Student Stories

MWCC nurse trip to Haiti Jan 2016A weeklong medical mission in Haiti gave a team of Mount Wachusett Community College students and faculty a close-up look at poverty in one of the world’s poorest countries, and an opportunity to do something about it.

The students and educators traveled to Fonfred, Haiti in January with MWCC nursing alumna Paula Mulqueen, who with her husband, Dr. John Mulqueen, founded the nonprofit Forward in Health to bring much-needed medical care to the Les Cayes region of Haiti. This past fall, the Gardner couple’s dream came to fruition when its Fonfred Klinik opened its doors after more than a decade of fundraising, construction and medical missions in temporary clinics.

The MWCC volunteers included nursing students Cassandra Pateneaude, Amy Moisan and Jessica Lugudde; Interdisciplinary Studies – Health majors Tiffany Cunningham and Isabella Smith; nursing professors Katherine Pecorelli and Donna Tully, and Marianne Stoy, administrative assistant for MWCC’s School of Health Professions, Public Service Programs & Social Sciences. This is the second consecutive year that Paula Mulqueen, a 1994 graduate of MWCC’s nursing program, brought a group from her alma mater.

While in Haiti, the MWCC team of volunteers helped organize supplies at the Fonfred Klinik, with assistance from University of Massachusetts Lowell civic engineering students and other volunteers. They toured the region’s nursing school and taught multiple classes of CPR. They also held a mountain clinic where they assessed approximately 100 patients, visited an orphanage run by the Sisters of Charity, and provided children with lessons on health and dental hygiene. Professors Pecorelli and Tully also led a discussion on depression and treatment with nurses and a doctor at the clinic.

Without access to health care, even the most common of ailments than can be cured with over the counter medicines in the U.S. can become full-blown health issues in Haiti when left untreated, such as respiratory illness and skin infections. Klinik Fonfred is a primary care clinic providing life-saving healthcare to a community of 18,000 poor adults and children from birth through adulthood in the Fonfred area.

 

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President Daniel M. Asquino presented certificates and a free course to the winners of the fourth annual President’s Commitment to Diversity Scholastic Competition. From left, President Asquino, Darrège Bruny, Monica Kwan and Eddie Vargas of Gardner, with Human Resources Generalist Maria Gariepy, co-chair of the college’s Diversity Committee.

MWCC students from a variety of academic disciplines shared their views on diversity during the college’s annual President’s Commitment to Diversity Scholastic Competition. College faculty and staff selected four winning submissions from among the poems, essays and artwork entered into the competition.

This year’s winners are Gemini Walter of Leominster, Monica Kwan of Fitchburg, Darrège Bruny of Clinton and Eddie Vargas of Gardner. Each will receive a free, three-credit academic course for use during the spring or summer semesters.

Now in its fourth year, the competition was developed by MWCC’s Diversity Committee to highlight the value diversity brings to the learning and working environment. Students are encouraged to submit papers, posters, essays, research work, art work or other original, creative work related to issues of diversity or identity, such as those involving disability, race, socio-economic status, veteran status, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and national origin.

Walter, a Human Services major, is the competition’s first two-time honoree, following up on his winning essay on race relations last year with a new essay on what it means to embrace diversity.

“Diversity is looking into, not around your fellow human beings,” he writes. “Diversity is knowing in your heart that every man is your brother and every woman is your sister.”

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Gemini Walter, center, with Kim Kayser, Senior Community Outreach Specialist/Adult Basic Education and Leominster Campus Dean John Walshis, is the first two-time winner of MWCC’s President’s Commitment to Diversity Scholastic Competition.

Walter’s essay goes on to address gender, disability, illness, faith, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, economic status, and physical appearance. “Diversity is understanding that there are no absolutes when it comes to human beings…Diversity is not black and white.”

Kwan, a Dental Hygiene major, created a painting of a bee inching toward an abstract set of teeth through the unknown. The artwork represents her goal of gaining an education and becoming a successful healthcare professional in contrast to the discrimination against women in China.

“Bees area symbol of perseverance, while simultaneously advocating a team-oriented approach. Their nature of persistence and maintaining equality runs parallel to why my grandparents relocated to the United States from Hong Kong. I wish to honor my grandparents’ beliefs that women deserve an education and have the ability to defy stereotypes by being successful.”

Bruny, who recently transitioned from English as a Second Language student to an Interdisciplinary Studies major, wrote about the vast difference between how people with disabilities are treated in Haiti, where she was born, and in the U.S., where she now lives with her family. In her essay, the aspiring cardiologist shares the struggles her family experienced due to their physical and medical disabilities of her two young brothers.

