Student Stories

Practical Nursing Class of 2014

Thirty five graduates of MWCC’s Practical Nursing program, pictured with faculty members Kimberly Shea, Kathleen Panagiotes and Collene Thaxton, were welcomed into the nursing profession during a traditional pinning ceremony on Dec. 17.

Friends, relatives and members of the college community gathered December 17 to welcome 35 Practical Nursing graduates into the nursing profession during a traditional pinning ceremony.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.

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 Nursing Department.

Faculty member Lisa Gendron delivered the keynote address, congratulating the graduates on their achievement and offering words of encouragement as they begin their nursing careers. “Your pinning ceremony is a celebration of all the sacrifices you have endured to be here this evening. So congratulate yourselves as we congratulate you all.”

Like many of the graduates, Gendron began her healthcare career as a nurse assistant, before becoming a licensed practical nurse and an registered nurse. An alumna of MWCC’s associate degree nursing program, she went on to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing. Gendron encouraged the students to continue their education as lifelong learners.

“There are few investements that will yield as high an investment as education.”

Graduates Vanesa Sanchez and Monica Mbugua, delivered student addresses, and classmates Amy Lovern, Elizabeth Carville, Noella Vautour, Rebekah Thompson and Megan Rivard presented on the significance of the pinning ceremony and its traditions, including the lighting of the lamp and the Florence Nightingale Pledge.

Reflecting on the rigorous academic program, Mbugua said, “We are students of different ages, from different nationalities, with different life experiences, and we are here tongiht sharing the same stage because we’ve worked hard to be here.”

“We have experienced so much in one year,” said Sanchez, a class representative. “Some sad times, some happy times, adn some amazing times taht will help define us as nurses for the rest of our lives. We have witnessed new life enter the world, aided in the end of life care, and all the stages in between. In these moments I have watched my classmates grow. Our compassion is unmatchable, our perseverence is inspiring and our love for nursing is evident in everything we do.”

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; Fitchburg Adult Day Health; Gardner Adult Day Health Centers; Gardner Rehabilitation & Nursing Center; Golden Living Center; Habit OPCO; Heywood Hospital MHU/GPU; Heywood Hospital Maternity Center; HealthAlliance, Leominster Birthing Center; Leominster Public School District; Life Care, the Highlands; Life Care, The Highlands Adult Day Health; Nashoba Nursing Service and Hospice; North Central Charter Essential School; North Quabbin Adult Day Health Center; St. Peter-Marian Jr.-Sr. High School; St. Vincent Hospital, Seven Hills Pediatric Center; Stetson School; and Worcester Recovery Center & Hospital.

 

Diversity Competition 2014

President Daniel M. Asquino, right, and Diversity Committee Co-Chair Carla Morrissey, left, congratulate the winners of this year’s President’s Commitment to Diversity Scholastic Competition, Gemini Walter, Shannen Pimental and Tonia Ciesluka. Not pictured, committee co-chair Maria Gariepy.

MWCC students Gemini Walter, Shannen Pimental and Tonia Ciesluka are the winners of the third annual President’s Commitment to Diversity Scholastic Competition. Each will receive a free, three-credit academic course for use during the spring or summer 2015 semesters.

Walter, a Human Services major, was selected for an essay focusing on interracial relationships and reflecting on how curent issues between Caucasions and African Americans stem from unresolved power struggles dating back to the Colonial era.

Ciesluka and Pimental were selected for sculptures depicting diversity. Ciesluka, a General Studies Allied Health major who plans to pursue a nursing degree, sculpted diverse figures that collectively spell out the word “Humanity.” Pimental, also a General Studies Allied Health major who plans to continue for a Physical Therapist Assistant degree, created a diversity globe sculpture with clay figures representing global diversity.

The annual scholastic competition, sponsored by the MWCC Diversity Committee, invites students to prepare papers, posters, essays, research work, or other original, creative work related to issues of diversity or identity, such as those involving disability, race, socioeconomic status, veteran status, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and national origin, as well as the value such diversity brings to the learning and working environment.

Ben Mikles mural

An exterior mural by MWCC art student Ben Mikles, one of the featured presenters during the Fall Art Student Lecture Series.

