Student Stories

Summer UP participants at Jackson Playground in Gardner presented a thank you banner to President Daniel Asquino and Mayor Mark Hawke for their continued support of the program.

Summer UP participants at Jackson Playground in Gardner presented a thank you banner to President Daniel Asquino and Mayor Mark Hawke for their continued support of the program.

Over a decade ago, Mount Wachusett Community College’s Summer UP program began to provide safe, summertime activities and employment opportunities to area youth. Since then, thousands of children and teenagers in area cities have benefited from the program.

Now completing its 11th season, Summer Up is a college/community partnership in Gardner, Fitchburg, and Leominster administrated by MWCC’s Division of Access and Transitions.

Recently, MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino joined Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke and Business Administrator for the Gardner Public Schools Chris Casavant at the Jackson Playground site to meet participants and celebrate the program’s success.

“Summer UP is a great program,” said President Asquino. “The best part of the program is it’s not just recreation. The older kids get to develop leadership skills and earn money.”

Mayor Hawke spent a portion of the visit playing basketball with the children. “Every year it’s bigger and better, especially with the new playground and the mural created by the Mount students. I haven’t seen this many kids down here in years, and it’s why we partner with the Mount,” he said.

Mr. Casavant said the program fills a huge need in the community. “We are constantly looking for ways to keep students engaged during the summer months. This is a fantastic opportunity for these kids.”

The sites this year include Jackson Playground and Olde English Village in Gardner, Coolidge Park, Parkhill Park, and Lowe Park in Fitchburg, and Allencrest Community Center in Leominster, which is combined with the Spanish American Center.

Each Summer UP site is staffed by two to three adult supervisors, five to six high school students, and eight middle school students. This year more than 90 student workers, approximately a dozen adult supervisors and several hundred elementary school students are participating at the park sites, said Christina Gonzalez, Community Partnership Manager for MWCC’s division of Access and Transition, who is in her second year overseeing Summer UP.

Middle and high school students complete 20 hours of training through the Commonwealth Corps’ Signal to Success Program, which teaches communication, leadership and employment skills, while younger children enhance social skills though day-to-day interaction in the group setting. On Fridays, the youth workers participate in educational field trips.

Monique Barbosa, who will enter Gardner High School this year as an eighth grader, began attending Summer UP since she was 7, and is now one of the program’s youth workers. X-zavior Ducos, who will be entering the ninth grade this fall, is in his second year as a youth worker. “It’s great. What’s not to like about it?” Ducos said. “You get to play with the kids and go on field trips. The training was fun, too.”

- Katherine Best

Lisa Burns Evening of Excellence 2015

Honors student and MWCC graduate Lisa Burns, a Visions Program participant, will continue her studies this fall at Mount Holyoke College.

Mount Wachusett Community College has been awarded two five-year grants from the U.S. Department of Education totaling $2.99 million to continue support programs that help low-income students, first-generation college students and students with disabilities succeed in college.The grant awards will be used to continue the college’s successful TRIO Student Support Services programs. The goal of each program is to improve student outcomes in the areas of retention, graduation and transfer to four-year institutions to earn a bachelor’s degree.

MWCC will receive $1.1 million over the next five years – $220,000 per year – to support the Student Support Services STEM Health Sciences program, known on campus as the Rx Program. Comprehensive services will be provided to 120 students annually who are majoring in health sciences programs including nursing, practical nursing, dental hygiene, dental assisting, physical therapist assistant, complementary health care, medical laboratory technology, medical assisting, medical office, biotechnology-bio manufacturing, fitness leadership and exercise science, and general studies allied health. Program participants receive wrap-around support services that include tutoring; academic advising; career, personal and transfer counseling; supplemental courses; financial aid advising and workshops; and financial and economic literacy education.

MWCC’s Student Support Services TRIO program, known on campus as the Visions Program, will receive $378,485 a year over a five-year span, for a total of $1,892,425 million. Now entering its 37th year as an educational opportunity TRIO program at MWCC, Visions serves eligible students enrolled in any non-health services major. The program provides a variety of comprehensive services to 200 students each year, including academic advising, personal, career and transfer counseling, tutoring, seminars, financial aid advising and workshops, financial literacy education, a faculty and peer mentoring program and supplemental courses.

“We are delighted to receive these two, highly competitive TRIO grants to continue programs that provide students with the tools and skills they need to succeed in college and earn a degree,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “These awards are a testament to the outstanding work of our dedicated faculty and staff and to the perseverance of our students. We our most grateful to our federal legislative delegation for their ongoing support of these programs and commitment to our students and the economic health of our region,” he said.