“Haiti has a system where disabled people are ostracized or rejected by society. It is a system that will not be over soon, although a great deal of citizens are fighting every day to change it.”

Vargas, who is majoring in Media Arts and Technology with a concentration in photography, submitted a collection of photographs and a statement on the diverse, supportive community of skateboarders, a culture that does not discriminate. The submission stemmed from a year of photographing skateboarders of all ages and backgrounds through his volunteer work with the nonprofit organization he founded called Keep Kids Off the Streets, which strives to break stereotypes about skateboarders as trouble-makers.

“I’ve never seen a happier, more diverse or civilized group of people,” he said.

 

 

President Asquino photoThe New Year began at Mount Wachusett Community College not with the customary noisemakers of bells and horns, but with drills, hammers and saws as construction continues on our Gardner campus.

The patience of our students, faculty, staff and visitors during the modernization of our 45-year-old facility is greatly appreciated. In the coming weeks and months, renovations to our Advising Center, Commons Area, Theatre at the Mount, and main entrance will be unveiled, followed later this year by the opening of our new science and technology building.

Less obvious than these outwards signs of growth and improvement, but equally impressive, is the transformation taking place inside the classroom walls. New student support services, new faculty and staff, new transfer agreements, and new civic engagement initiatives will enhance our existing resources to help students build up their academic and career skills in preparation for the workforce or a bachelor’s degree.

This spring semester provides opportunities to help students build up their résumés as well as increase understanding on national issues, including race, income inequality, and citizenship. Continuing programs through the office of Student Life include alternative spring break with Habitat for Humanity, the Leadership for Life workshop series, and events commemorating Black History Month and Women’s History Month.

Upcoming events include a not-to-miss presentation in March by Harvard political scientist and best-selling author Robert D. Putnam. This presentation comes to the Mount through our involvement with the national “Citizenship Under Siege” program sponsored by the American Association of Colleges & Universities and The Democracy Commitment, and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

In February, the MWCC Humanities Project continues its second year of programming with “Myths, Monsters, and Modern Science: Frankenstein’s Legacy,” an in-depth look at Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein, and its relevance in today’s world. Free events will take place on the Gardner campus and in the community at public libraries and other venues, funded through a grant from the NEH to deepen and sustain quality humanities programming and curriculum throughout North Central Massachusetts.

The Division of Access and Transition is launching a Tea Time Speaker Series that will kick off on February 29 with a Men of Color panel presentation exploring the journey and obstacles of men of color in society, with an emphasis on those working in the field of healthcare.

Theatre at the Mount will reopen with a slate of new productions, we’re hosting a job fair for students and the public in March, and sooner than we realize, the season will conclude with our most joyous event of all, Commencement, on May 18.

 

 

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAfter 10 years in a cashier’s job that left her unfulfilled, Francine Cochran of Winchendon became determined to pursue her dream of working in a salon as a nail technician.

It didn’t take long for her to realize that in order to pursue training and certification in this field, she had unfinished business to resolve. Cochran, one of many area residents who left high school before earning her diploma, needed to earn a high school equivalency credential before she could move forward with her plan.

So she enrolled in the Winchendon Skills Program, a free Adult Basic Education program offered through Mount Wachusett Community College at the Winchendon Community Action Center through a generous grant from the Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation. After eight months of taking evening classes twice a week, she aced her exams and earned her high school equivalency credential in January 2013.

“I would recommend this to anybody,” said Cochran, who credits her mother Ardy Bilodeau, her sister Cassie Cutting, and MWCC Adult Basic Education faculty and staff with providing her with support and encouragement she needed to reach her goal.

“It’s a lot of work, but if you want to do it, you can do it.” Cochran’s dedication inspired her boyfriend to take the challenge, and now their diplomas are proudly displayed beside each other on a wall in their living room. “It was a great accomplishment.”

Cochran went on to enroll in specialized training at an area cosmetology school and become a state-licensed nail technician. She is now happily employed in town at Dugan’s Salon & Spa and “enjoys coming to work” in an industry that makes people feel happy.

Adult Basic Education programs seek to inspire students to see beyond the challenges of their daily lives, said Adam Duggan, MWCC’s Interim Director of Adult Basic Education.

“Supportive instructors and staff collaborate with students to realize their full potential as members of their communities. Francine is a perfect example of how our program supports students in pursuit of their academic, personal, and professional goals. We are so proud of her accomplishments and contributions to the Winchendon community.”

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. The college operates a High School Equivalency Test Center serving adults 18 years old and older seeking to complete their high school equivalency test if they have not previously earned a high school diploma.