The Art Student Lecture Series, sponsored by MWCC’s Art Department, continued this fall with presentations on creating large-scale murals and marketing oneself as an artist.

“Like it or not, you’re in the sales business,” explained art major and self-starter Isabella Bourque, who presented “How to Market Yourself as An Artist” in December. “This is the presentation I wish I would have seen before I started selling artwork,” said Bourque, who noted that local, domestic and international pottery sales comprise one-third of her total income.

After purchasing an inexpensive kiln on Craig’s List, Bourque created a home studio, where she produces artwork for sale at commercial and rental galleries, commission shops and street fairs, as well as on Etsy. She similarly encouraged MWCC students to diversify their selling platforms, citing the Leominster Art Center & Gallery and the Gardner Area League of Artists as ideal venues for beginning freelancers.

By leveraging social media platforms and creating an online portfolio through Carbonmade, Bourque said she was better able to promote her work and make connections. She discussed the importance of establishing an online presence, obtaining a unique domain name and creating business cards.

Bourque, who also works as a graphic and web designer for WS Beauty Supply, also offered financial guidance, highlighting the need to maintain consistent prices, account for hours of labor, anticipate overhead costs and challenges, set aside profits and cater artwork to individual target markets. She will graduate this semester with an Associate Degree in Art.

Fall presenters also included Ben Mikles, who has extensive experience painting large-scale murals in many venues, both temporary and permanent using spray paint and brushes. Mikles spoke about his technique, materials, and process.

The Art Student Lecture Series was launched during the spring 2014 semester, with presenters Jennifer Mondestin, who discussed her recently published graphic novel and other commissions; Dylan Safford, who presented on digital painting using Photoshop; Robert G. Osborne who discussed his three decades experience as an artist and gallery owner in New York City; and Corinne Goodrich, who demonstrated plein air painting techniques.

- Cameron Woodcock

 

 

MWCC student Susan Shute displays a brochure of pictures she took at North Pack Monadnock, her personal "Walden." Shute was one of several students who showcased Thoreau-inspired projects as part of "East Meets West in a Cabin in Concord."

MWCC student Susan Shute displays a brochure of pictures she took at North Pack Monadnock, her personal “Walden.” Shute was one of several students who showcased Thoreau-inspired projects completed during the first semester of “East Meets West in a Cabin in Concord.”

Wrapping up a successful first semester of “East Meets West in a Cabin in Concord,” students showcased Thoreau-themed projects during a Dec. 4 exhibit. Funded through a challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the MWCC Humanities Project’s first-year theme is encouraging students to consider the lasting relevance and modern application of Thoreau’s philosophies.

“This is the best event of all and the real reason why we’re doing what we’re doing,” said English Professor and Humanities Project Coordinator Michelle Valois, referring to the presentations and exhibit as singular focus on student outcomes.

MWCC students John Alden and Susan Shute each selected the location that represents to them what Walden Pond meant to Thoreau. Alden read an essay titled “My Walden,” an account of his varied experiences at Fitchburg’s Coggshall Park. Shute displayed a brochure of pictures she took at North Pack Monadnock in Greenfield, NH.

Michael Niall read a comparative essay, “The Hermitage and the Cathedral, or Just the Everlasting Water,” on Thoreau and E.B. White’s individual relationships with nature, as described in “Walden” and “Once More to the Lake” respectively. Valois described Niall’s essay as “a healthy mixture of analytical and creative learning outcomes,” which exemplifies a community-college education.

Bethany Proctor and Samantha Rutkowski narrated a slideshow of Thoreau-inspired student sculptures, which were created using natural materials and displayed in the exterior and interior of MWCC.

Media Arts & Technology student Jack Dawson discussed “Opportunity,” an aptly titled picture taken on the road leading to MWCC. The picture reflects the inspirational nature of several Thoreau passages, as well as Dawson’s enthusiasm for his post-MWCC career.

