

In January, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education selected Educational Testing Service (ETS) to administer the new high school equivalency assessment in the state. The new assessment, called HiSET, will replace the GED credential in Massachusetts.

Mount Wachusett Community College has administered the GED exam for many years and will be certified to offer the HiSET assessment to residents of North Central Massachusetts.

MWCC’s GED Test Center will now be known as the High School Equivalency Test Center. Adults who are 18 years old and older may take the high school equivalency test if they have not previously received a high school diploma. Sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds may take the test only if they are no longer enrolled in school. Testing will begin this spring.

MWCC is committed to providing adults and out of school youth the opportunity to obtain a high school equivalency credential in order to assist them in accessing post-secondary education and skills training programs.

Academic advisors are available to work with students on evaluating their options once they complete the Massachusetts High School Equivalency credential. This new activity has been added in all Adult Basic Education programs statewide, to provide college and career readiness for all HiSET graduates.

Extensive research has proved that in order for citizens to be more successful, they need to have some sort of post-secondary education or training.

MWCC’s free Adult Basic Education courses to prepare students for the HiSET test are available at the college’s campuses in Gardner, Leominster and Devens. These classes are funded through a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The college also offers classes for Winchendon residents at the Winchendon Community Action Center. The Winchendon Skills Program is funded through a generous grant from the Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation.

For more information, contact Pamela Dempsey-O’Connell at 978-630-9259 or email pdempsey-connell@mwcc.mass.edu. For general information about the new HiSET test, go to http://hiset.ets.org.