MWCC’s free Adult Basic Education courses to prepare students for the HiSET test are also available at the college’s campuses in Gardner, Leominster and Devens, as well as a site located in Fitchburg on the Fitchburg State University Campus. These classes are funded through various grants from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

For more information about enrolling in the free classes, contact Pamela Dempsey-O’Connell at 978-630-9259, email pdempsey-oconnell@mwcc.mass.edu, or visit mwcc.edu/abe.

 

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A dozen current and recent graduates of MWCC’s Gateway to College program recently shared their experiences with 27 incoming Gateway students. Pictured from left, Katriona Bell, Mariah Courtemanche, Mary Grace Daly, Angela Nicoli, Jasmine Welch, Anders Bigelbach, Alysia Ladd, Mya Shepard, Manny Corbeil, Kayla Pollack, Jason Alvarado-Gomes and Arturo Aponte-Cruz.

With the new academic semester about to begin, Mount Wachusett Community College is welcoming its largest spring cohort of Gateway to College students to campus.

The free dual-enrollment program, offered in partnership with the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District, is open to Massachusetts residents ages 16 to 21 who have dropped out of high school, are at risk of dropping out, or experienced a setback due to health or personal reasons. Home schooled students are also eligible to enroll in the program, which allows students to simultaneously earn a high school diploma and college credits toward an academic degree or certificate.

“I’m excited to be surrounded by people who have priorities,” said Kali Stetson, 16, of Orange, one of 27 new Gateway students from throughout central and north central Massachusetts who will begin classes on January 20.

During the week of January 11, the cohort attended a three-day orientation which included a “Been there, done that!” panel presentation with 12 current Gateway students and recent graduates; information sessions on technology, student support services and resources, and campus clubs and activities; campus and library tours; a viewing of the film “Homeless to Harvard: the Liz Murray Story,” and an indoor ropes course at Cottage Hill Academy in Baldwinville.

A national program that began in 2000 in Portland, OR, Gateway to College is now offered at 43 colleges in 23 states. MWCC’s Gateway to College program, now in its 10th year, was the first program established in New England and now serves nearly 100 students each year.

The program provides students with full access to campus resources and a dedicated resource specialist for academic advising counseling, tutoring and instructional support. School choice funding covers the cost of tuition and fees. Students also receive free textbooks during their first semester and are eligible to continue receiving free textbooks if they earn a grade point average of 3.0 or above.

“Students come here for a variety of reasons,” said MWCC Senior Resource Specialist Sharmese Gunn. “Some come for the environment – it’s a different environment than high school and allows them more flexibility with their time and schedules. Others come in due to medical issues, or they have been home schooled and this is their first formal classroom experience. Some students want to have that academic rigor. They enroll as a cohort and we create a community within the college for them. They take some courses together when they are starting out, then continue on with a major of their choice.”

“I really was inspired to further my education and the Gateway program provides a great opportunity,” said current student Manny Corbeil, 19, of Baldwinville. After he graduates this spring with an associate degree in liberal arts & sciences and academic certificates in business administration and small business management, he plans to transfer to a four-year college or university to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

“I like everything about Gateway and the college experience,” said Mariah Courtemanche of Orange, who plans to become a certified nurse assistant and then continue her education to become a registered nurse. The flexibility of a college schedule allows her better balance family time with her two-year-old daughter and a part-time job, she said. “I can work and spend time with my daughter.”

This spring, MWCC will begin hosting information sessions for students interested in enrolling in the Gateway to College program for the fall 2016 semester. For more information, visit mwcc.edu/gateway or call 978-630-9248.

 

 

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Members of the Fitchburg High School Class of 2015, pictured with Principal Jeremy Roche and Victor Rojas, Assistant GEAR UP Director at MWCC, returned to the school to advise seniors on transitioning to college.

Take time to tour a variety of colleges and universities prior to enrolling. Seek out scholarships and financial aid. Once enrolled, become involved with clubs and activities to meet new friends. Beware the “freshman 15” weight gain. Learn to manage your time. Don’t skip class, and above all, study.

A dozen Fitchburg High School alumni returned to their alma mater on January 8 to offer these and other tips to high school seniors about successfully transitioning to college. The alumni, all graduates of the Class of 2015, are now pursuing a variety of academic programs at public and private colleges and universities.

The hour-long Alumni Breakfast forum, sponsored by Mount Wachusett Community College’s Division of Access & Transition and the high school’s guidance department, covered a wide range of topics including selecting a school and a major, financing an education, study habits, course load, time management, dorm life and enduring difficult roommates.