“Mount Wachusett Community College is committed to providing academic support and resources to students who need it the most,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren. “These federal TRIO grants will go a long way toward helping MWCC continue its extraordinary efforts to help every student succeed.  MWCC deserves congratulations for all it is doing.”

“We need to prepare all of our students to compete in the 21st century innovation economy, and these TRIO grants will ensure Mount Wachusett Community College continues to prepare low-income and first generation students with the skills of tomorrow,” said Senator Edward J. Markey. “I congratulate Mount Wachusett Community College for securing this funding and for its commitment to helping students of all backgrounds and abilities achieve their dreams.

“Mount Wachusett received these funds after a rigorous grant process, which speaks to both the quality of their application and the school in general,” said Congresswoman Niki Tsongas. “They exemplify the growing trend of Third District institutions becoming academic leaders in the Commonwealth. I commend this fine institution and look forward to seeing the far-reaching benefits take hold.”

Using federal funds to partner with local institutions to address the needs of the region is a key tool in ensuring all people have the opportunity to pursue higher education, she said. “The significant return on these investments will have ongoing reverberations for many years to come, as more students are encouraged and able to complete their college careers and enter the workforce with the skills necessary to succeed.”

“With these TRIO awards, Mount Wachusett Community College will be able to continue to provide their students with a great education and prepare them for good careers,” said Congressman Jim McGovern. “TRIO has a strong tradition of helping low-income, first generation college students succeed. These awards will directly help students complete their education and pursue good careers in STEM health science fields and many other fields that support our communities, including education, business, human services and public service. Mount Wachusett Community College is a strong partner for North Central Massachusetts and I look forward to continuing to work with them to open new doors of opportunity and grow our local economy.”

News of the federal grants was well received by students and alumni who have participated in the TRIO programs at MWCC.

“Without the Visions Program, I would not have been successful,” said Lisa Burns, a single mother who enrolled at MWCC in 2012 to pursue a new career after a back injury prevented her from continuing her long-standing job as a pharmacy technician. Though initially hesitant to enroll, Burns became a member of the Honors Program, the Alpha Beta Gamma business honor society and the Phi Theta Kappa honor society at MWCC. In May, she became the first in her family to graduate from college when she earned an associate degree in Business Administration. In September, she will transfer to prestigious Mount Holyoke College on a full scholarship through the Frances Perkins Tuition Scholarship program to pursue her bachelor’s degree.

“When you don’t have support on the outside, the support on campus is even more important – to have people telling you that you can do it,” she said.

 

Three Murdock High School seniors are earning MWCC academic certificates through the Robinson-Broadhurst Career Tech Scholarship program. Pictured, from left, Andrew Phelps, Amber Dignan, Melanie Cranfill, and CVTE Transition Counselor and student advisor Shaunti Phillips.

Four Murdock High School seniors earned MWCC academic certificates through the Robinson-Broadhurst Career Tech Scholarship program during the past academic year. Pictured, from left, Andrew Phelps, Amber Dignan, Melanie Cranfill, and CVTE Transition Counselor and student advisor Shaunti Phillips. Missing from photo: Samantha Strong

A career-oriented dual enrollment program that allows high school seniors from Winchendon to simultaneously earn their diploma and an academic certificate while enrolled full time at Mount Wachusett Community College, is among three early college partnerships lauded in a newly released report from the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy.

The Rennie Center policy brief, Early College Designs: Achieving College- and Career-Readiness for all Massachusetts Students, explores successful early college models as part of the center’s Roadmap to Expanding Opportunity series. The Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation Career Tech Scholarship program, a one-year, full-time dual enrollment program for seniors at Murdock Middle/High School, prepares students for a variety of careers including information technology, allied health, auto technology, cybersecurity, accounting, bookkeeping, analytical laboratory and quality systems, and small business management.

The program was established in 2012 through a grant from the Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation to assist low-income, first-generation college students, and accepts up to six students each year. By the end of a full academic year attending college courses, the students earn credentials to enter the workforce and complete the first year toward an associate or bachelor’s degree. Students are provided with scholarships from the Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation to cover the costs of the college courses.

The programs highlighted in the policy brief “demonstrate that early college offers an innovative – and viable – solution to persistent problems of college access and persistence,” Chad d’Entremont, Executive Director of the Rennie Center, notes in a letter announcing the new policy brief.  “By allowing participants to accumulate college credits and complete foundational courses before leaving high school, early college helps put students on a trajectory toward degree attainment.”