East Meets West will continue during the spring semester with a Feb. 11 book discussion of “Being Henry David” at the MWCC Commons; a March 5 book discussion of “The Transcendental Murder” at Leominster Public Library; a March 26 book discussion of “American Primitive” at Fitchburg Public Library; and an April 15 poetry reading by Gail Thomas, author of “No Simple Wilderness: An Elegy for Swift River Valley,” at Athol Public Library. All spring events will take place from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

This fall, the campus community also chose its second-year theme, “Myth, Monsters and Modern Science: Frankenstein’s Legacy,” based on Mary Shelley’s classic. The 1818 novel will promote discussion on the societal and personal effects of technological advancements, the potential pitfalls of these innovations, and our collective attitude toward difference.

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MWCC Honors Program students Phil Stan and Stevie LaBelle led a panel discussion on suicide awareness, which was attended by approximately 100 students. Pictured, from left, Honors Program Coordinator Sheila Murphy; Michael Ellis, project coordinator of the Men’s Suicide Prevention Program at Heywood Hospital; MWCC student Carrie DeCosta, Stan, former State Senator Robert Antonioni, and LaBelle.

Mount Wachusett Community College Honors Program students Phil Stan and Stevie LaBelle led a poignant panel discussion to promote suicide awareness and discussion and encourage their peers to think past the stigma attached to mental illness.

The three-person panel included former State Senator Robert Antonioni; Michael Ellis, project coordinator of the Men’s Suicide Prevention Program at Heywood Hospital; and MWCC student Carrie DeCosta. Representing three different perspectives on suicide and mental illness, the panelists shared their individual accounts with approximately 100 MWCC students in the college’s North Café.

“Suicide and depression do not discriminate,” said Stan, while introducing the Dec. 2 event. He lamented that suicide represents the second-leading cause of death among young people ages 10-24, yet is still regarded as a “social taboo.”

“Elected officials look for issues to champion. That issue found me in 1999,” said Antonioni, referring to the year he lost his brother to suicide.

“Suicide is seen as a stigma to avoid, but it shouldn’t be. It should be on the forefront of everyone’s minds, and we should look to intervene and help,” he said.

“The way to get around this stigma and provide opportunity for discussion is to have forums” throughout the community, said Ellis. He encouraged students to seek education on suicide and mental illnesses, respond proactively to clear risk factors, participate in prevention training and learn to be accepting and tolerant of mental health issues. “Every single one of us has a role to play.”

“It’s important to share my story because you wouldn’t think by looking at me that I struggled with mental illnesses,” said DeCosta. “I was determined not to be a statistic and beat my illness.”

LaBelle and Stan, MWCC’s Student Trustee, organized the event as an extension of their abnormal psychology course and as a service learning project in the Honors Program.

“The fact that this many people showed up means the conversation has started,” LaBelle said.

hunger banquet majority

Students representing the world’s poorest shared meager bowls of rice and water, while a much smaller group, representing the world’s wealthiest, dined on a full meal. This exercise took place throughout the Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement’s hunger banquet, which raised awareness about poverty and income inequality.

A hunger banquet hosted by the Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement raised awareness of world poverty and affirmed Mount Wachusett Community College’s status as a lead institution in an American Association of State Colleges and Universities initiative. MWCC and Keene State College announced Nov. 18 that they will co-lead 31 participating institutions in a three-year initiative on economic inequality.

The initiative calls for institutions to develop curricula and hands-on learning opportunities that will encourage students to confront the complex causes of economic inequality. MWCC’s hunger banquet mirrored those run by Oxfam International and provided students varying meals and levels of service, based on the distribution of income and on chance – very often the sole determinant of one’s economic standing.

“This is a small glimpse of some of the economic inequality worldwide,” said Shelley Errington Nicholson, director of community learning in the Center, while introducing the Nov. 20 event. Nicholson also described hunger as “a problem rooted in injustice,” and one that is solvable, though doing so is no easy task.

MWCC participants representing the 20 percent of high-income individuals were served a pasta entre with vegetables and rolls, though much of the food went uneaten. Middle-income participants, who comprise 30 percent of the population, served themselves rice and beans. Finally, students portraying the 50 percent of low-income individuals sat on the floor and received one ladle of rice, no silverware and a cup of water.

While students ate, faculty and staff speakers highlighted a range of statistics on world poverty and hunger, as well as avenues toward the suppression of both epidemics, including Oxfam and Feeding America. An estimated 2.5 billion people live in poverty, while 870 million suffer from chronic hunger.