“If you’re not a morning person, I don’t recommend taking early morning classes,” advised Mariah Comeau, a student at the University of South Carolina. “Your mother is not there to wake you up.”

The forum was open to the entire senior class through MWCC’s GEAR UP program (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs), which is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The annual event was initiated more than a decade ago and is still going strong.

“It is a wonderful chance for FHS alumni from the class of 2015 to give back to FHS,” said Principal Jeremy Roche. “They provide the messages and advice about planning for college that the current seniors find most relevant and credible. This is some of the most helpful information coming directly from their peers.”

When discussing balancing classes, homework, study time and a social life, Worcester State University education major Kelsen Boyette advised the students, “manage your freedom well.”

Similar events are also taking place this month at Leominster, Athol, Ralph C. Mahar and Murdock high schools.

“This is certainly an impactful experience from which the seniors get important lessons on the transition to college,” said MWCC GEAR UP Director Andrew Goodwin.

Participating Fitchburg High School alumni were Micaela Canessa Giorello (Mount Wachusett Community College); Alicia Giannetti (Boston University); Caylin Rymph (Ashland University); Jillian Crocker (Fitchburg State University); Dasia Aldarondo (Worcester Polytechnic Institute); Hannah Hallett (UMass Amherst); Morgan Gray (UMass Amherst); Kelsen Boyette (Worcester State University); Janelle Forgues (Bridgewater State University); Mariah Comeau (University of South Carolina); Isabel Wilder (Southern New Hampshire University); and Bridget Colon (UMass Dartmouth).

 

 

 

Final-MWCC-Graduation-HatMount Wachusett Community College, the Athol Area YMCA and the Athol Public Library are teaming up to offer “3 for 3 College Readiness,” a series of three free workshops on the third Tuesday of the month from January through March. The sessions are geared toward adult learners of all ages.

The first session, “College Planning 101: Investing in your Future,” will take place January 19 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Athol Area YMCA. In this interactive workshop, participants will learn about the many benefits of earning a college degree, including career advancement, economic stability, and overall wellness.

The next session, “Financing Your Education” will take place February 16 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Athol Public Library. The workshop will guide participants through the process of completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine eligibility for grants, scholarships and student loans to cover the cost of tuition, fees and textbooks.

The third session, “Dive into College: Apply Today,” will take place March 15 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Athol Area YMCA. Students interested in enrolling in summer and fall 2016 courses will receive on-the-spot acceptance for any non-selective program. Students interested in enrolling in a selective program, which includes nursing, dental hygiene, dental assisting, physical therapist assistant and health information management, can obtain information about the application process.

Registration is not required, although reservations are recommended and can be made online at mwcc.edu/build/ymca. For information, contact the MWCC Admissions Office at admissions@mwcc.mass.edu or 978-630-9122, or visit mwcc.edu.

 

MWCC PN pinning Dec 15 2015Forty-two Mount Wachusett Community College students were welcomed into the nursing profession during a traditional pinning ceremony on December 21.

“As you graduate and take on new challenges, it is important to remember that you have already taken the initial step you needed to build a more promising future,” keynote speaker Michelle Humphrey, RN, a 2006 alumna of the program, told the graduates. “Every class you’ve taken, every lab, paper and certification you’ve earned, have all been preparing you to adapt to change and future challenges. The most powerful tool you will have is the determination to succeed, which has taken you through this program and culminated in this pinning.”

Like many of the graduates, Ms. Humphrey began her healthcare career as a nurse assistant, before becoming a licensed practical nurse and a registered nurse. After earning an associate degree in nursing, she went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, graduating with honors. She was consecutively promoted to her present position, director of nursing services, for Genesis Healthcare’s Pheasant Wood Center and Keene Center in New Hampshire.

“This program brought enormous good into my life, the opportunity to build a career, financial security for my family and a job where I positively impact people every single day,” she said.

Robert LaBonte, Vice President of Finance and Administration, congratulated the students on behalf of the college and President Daniel M. Asquino, and Eileen Costello, Dean of the School of Health Professions, Public Service Programs & Social Sciences, delivered greetings from the academic school.

Graduates Leslie Jele, Barbara Avila and Melissa Gonzalez delivered student addresses, and classmates Rebecca Beirholm, Cynthia Riley, and Terri Stewart led the lighting of the lamp and the Florence Nightingale Pledge.

Each graduate, dressed in a traditional nurse uniform, was welcomed into the profession by having a nursing pin fastened to her or his lapel by a fellow nurse – a family member, friend or faculty member. MWCC’s eight-star pin is imprinted with the words “Service to Humanity and the World” with the nursing symbol in the middle. Professors Kathleen Panagiotes, Kimberly Shea and Collene Thaxton led the ceremony, which took place at the Colonial Hotel while renovations at the MWCC’s Green Street campus continue.