In its brief, the Rennie Center notes the MWCC-Murdock partnership includes a variety of support services for students, including weekly meetings with an advisor, and three hours each week of professional tutoring and peer tutoring. In addition, students retain their connection with their guidance counselor at Murdock.

The program, which begins its fifth year this fall, is an innovative partnership between the college, the Winchendon school system and the private community foundation, said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “We are most grateful for the continued support of the Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation. This program not only helps student achieve their goal of obtaining a college education without accruing tremendous loan debt, but ultimately supports the region’s economy by preparing young people with skills they can directly apply in the workforce.”

“The dual-enrollment program allows Murdock students an amazing opportunity to earn college credits for free,” said Principal Joshua Romano. “Any advantage our students can get to become competitive with students from other schools just helps more of our students succeed in college and beyond.”

Being in the Robinson-Broadhurst dual-enrollment program was “a life-changing experience,” said Dakota Wood, a 2014 graduate who went on to earn an associate degree from MWCC in allied health in anticipation of continuing on for a degree in nursing. “I graduated high school with a free year of college under my belt. It’s absolutely the best thing I could have done.” Wood said the flexible schedule allowed him to still participate in high school activities, including music classes, band, chorus and theater productions.

In addition to the Commonwealth Dual Enrollment Program, also cited in the policy brief, Mount Wachusett offers two other signature dual enrollment programs open to Massachusetts students, The Pathways Early College Innovation School and the Gateway to College program, in partnership with the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District.

An early college program between Amesbury High School and Northern Essex Community College, and a dual enrollment program between Marlborough High School and Framingham State University, were also highlighted by the Rennie Center’s policy brief.

The Rennie Center was launched in 2002 by then-Secretary of Education Paul Reville as a division of the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth (MassINC). In 2005, the Cambridge-based center became an independent non-profit organization committed to addressing the critical challenges of reforming education in Massachusetts. For more information, visit www.renniecenter.org.

Linda Coyne

The Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts supports MWCC student scholarships.

The Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts has awarded a $67,000 grant to the MWCC Foundation to support student scholarships. To qualify for a scholarship, students must live in North Central Massachusetts, demonstrate financial need, and be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Award amounts will vary.

“We are very grateful to the Community Foundation for this award and for its ongoing support for students as they pursue their academic and career goals,” said President Daniel M. Asquino. “The vast majority of our students remain in the area after graduating to live and work, so this funding ultimately helps strengthen our local communities and enhance the economic vitality of our region.”

The foundation announced 30 new grants totaling nearly $500,000 from its general endowment funds and field of interest funds during an event June 11 at Apple Hill Farm. The grant to support student scholarships at MWCC comes from the Community Foundation’s Educational Access Fund.

The Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts is a nonprofit, community, corporation created by and for the people of greater North Central Massachusetts. The Community Foundation General Endowment Education Access Fund supports community development, environment, animal welfare, arts and culture, as well as health and human services. Since its inception, the Community Foundation has awarded over $40 million in grants and distributions from 160 funds that have been established by individuals, families and organizations.

Frankenstein image - JPG

An image of Frankenstein’s creature created by MWCC Graphic and Interactive Design alumnus Dylan Safford to illustrate the MWCC Humanities Project second-year theme.

Like many great works of science fiction, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, explores what it means to be human in a rapidly changing world.

Published nearly 200 years ago when Shelley was just 20 years old, the novel’s influence extends well beyond the literary domain into film, science and politics, making it an ideal theme for the Mount Wachusett Community College Humanities Project.

Myths, Monsters, and Modern Science: Frankenstein’s Legacy has been selected as the second year theme for the MWCC Humanities Project. The project, an interdisciplinary and community study, is funded through a multi-year, matching $500,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to deepen and sustain quality and humanities programing and curriculum throughout North Central Massachusetts.

The impact of Shelley’s 1818 story has prevailed into the modern era, spawning countless interpretations, retellings, and inspirations, yet it bears little resemblance to the Hollywood adaptions that have dominated popular culture for decades, said Professor Michelle Valois, chair of the MWCC’s Liberal Arts & Sciences programs and coordinator of the Humanities Project. Frankenstein continues to raise important questions about science and community, family and education.