Each ticket contained a persona of an individual helped by Oxfam, and several participants read their descriptions to the group. The Center donated all funds to the Students Supporting our Students (SOS) Office to assist MWCC students in need.

Students also engaged in a philosophical discussion on hunger led by Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Center Chair Daniel Soucy.

“We hope not to leave you in a state of despair, but to empower you by showing what we all can do,” said Associate Professor of Psychology and Sociology Julia Capozzi, who showed two clips from The Hunger Games to emphasize the growing power of the top one percent of income earners. “We try to pretend we’re all in the middle class and that poverty isn’t a problem, but [this situation] is not just a recession.”

Following the banquet, students from each income group reflected on the experience.

“I felt bad for the lower class because I had more food than them,” said Ruth Robertson, a dental hygiene major and a member of the high-income group. “I wanted to give them my food. That’s why I didn’t eat much of it.”

“I was happy with the middle class, and I would have felt guilty if I got in the higher class,” said Rebekkah Dietz, a liberal arts major, who said she was happy to receive a sufficient amount of food without wasting any.

“You feel like a leper, really,” said Stephanie Needle, a human services major and a member of the low-income group. “This is a fair depiction of how we treat people living in poverty in this country and why not a lot of people want to admit where they’re at.”

- Cameron Woodcock

adp_newlogo_FINAL

DClogoThe American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) is spearheading a national effort to engage students in the topic of economic inequality and its impact on democracy through a three-year initiative. Leading the 31 participating institutions in this effort are Mount Wachusett Community College and Keene State College. All participants are members of AASCU’s American Democracy Project (ADP) or The Democracy Commitment (TDC).

Participating institutions will invite students and community members to confront the complex causes of economic inequality through the development of curriculum that will be applied to many areas of study and hands-on learning opportunities. Specifically, students will study the relationship between public policy, economic inequality, economic opportunity, and social mobility. These strategies, including the introduction of a course in economic inequality for students at two- and four-year schools, will be designed for further adoption by campuses across the country.

“AASCU is excited to assemble this group of two- and four-year institutions that together will examine and address the growing economic inequality in this county, a trend that poses a serious threat to our democracy,” remarked George Mehaffy, AASCU’s vice president of academic leadership and change.

MWCC’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement and The American Democracy Project at Keene State College will spearhead national efforts, which also promote community outreach, civic pathways for student success, and prepare undergraduates for lives of informed civic engagement. Most activities will take place on participating campuses, with the two lead institutions providing support and networking by hosting national conference calls and webinars.

“We are proud to partner with AASCU, Keene State College, and colleges and universities across the country on this timely initiative,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “More than ever before, our students are graduating into a global society that is stratified across lines of economic class and political ideologies as much as they always have been across issues of gender, culture and religion. As educators, it is our responsibility to ensure that our students have the opportunity to think critically and creatively about these issues—and discover their own abilities to initiate change in areas of public policy, economic opportunity and inequality, and social mobility,” he said.

MWCC faculty participating in the initiative include Julie Capozzi, Elmer Eubanks, Shane Martin, Yvonne Noyes-Stevens, Maureen Provost, Tom Montagno, Kate Smith, Dan Soucy and Michelle Valois. They will join Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement staff members Fagan Forhan and Shelley Errington Nicholson.

“I am thrilled that Keene State College and MWCC are partnering with AASCU to involve students in discussions and experiences that demonstrate the ways that economic inequality affects our society—this issue is urgent and relevant to every state in our nation. The approach we are taking on this topic leverages critical thinking, community engagement, and academic preparation, which will make a real impact on our students now and in the years to come after graduation,” said Keene State College President, Dr. Anne Huot.

National Network of Participating Schools

In addition to Keene State College, four-year institutions include Buffalo State (SUNY); California State University, Chico; California State University, Monterey Bay; Cleveland State University; Dalton State College (Ga.); Ferris State University (Mich.); Indiana University Northwest; Missouri State University; Northeastern Illinois University; Northern Kentucky University; Richard Stockton College of New Jersey; Salisbury University (Md.); Slippery Rock University (Penn.); St. Cloud State University (Minn.); SUNY Cortland; Texas A&M University-Central Texas; University of Houston Downtown; Weber State University (Utah); Western Carolina University (N.C.); and Wright State University (Ohio).

