Student Stories

Linda CoyneMount Wachusett Community College is offering free workshops this fall for adult learners interested in earning a college degree.

MWCC’s Adult College Experience (ACE) program features a variety of workshops designed to guide adult learners through the steps of applying for college and financial aid, selecting courses, managing coursework and balancing school with work and family life. All participants attending the first session will receive a free gift, and participants attending all four workshops will be eligible to win a free, three-credit course.

“Each year, millions of adult students return to college to expand their career options, change careers, or fulfill a long-held dream of earning a degree. We developed the ACE program at Mount Wachusett to provide students with a roadmap to follow to make their transition to higher education as seamless as possible,” said Marcia Rosbury-Henne, Dean of Admissions and Enrollment.

The four-session ACE program, geared toward adult learners age 24 and above, starts Thursday, Nov. 5 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. with the workshop “Beginning Your College Journey.” During this workshop, students will review the application and enrollment process and complete their application to begin classes in January during the spring 2016 semester. A panel of MWCC alumni who returned to college as adults balancing work, family and studies, will share their stories and answer questions.

The second session, “College Survival 101” will take place Thursday, Nov. 12 from 5:30 to 7:45 p.m. Participants will learn about the requirements of college courses and receive instruction on technology and other tools for achieving college success.

The session, “Getting Financial Aid & Enrollment Express,” will take place Thursday, Nov. 19 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Students will receive assistance reviewing and understanding the components of their financial aid package, including knowing the difference between loans, grants, scholarships and work study aid.

The series concludes on Thursday Dec. 3 with the session “Ready, Set, Go!” from 5:30 to 7 p.m. During this final session, students will develop the basis of their academic plan and develop a solid understanding of their program of study and the academic requirements for graduation. The session will end with a pizza party celebration and a drawing for a free, three-credit course.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, enrollment of students age 25 and above increased by 42 percent between 2000 and 2010 and is predicted to increase by another 20 percent by 2020. In comparison, enrollment of college students age 24 and under increased by 34 percent between 2000 and 2010, and is expected to increase 11 percent by 2020.

To register for MWCC’s free ACE program, contact the admissions office at 978-630-9110 or email Registration can also be completed online at

Go Higher Oct 14 2015

MWCC alumnus CJ Husselbee, right, joined fellow students at the Department of Higher Education’s Go Higher! presentation in Worcester.

Mount Wachusett Community College alumnus Charles “CJ” Husselbee was among the featured speakers during a Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s Go Higher! event held Oct. 14 at North High School in Worcester.

The event, attended by several hundred teenagers from five Worcester public high schools, provided students with information about the state’s 29 public college and university campuses, with topics ranging from paying for college to living with roommates.

Mr. Husselbee shared how he enrolled at MWCC during his senior year in high school through the Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation Career Tech dual enrollment program for Winchendon students. He went on to serve as president of the college’s chapter of the Alpha Beta Gamma business honor society, secretary of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and served on the Student Government Association.

“Get involved. I cannot stress this enough,” he told the assembly. “It’s the best way to integrate yourself into the community.”

After graduating in May 2014 with an associate degree in Business Administration, Mr. Husselbee transferred as a junior to the Isenberg School of Management at University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

He will earn his bachelor’s degree in accounting this December at age 21, then plans to teach English in Albania as a volunteer with the Peace Corps.

Sentinel & Enterprise Meg Hutchinson photo

Singer-songwriter and mental-health advocate Meg Hutchinson talks about her battle with mental illness at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Leominster on Thursday afternoon. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / JOHN LOVE

LEOMINSTER — Amid personal stories of struggle — and triumph — the message was clear: Mental illness touches all of society.

More than 300 health-care professionals gathered at the DoubleTree Hotel Thursday to further their mission to promote open discussion of mental-health issues.

“Things are changing, but so much more needs to be done to put mental health on the same playing field as physical health care,” said Dr. Anne Procyk, one of the guest experts who participated in the conference’s panel discussion.

People from varying fields and backgrounds attended, but all were in agreement when it came to the biggest issue facing those suffering from mental illness.

“The goal is to educate people about mental health, to make them more aware and more sensitive,” said Melissa Manzi, a college counselor for conference sponsor Mount Wachusett Community College.

This was the third awareness conference sponsored by the college and it’s in collaboration with Heywood Hospital and the SHINE initiative. With more than 300 attendees each year. Manzi said they have reached the point where people had to be turned away because there wasn’t enough space left.

“We’re involved because we see our students having mental health issues affecting them. We look at it as a need for everyone to be educated,” said Manzi.