“If, when you think Frankenstein, you think only of a grotesquely disfigured giant of a man who grunts and groans, then you only know half the story,” Valois said. “Mary Shelley’s novel – though a work of the imagination – offers an approach to these philosophical and ethical questions: Can science go too far?  What does it mean to play God?  How do we tolerate difference?  Who are the real monsters?  Our world is witnessing rapid scientific and technological advances – how do works of the imagination help society cope with these changes?”

As he becomes obsessed with his experiments, Dr. Frankenstein cuts himself off from his family and friends. In this self-imposed isolation, he brings to life a creature that he can’t stand to look upon and which he rejects. “This question of responsibility and control is central to many discussions about the new science that our contemporary society faces in the area of biotechnology and artificial intelligence,” Valois said.

Other ideas and themes that the novel explores include the social outcast, nature vs. nurture, the effects of abandonment on children, beauty, good and evil, the limits of science, the responsibility of science, the fact and fiction behind many new scientific and technological developments, rationality vs. intuition, faith vs. reason, and, most of all, the power of a good story to invade our imagination and transform how we see ourselves and our world, Valois said.

During a recent three-day workshop, MWCC faculty from various disciplines met to discuss the tale and its significance today, and plan ways to integrate themes into the curriculum for the upcoming academic year. This cross-college team included attendees from the fields of English, philosophy, sociology, graphic and interactive design, art, computer information systems, biology, biotechnology and natural resources.

Participating faculty and staff members include: Julie Capozzi, Paula Pitkiewicz, Paul Swerzenski, David Wyman, Lara Dowland, Donalyn Schofield, Kathryn Smith, Candace Shivers, Tom Montagno, Kenneth Roy, Shelley Nicholson, Maureen Provost, Wanda Pothier-Hill, Daniel Soucy, Lorie Donahue, Susan Blake, Michelle Paranto, Constance Porter, and Jess Mynes.

Events will include a panel discussion on “Frankenscience – The Myths and Realities of Contemporary Science,”  a Halloween hike for the Humanities at Wachusett Mountain, a book discussion with Elizabeth Young, author of Black Frankenstein: The Making of an American Metaphor, and lectures by visiting professors Sonia Hofkosh of Tufts University, Robert Schwartz of Mount Holyoke College, and Shelley Errington Nicholson of MWCC and Springfield College. 

Films will include Kenneth Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, James Whales’ 1931 classic Frankenstein with Boris Karloff and  Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein as well as a monster movie marathon with Fitchburg State University Professor Joe Moser.

The study follows the MWCC Humanities Project first-year theme, East Meets West in a Cabin in Concord: Walden and Beyond, which provided students and the community an opportunity to examine Henry David Thoreau’s lasting relevance through lectures, films, and book discussions. During the past academic year, students studied Thoreau’s Walden: Or Life in the Woods, not only in English courses, but in science, business, philosophy, art, sociology, graphic design, and history courses as well. MWCC sponsored 12 community events held at the college and at local libraries.

Otaku Club at Waterford St School (1)

Following a successful club fundraiser, the Otaku United club at Mount Wachusett Community College donated more than 600 books to Waterford Street School children. Pictured in the back row behind the elementary school students, from left: Waterford Assistant Principal Melissa McDonald; Jonathan Cohen (club vice president); Eric Rothwell; Heather Chandry (president); Rebekah Cohen (treasurer); Andrea Bartlett; Mary Ann Ernst; Cassandra Cohen; first grade teacher Peter Pianka; and Guidance Counselor Terry Burnham.

Hundreds of kindergarten and first grade students at Waterford Street School will end the school year with fun summertime reading, thanks to a donation from a group of Mount Wachusett Community College students.

Members of Otaku United, a club that celebrates Asian culture, including art, language and anime, raised more than $1,000 during the spring semester by conducting a silent auction of a wide range of gift cards and items donated to the club to support the cause. Proceeds from the auction were used to purchase age-appropriate books for the students from the Scholastic Reading Club.

Each kindergarten and first grade student received two books and a book mark.

“We’re pleased they want to promote early childhood literacy and we’re so appreciative that they thought of our school,” said Waterford Guidance Counselor Terry Burnham. “The children will be thrilled to have two books to keep.”

The club donated an additional 50 books to the Garrison Center for Early Childhood Education at MWCC, said club president Heather Chadsey. “Our club has a tendency to do what we put our minds to,” she said.