In addition to MWCC, participating two-year institutions include Allegany College of Maryland; De Anza College (Calif.); Kirkwood Community College (Iowa); Lone Star College, Kingwood (Texas); Manchester Community College (Conn.); Monroe Community College (N.Y.); Moraine Valley Community College (Ill.); Santa Fe College (Fla.); and Tarrant County College, Southeast Campus (Texas).

ADP and TDC, representing four- and two-year schools, respectively, create a variety of civic-engagement and academic-enrichment initiatives that encourage graduates to become informed, engaged participants in our democracy. TDC is modeled after ADP, and both organizations are sponsored by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

 

Associate Professor of Nursing Collene Thaxton briefs practical nursing students following the completion of disaster training at MWCC's Devens campus.

Associate Professor of Nursing Collene Thaxton briefs practical nursing students following the completion of disaster training at MWCC’s Devens campus. The mannequin was one of five requiring treatment in a tornado simulation that also included two participating MWCC professors.

After months of preparation, teams of Mount Wachusett Community College practical nursing students tended to hospital “patients” further injured as a result of a simulated tornado.

The Nov. 7 disaster simulation at MWCC’s Devens campus included five lifelike mannequins and two professors with varying afflictions, debris strewn across the floor, and tornado sound effects. Impending graduates applied skills gained through nearly two years of nursing coursework, as well as a lecture on emergency response and public health issues by Judy O’Donnell of Wachusett Medical Corps.

“We need to get students ready for disaster situations. This is the culmination of what has gone on since January,” said Associate Professor of Nursing Collene Thaxton, who led two separate simulations, each consisting of a rescue and triage team. “We really stress the importance of communication in disasters because you never know what to expect.”

With 15 minutes to complete the simulation, student rescue teams diagnosed and provided preliminary treatment to patients based on the severity of their injuries. Rescue teams then transported patients by stretcher to nearby triage teams for further treatment, including CPR, blood work and the dressing of wounds.

“I was nervous at first, but once I started, I got into nursing mode,” said Ari-Ann Ashley, a member of the first rescue team. “I feel that now I have an idea of what to do if something like this actually happened in the real world.”

“My mind was racing, but I tried to keep it together and figure out who to triage first,” said Isabelle Mascary, a member of the second triage team. “I think this helps students because it puts us in a situation we haven’t been in before, and we can figure out what went wrong and what we can do better.”

Additional nursing students participated in disaster simulations on Nov. 14.

- Cameron Woodcock

To promote conscientious discussion on the topic of suicide, Mount Wachusett Community College’s Honors Program is inviting the public to a student-led panel discussion that will also feature area leaders in mental health. One-Day-At-A-Time-Logo

Titled “One Day at a Time,” the free event will take place Tuesday, Dec. 2 at 12:30 p.m. in the North Café at the Gardner campus. MWCC students Phil Stan and Stevie LaBelle organized the event as an extension of their abnormal psychology course and a service-learning project to meet Honors Program requirements.

“We want to de-stigmatize suicide and demonstrate that it’s okay to talk about it,” said Stan, who will co-moderate the forum with LaBelle. “Suicide is one of the most preventable causes of death, but unless we open up lines of communication, we can’t offer the help that these people need.”

Acknowledging the sensitivity of the topic, Stan said organizers will create a secure environment in which participants can freely express their concerns, speak to MWCC guidance counselors and obtain information on area support services.

The panel will include former State Senator Bob Antonioni, whose advocacy for mental health stems from experiences in his personal life; Michael Ellis, project coordinator of the Men’s Suicide Prevention Program at Heywood Hospital; and MWCC student Carrie DeCosta, who will recount her personal triumphs.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24, according to The Trevor Project. The Center for Disease Control reports that the year 2012 saw 40,600 reported suicides in the US, including one every 12.9 minutes.

“Often, simply asking if someone is okay can make a huge difference,” said Stan.