Among the featured guests were Procyk, a naturopathic physician researching the correlation between physical and mental health, Dr. Phoebe Moore, a clinical and adolescent psychologist specializing in youth anxiety orders, and Robert Bureau, a Rehabilitation Counseling Graduate Program faculty member from Assumption College who has been living with bipolar disorder since 1977.

“When I first started to share my diagnosis I was terrified,” said Bureau. “The pain of hiding it can just be overwhelming.”

Bureau was not the only guest expert who shared a story of struggle.

Cambridge-based musician Meg Hutchinson was there to speak of her nine year experience fighting bipolar disorder.

“Of the last 18 years, I’ve spent nine shadow-boxing with something I couldn’t understand,” she said.

Hutchinson described to the audience how she began slipping into a depression at 19 and how it remained prevalent and untreated for much of her life.

“I spent mornings trying to practice with my face to make it look right. I could smile, but I couldn’t get the light back in my eyes,” she said.

In addition to her story, Hutchinson performed two songs, one of which was based on Kevin Briggs, the California patrol officer who has prevented 200 suicide attempts on the Golden Gate Bridge.

Events like mental-health awareness conferences and other community outreach efforts have been some of the strongest forces in removing the stigma surrounding the issue, experts said.

In 2004 Fidelity Bank created the SHINE Initiative in an effort to promote awareness.

“For the past few years we’ve been working on establishing relationships with schools, universities and whoever else wishing to join in the conversation,” said SHINE Director Paul Richard. Richard also said that SHINE has begun focusing more on illness facing children and adolescents.

Though children are at risk, Richard pointed out that anyone can be affected, and therefore everyone should be informed.

- Peter Jasinski, Sentinel and Enterprise, Oct. 9, 2015

To view more photos and videos, click here.



MWCC Kaila-SecPeyser-CommSantiago

MWCC Student Kaila Lundgren shared the stage with Massachusetts Secretary of Education Jim Peyser, left, and Commissioner of Higher Education Carlos Santiago at the Department of Higher Education’s first Go Higher! event of the academic year.

Kaila Lundgren, a Pre-Healthcare Academy student at Mount Wachusett Community College, shared the stage with Massachusetts Secretary of Education Jim Peyser and Commissioner of Higher Education Carlos Santiago during the state’s first Go Higher! event, held Sept. 24 at Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School.

Lundgren, a 2015 graduate of Ralph C. Mahar Regional High School, told an assembly of 350 seniors that she was inspired to become a registered nurse to help her 7-year-old brother, who lives courageously with a rare, chronic kidney stone disease called cystinuria, and by her mother, who became an RN after studying at one of Massachusetts’ community college while raising a family of five children.

One of six student speakers, Lundgren said she chose MWCC because of its fast-track option into the college’s nursing program through its Pre-Healthcare Academy. Following a year of earning good grades in co-requisite courses, including anatomy & physiology, psychology and statistics, she and other academy students are immediately accepted into the healthcare program of their choice at MWCC. In less than three years, she will be graduating with her nursing degree and practicing in a field she loves, she said.

Lundgren, who also coaches field hockey at Mahar, advised the students to pursue their dreams.

“Follow your heart.”

Go Higher!, previously known as Go Public! gives Massachusetts high school students a chance to discover the programs and opportunities available at the state’s 29 public college and university campuses. The event at Monty Tech launched a series of statewide events that will take place at various high schools throughout the academic year to promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs.

Secretary Peyser encouraged the high school audience to take a close look at the Commonwealth’s 29 public community colleges and universities for the abundance of program options that cost a fraction of private institutions.

“Massachusetts public higher education has a program and a course of study for you. Like all things in life, you get out what you put in,” he said.

Commissioner Santiago noted that two-thirds of all college students in Massachusetts are enrolled in the state’s public institutions. “College will transform you,” he said.

Monty Tech Superintendent Sheila Harrity and the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education hosted the event, which was also attended by State Rep. Stephen DiNatale.

In addition to Lundgren, students representing UMass Lowell, Fitchburg State University, Worcester State University, Quinsigamond Community College and Massachusetts Maritime Academy also spoke about their college experiences.



More than 100 students at the Mount packaged 21,078 bags of macaroni and soybeans with a tomato basil sauce for local food banks on Thursday.

More than 100 students at the Mount packaged 21,078 bags of macaroni and soybeans with a tomato basil sauce for local food banks on Thursday.

GARDNER – Packaging macaroni during the 20th annual United Way Day of Caring, Jennifer Gariepy had flashbacks to her youth.

“I actually grew up on some of these,” said Ms. Gariepy, a student at Mount Wachusett Community College. “I remember eating them … recently I was down at a low point and had to go back on them, actually.”