 

060815036 (1)

Community and college officials joined students at the Jackson Playground to celebrate the new mural. From Left, City Councillor Karen Hardern, Jesse Maguine, Margot Parrot, Gardner Economic Development Coordinator Joshua Cormier, State Rep. Jonathan Zlotnik, Ben Mikels, President Daniel Asquino, Kabilgangai Subramanian, Cyrus Ndolo, Mayor Mark Hawke, and Art Department Chair Thomas Matsudo. Not Pictured Anthony Guerrera.

Mount Wachusett Community College art students partnered with the city of Gardner to transform a graffiti-covered wall into public art at the newly refurbished Jackson Playground.

Since mid-May, five students have been working on their “Unplug and Play” mural conveying their message that children should put down the controllers and have fun at the playground. The 150-foot mural depicts Gardner scenes, ranging from the giant chair to the orange and black stripes of the Wildcats to the college’s turbines.

On June 8, President Daniel M. Asquino, Mayor Mark Hawke, and state Rep. Jonathan Zlotnik, Art Professor Thomas Matsuda, chair of the college’s art department, and other community and college officials visited the site and congratulated the artists on their accomplishment. The artists are Ben Mikels, Anthony Guerrero, Cyrus Ndolo, Margot Parrot, and Kablilganfai Subramanian.

MWCC art students have participated in community art projects since 2008, beginning with a mural at the Goodnow Pearson building on Main Street that covered boarded windows at the former department store.

“Civic engagement has become a hallmark of Mount Wachusett Community College, and this is largely due to the enthusiasm and dedication of our students and faculty, who volunteered their time and talents in so many ways,” said MWCC president Daniel M. Asquino. “We’re very proud of the students who participated in this downtown beautification project.”

“This is a great project. It provides experience for the students and enhances the image of the city. It’s ideal,” he added.

Matsuda, chair of the college’s art department, explained that the students worked collaboratively to develop the theme. “I was so amazed at how quickly it all came together. The students worked very hard and are very dedicated.”

The project has received great support from the community said Joshua Cormier, the city’s Economic Development Coordinator, who has heard from many families who appreciate what the students have done.

“It added a lot of character to the playground, Cormier said, noting it would likely gain the new nickname “Unplug and Play Playground”

State Rep. Jonathan Zlotnik recalled playing at the park as a child. “It’s great to see all of this come together.”

-Katherine Best

Gardner High students at MWCC Manufacturing expo

Gardner High School students, who attended the event with guidance counselor Christine Leamy, participated in robotics demonstrations and other presentations during Mount Wachusett Community College’s Manufacturing Career Expo.

Teenagers and young adults, career changers, employers and business leaders were among those participating in Mount Wachusett Community College’s hands-on Manufacturing Career Expo at the college’s Devens campus.

The May 28 expo showcased regional job openings and career advancement opportunities, as well as training programs to help students enter or advance in the field. Attendees had the opportunity to learn about free training programs, explore career paths in modern manufacturing, participate in hands-on demonstrations, and meet local employers, recruiters, service providers, and MWCC admissions representatives. Biotechnology, mechatronics, women in technology, 3-D printing and robotics and quality systems were among the featured presentations.

“These students are all into robotics and they are definitely STEM-driven,” said Gardner High School Guidance Counselor Christine Leamy, who brought a group of sophomores and juniors.

MWCC offers several noncredit programs, currently grant-funded and free to participants, as well as academic certificate and associate degree programs in the fields of advanced manufacturing, biotechnology and biomanufacturing and other science, technology, engineering and math-related fields.

For the upcoming year, the noncredit programs are free to qualifying students through a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration.

A six-week Industry Readiness Training program was developed with industry employers to prepare students for entry-level to mid-level jobs in the local, diverse advanced manufacturing industry. The program is designed especially for unemployed or underemployed adults, veterans and recent high school graduates who want to train for careers the manufacturing industry. Programs provide students with training in skills required for entry-level employment in positions such as technicians in manufacturing, validation, quality control, documentation, and process operations.

Students who successfully complete the program earn an MWCC Certificate of Completion, an OSHA 10-hour Safety Certification and the National Career Readiness Certificate, while learning about working in the fast-growing manufacturing field.

A two-week Quality Systems Training program prepares students for jobs in quality assurance and quality control for a variety of manufacturing industries including biopharmaceutical processing and medical device manufacturing.

Classes are forming now for free, six-week Industry Readiness Training courses and free, two-week quality systems training courses that begin in July, September and November. For more information and to register, visit mwcc.edu/advancedmanufacturing or call 978-630-9883.