As part of the one-year academic program, the students trained with professionals at 23 clinical sites that partner with the college, including Athol Hospital; Clinton Hospital; Community Health Connections; DaVita Dialysis Center; Gardner Public Schools, Gardner Rehabilitation & Nursing Center; Golden Living Center; GVNA Health Care, Inc. – Fitchburg, Gardner and North Quabbin; Habit OPCO; Heywood Hospital MHU/GPU; Heywood Hospital Maternity Center; HealthAlliance, Leominster Birthing Center; Leominster Public School District; Life Care, the Highlands; Northeast Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Clinic; Quabbin Valley Health Care; St. Peter-Marian Jr.-Sr. High School; St. Vincent Hospital, Seven Hills Pediatric Center; Stetson School; and Worcester Recovery Center & Hospital.

 

 

Police and criminal justice officials throughout the region recently provided internship opportunities for a number of Mount Wachusett Community College students majoring in criminal justice.

Student interns completed a minimum of 120 hours over a 15-week semester at different sites throughout the region including the Gardner, Clinton, Shirley and Winchendon police departments and the North Central Correctional Institution in Gardner.

“The internships are a great way for students to gain experience while making connections that can lead to jobs,” said department chair Reed Hillman, former commander of the Massachusetts State Police.
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Mary-Ann Nkongchu of Worcester, Andrew Wegiel of Leominster and Alexander Ramos Jr. of Leominster were among a class of 26 dual enrollment students completing English Composition I in December through the Commonwealth Dual Enrollment Partnership at Mount Wachusett Community College.

High school and homeschooled students interested in saving money while getting a head start on their college education can choose from several upcoming courses available through the Commonwealth Dual Enrollment Partnership (CDEP) at MWCC. The three-credit courses are being offered at the grant-funded price of $30, including textbooks, for the spring semester beginning January 20. 

Managed and supported by the Massachusetts departments of Higher Education and Elementary and Secondary Education, CDEP provides opportunities for high school students to take college-level courses at a discounted price and earn credit toward their high school diploma and future college degrees.

In September, MWCC was awarded a $50,000 CDEP grant from the Department of Higher Education, which has set a goal of increasing statewide dual enrollment from 2,000 to 3,400 each year. More than 500 high school students are concurrently enrolled at MWCC throughout the college academic year. In addition to CDEP, MWCC’s academic programs are available to high school students through traditional full-time and part-time dual enrollment, the Gateway to College program and the Pathways Early College Innovation School.

CDEP provides meaningful and challenging academic experiences to qualified students who otherwise may not have access to an early college experience, and strives to increase the population of high school graduates who are college-ready. The program aims to serve students who are underrepresented in higher education, including first-generation college students and students who come from low income families.

Upcoming spring semester CDEP courses include Digital Imaging (Photoshop) on Mondays from 3 to 6:30 p.m. at MWCC’s Gardner campus; Introduction to Sociology on Tuesdays from 3:30 to 6 p.m. at the Gardner campus; English Composition 1 on Tuesdays from 5:15 to 7:45 p.m. at MWCC’s Leominster campus; Introduction to Psychology on Tuesdays from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at Leominster High School; Introduction to Criminal Justice on Wednesdays from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at Fitchburg High School; Strategic Management on Thursdays from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School; and Introduction to Psychology on Thursdays from 3:30 to 6 p.m., also at Monty Tech.

New CDEP students are required to attend a mandatory orientation with completed dual enrollment application and transcript. Parents or guardians are encouraged to attend. Orientation sessions will take place Tuesday, Dec. 29 from 2 to 3 p.m. and Thursday, Jan. 7 from 6 to 7 p.m. in the North Café at MWCC’s Gardner campus, and Thursday, Jan. 14 from 6 to 7 p.m. at MWCC’s Leominster campus.

All students must meet Accuplacer/Placement requirements, attend or have attended a dual enrollment orientation session, complete a dual enrollment application, provide a high school transcript and payment.

Alexander Ramos Jr. of Leominster said he enrolls in dual enrollment courses to get a head start on his career goal of becoming an attorney. “I want to earn college credit while in high school and I want to challenge myself,” he said.

For more information about enrolling in CDEP courses, contact Melissa Bourque-Silva at m_bourque@mwcc.mass.edu or the Division of Access & Transition at 978-630-9248. Additional information about dual enrollment programs can be found online at mwcc.edu/access.