More than 100 students volunteered their time packing 21,078 bags of macaroni and soybeans with a tomato basil sauce for local food banks on Thursday. The event is one of the Mount’s largest community service endeavors every year.

“It’s part of the fabric of the college,” said MWCC President Daniel Asquino.

Students, who typically volunteer to work an hour shift, say the event helps them appreciate what they have and boosts their self confidence.

“It feels great knowing this is going to go to people who need it,” said second-year student Jason Alvarado Gomez.

To Ms. Gariepy, it feels better than great.

“It’s so different to be on the other side of the table,” she said. “It’s so nice to help someone who has been where I have been.”

When she had to go back to a food bank as an adult to support her two children, she remembered feeling disbelief.

“I thought, ‘oh my god, I can’t believe I have to go to a food pantry’,” Ms. Gariepy said. “I came to think of it as kind of a gift from God. When you’re down and out, it’s okay to accept it.”

This was Ms. Gariepy’s first time volunteering at an event like the Day of Caring. She had heard about it from a friend and seen posters advertising it around the school.
As soon as she had the information, she knew it was something she wanted to do.

During her shift, she was all smiles as she counted out the bags of macaroni, packaged them in shipping boxes, and taped them up. It was, she said, “fairly easy work,” but she knew how much it would mean to someone.

This is the Mount’s third year participating in the Day of Caring. During their shift, the students packed the one millionth bag of food over the United Way of Northern Worcester County’s 20 years.

“Thank you for packing these thousands of meals,” said United Way President Phil Grzewinski. “By what you are doing here today, you are allowing greater food security.”

Patriot Riders flag ceremonyStudents and employees at Mount Wachusett Community College paused in remembrance of the nearly 3,000 victims of the Sept. 11 2001 terrorist attacks, then joined in a card-writing project to thank men and women in the region who serve as first-responders and in the military.

The Patriot Riders returned again this year to lead flag ceremonies at the Gardner and Devens campuses, which were followed by a reading by Bob Mayer, MWCC Director of Veteran Services. Carrie Progen, a 1995 alumna from Ashburnham who worked at the World Trade Center, was among those remembered.

Student Government Association President Carrie DeCosta, who lost a friend in the attack on the World Trade Center, distributed patriotic ribbons to those who signed thank you cards to who serve others. Cards will be available for signing at the Gardner campus through Sept. 18 before they are distributed to active military personnel, veterans and first responders in the region.

President Asquino signs a thank you card to first reponders and service members, an initiative organized by SGA President Carrie DeCosta.

“We want our service men and women, our veterans and our first responders to know they’re appreciated, and they’re appreciated every day, not only on days of tragedy,” DeCosta said.The events were coordinated by the college’s Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success, and the Student Leaders in Civic Engagement (SLICE) program, a new initiative of MWCC’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement.


UWYV - North Middlesex Regional High School

The Bright Lights Project, comprised of North Middlesex Regional High School team members Marina Sheid, Jordan Keating, Nu Nu Laphai, Kaitlyn Istnick, Margaret Ritchie ,Liz Palmer and Ben Dauphinais-Szabady works to donate and install environmentally friendly LED lights in businesses and private homes around North Central Massachusetts.

This fall, United Way Youth Venture of North Central Massachusetts returns to schools throughout the region to continue the great work being done by middle and high school students.

Now starting its 13th year, the program works with students to help them transform their passions into independent community service projects. Through their participation in the UWYV program, students have been able to implement instrumental change  throughout North Central Massachusetts on a variety of issues including supporting foster youth in need, raising awareness about autism, and educating the youth on building positive relationships with local police departments.

United Way Youth Venture got its start in 2002 when the United Way of North Central Massachusetts, Mount Wachusett Community College, and Ashoka’s Youth Venture partnered to found the program to help schools integrate youth-based social ventures into their curriculum, afterschool activities and special events.

“It is inspiring to see young people identify solutions to challenges they see in our region, then build a plan to address these challenges in innovative and creative ways,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “This program has grown exponentially over the years and serves as a model that demonstrates the power of today’s youth to initiate change that benefits citizens now and in the future.”

“United Way Youth Venture is very much on the cutting edge because it is tapping into the entrepreneurial power of young people who want to address important community issues,” said Phil Grzewinski, President of the United Way of North Central Massachusetts.

During the 2014-2015 year, United Way Youth Venture strengthened its position in the community through the support of its school partners by engaging more than 4,000 youth across North Central Massachusetts. Through seed funding investments, 41 new Venture Teams were successfully started on their journey to making an impact in the local community. UWYV is run through Mount Wachusett Community College and as such creates a pipeline to higher education.