Bella 2

MWCC student Bella Ballin, second from left, is among this year’s recipients of the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s prestigious Christian A. Herter Memorial Scholarship. Pictured with her at the May 28 ceremony at the Massachusetts Statehouse, from left, Lea Ann Scales, MWCC Vice President of External Affairs, Communications and K-12 Partnerships, Natalie Mercier, director of MWCC’s Pathways Early College Innovation School and Early College Experience programs, and DHE Commissioner Richard Freeland.

Bella Ballin, a high school junior enrolled in the Pathways Early College Innovation School at Mount Wachusett Community College, is among the 25 recipients of this year’s prestigious Christian A. Herter Memorial Scholarship.

The award, presented by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education during a ceremony at the Statehouse on May 28, covers 50 percent of recipients’ expenses toward a bachelor’s degree at the public or private college or university of their choice.

“It really is a great honor,” said Ballin, a Worcester resident. “With this scholarship, many new opportunities are opening up for me that before were completely out of my range. I’m still looking for my niche, though I know I’m more oriented toward the STEM fields.”

As a dual enrollment student at MWCC, Ballin is majoring in Liberal Arts and Sciences with a concentration in chemistry and plans to continue studying science at a four year school after graduation. She said she enjoyed high school, but wanted to tap into the opportunities provided through the Pathways school, including the cost of tuition and fees covered through school choice funding. Pathways students simultaneously earn their high school diploma and a transferrable associate degree.

“The Pathways Early College Innovation School provides highly motivated and academically successful students, like Bella, the opportunity to start their college experience early while being engaged in a comprehensive support system that develops academic and social skills,” said Pathways Director Natalie Mercier. “Bella is a dedicated and hardworking student who exemplifies the mission of our program. We’re very proud of her.”

The Herter scholarship program provides educational opportunities to students who demonstrate profound personal strength and academic promise and desire to pursue postsecondary education. The program was established in 1972 by the Massachusetts State Legislature in honor of Herter, who served as the 59th governor of Massachusetts from 1953 to 1957 and as U.S. Secretary of State from 1959 to 1961.

 

 

 

 

 

MWCC Pathways & Gateway grads 2015An Olympic hopeful, an 18-year-old transferring directly into a doctoral program, and several teenagers who are the first in their families to attend college are among the 32 graduates of Mount Wachusett Community College’s dual enrollment programs.

This year’s graduates of the Pathways Early College Innovation School and the Gateway to College program were recognized during a May 26 graduation ceremony at MWCC. The programs, offered in partnership with the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District, allow students to use school choice funding to earn their high school diploma while simultaneously earning college credits, an academic certificate, or an associate degree.

“We have all been given the amazing opportunity to get two years of college out of the way while in high school, which I am glad we all decided to take on, although challenging,” said Pathways valedictorian Emily Lapinskas of Athol, who earned an associate degree from MWCC last week and will continue her studies in biology at the University of Massachusetts “I have been assured by many parents and current students that it is, indeed, amazing, especially when you look at all the money we save. You’re welcome, mom and dad!”

Gateway valedictorian Samantha Buckler of Winchendon was homeschooled before enrolling in the program. This fall, she is transferring to Keene State College, where she was awarded a presidential scholarship that will cover more than a year’s worth of tuition, fees and housing.

“Gateway is a wonderful opportunity for students of all different backgrounds to receive a high school diploma while earning college credits,” she said. “I am excited to see where life brings me as well as where it will bring everyone else who has been blessed with this opportunity.”

Sarah Raulston of Baldwinville, who earned an associate degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences with a concentration in biology from MWCC last week, is the youngest student to be accepted into the Doctor of Pharmacy program at the University of New England in Maine. With the first two years of the six-year program accepted as transfer credits, she is on target to graduate with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree by the time she is 22.

“I knew I wanted to go to pharmacy school, so I wanted to get a head start. High school is fun, but dual enrollment is such a good opportunity to get ahead,” she said.

Keynote speaker Jason Zelesky, MWCC dean of students, encouraged the graduates to “make lasting, positive change” in a world that needs their optimism, and also took a moment to address their families and friends in the audience. “Thank you for allowing them to take this risk and complete their education in such an innovative and transformative way.”

MWCC vice President of External Affairs, Communications and K-12 Partnerships Lea Ann Scales, Mahar Superintendent Tari Thomas, and MWCC Dual Enrollment Director Craig Elkins also congratulated the students on their achievements.

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

MWCC’s Division of Access and Transition is currently enrolling students in both programs for the fall semester.