“We’ve enjoyed the opportunities this past year to collaborate closely with our school partners,” said Lauren Mountain, Associate Director of UWYV. “The outcomes of these relationships are evident through the significant increase of students interested in forming Ventures, and also in the frequency of curriculum integration, which leverages UWYV skill development workshops to bring classroom learning to life.”

Last year, the UWYV program was especially impactful at its home institution, Mount Wachusett Community College, with the launch of four new Venture Teams through the MWCC Changemakers Program, which helps MWCC students in supporting the strategic goals of the college. These engaged students, who created projects to support MWCC incoming students, local veterans and adjunct faculty, have taken great strides to enhance the college experience for both students and staff.

The UWYV program is currently offered to students at the following partner schools: Ayer Shirley Middle and High School, Murdock Middle/High School, Leominster High School & CTEi, Sky View Middle School, Samoset Middle School, Fitchburg High School, North Middlesex Regional High School, Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical High School, Sizer School, Parker Charter, and MWCC.

“United Way Youth Venture gives the power to those who wouldn’t necessarily have a say in what’s happening and gives them the chance to make an impact,” said participant Helen Muma, now a freshman at Leominster High School.

To learn more about what is happening with United Way Youth Venture or become involved in the program, visit or email the staff at



CJ Husselbee

2014 graduate CJ Husselbee, who began his studies as a high school student, is featured in the DHE’s video on dual enrollment.

As nearly 300,000 students return to Massachusetts’ community colleges, state universities and University of Massachusetts campuses this week, the Department of Higher Education (DHE) awarded competitive grants to increase access to college by students across the Commonwealth.

Twenty-five campuses, including Mount Wachusett, were awarded grants through the Commonwealth Dual Enrollment Partnership (CDEP). The program expands the state’s dual enrollment programs, which allow high school students to take college courses and earn credit for free or at a reduced cost. CDEP funding increased from $750,000 in FY15 to $1 million in FY16. MWCC was awarded a $50,000 grant.

The DHE has set a goal of increasing dual enrollment from 2,000 to 3,400 students and is using a new dual enrollment video, outreach to high schools, and social media to promote opportunities on campuses. MWCC alumnus Charles “CJ” Husselbee, who is completing his bachelor’s degree in accounting this semester at UMass Amherst’s Isenberg School of Management, is among the featured students in the video.

“Increasing collaboration between high schools and higher education is important to making a college education more affordable and creating more opportunities for students across the Commonwealth to succeed in college and their careers,”  Governor Charlie Baker said when announcing the grants. “These awards also present opportunities for college campuses and their regional partners to focus creatively on boosting college completion rates and advancing more students from diverse and underserved populations.”

Musicians at the Mount New student orientation Sept 1 2015

Incoming MWCC student Ruben Figueiredo visits with  Musicians at the Mount club members Mike MacLean, with guitar, and Trevor Hanson during the college’s orientation for new students. MWCC’s academic year begins on September 2.

More than 1,000 new Mount Wachusett Community College students earned accolades for deciding to invest in their future through higher education, during a series of orientation sessions hosted by the college. Sessions were offered for day and evening students, veterans, dual enrollment students and students enrolled in specific healthcare programs.

A majority of the incoming day students attended orientation on September 1 in advance of classes beginning Wednesday, September 2 at MWCC’s main campus in Gardner, satellite campuses in Leominster, Devens and Fitchburg, and online.

President Daniel M. Asquino and college administrators welcomed the group with advice ranging from ways to achieve academic success to navigating around the main campus while a new science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) building is under construction and other campus renovations are underway.

When completed next year, the renovations and new building will transform the college and enhance the academic experience for all students, he said.

Coordinated by the office of Student Life, the orientation sessions provide students with an opportunity to learn about college life and MWCC programs and activities. Students met with faculty, deans and advisors, toured the campus, received information about campus resources, and attended a student club expo. The event also included a presentation by national motivational speaker Jermaine M. Davis. He encouraged the students to identify their passion in life and then persevere until they achieve their goals.

“As you achieve your goals, your life will inspire other people,” said Davis, who also delivered a presentation to faculty in the afternoon.

“There are not too many opportunities in our lives when we can take the time and energy to invest in ourselves. This is one of those times for you,” said Dean of Students Jason Zelesky, adding that the college community recognizes each students as individuals. “You matter. Your success matters. And we want nothing more than to watch you grown and to see you achieve your educational goals.”

Vice President of Academic Affairs Melissa Fama, Associate Dean of Students Greg Clement, Student Government Association President Carrie DeCosta, and Student Trustee Tom Berger also were among the featured speakers.