Student Stories

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, andCVTE Transition Counselor and student advisor Shaunti Phillips.

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, andCVTE Transition Counselor and student advisor Shaunti Phillips.

For the third consecutive year, Murdock High School seniors in the Robinson-Broadhurst Career Tech Scholarship program are earning academic certificates at Mount Wachusett Community College while simultaneously finishing their diplomas.

Through a generous grant from the Winchendon-based Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation, Amber Dignan and Melanie Cranfill are pursing MWCC certificates in allied health, and Andrew Phelps is working toward a certificate in computer information systems. Participants also earn certificates in automotive technology and accounting.

Created as a pathway to higher education, the one-year, dual-enrollment program provides full scholarships for Murdock High School students to earn workplace credentials and first-year credits toward corresponding associate-degree programs at MWCC.

“I chose to participate in this program because I wanted a change in my learning environment and wanted to get a head start in college,” said Cranfill.

“The program is an amazing opportunity to further my education at virtually no cost,” said Phelps. “I have learned that programs like this are wonderful things to try and work hard for because not everyone gets to have a year of college for free.”

Overseeing the program are Assistant Dean of Transitions Programming Deb Bibeau, MWCC Foundation Director Carla Zottoli, CVTE Transition Counselor and student advisor Shaunti Phillips, and Murdock High School guidance counselors Anne Marie Borsky and Rachel Weinhold.

The Murdock guidance counselors credit the Robinson-Broadhurst program with providing an opportunity to enhance offerings at the high school and give students a jumpstart on their college and career plans.

All five members of last year’s cohort earned a certificate in allied health. Three of these students are now enrolled in the Department of Higher Education’s STEM Starter Academy at MWCC.

“Being in the Robinson-Broadhurst dual-enrollment program and the STEM Starter Academy was seriously a life-changing experience,” said Dakota Wood, a 2014 graduate who is now pursuing a degree in health care. “I was exposed to what college was like while I could still participate in senior events. Plus, I graduated high school with a free year of college under my belt.”

CJ Husselbee, a first-generation college student and an initial participant in the Robinson-Broadhurst program, earned an associate degree in Business Administration from MWCC and transferred this fall to the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst.

“Before this, I didn’t know if I could afford college. The Robinson-Broadhurst program was really the difference between me going to college and not going.”

A 2014 study by the American Institutes for Research explored the correlation between access to early college and advancement in secondary and higher education. These students are five-percent more likely to graduate high school, 20-percent more likely to earn their college degrees simultaneously, 21-percent more likely to enroll in a two-year school and four-percent more likely to enroll in a four-year school.

- Cameron Woodcock

Mount Wachusett Community College, long recognized nationally for its comprehensive veteran services, has again been named to Military Times’ Best for Vets: Colleges 2015 rankings.

MWCC was ranked seventh nationally among two-year colleges in the Military Times' Best for Vets: Colleges 2015 rankings.

MWCC was ranked seventh nationally among two-year colleges in the Military Times’ Best for Vets: Colleges 2015 rankings.

Released alongside Veterans Day, the independent news project evaluates organizations based on their support systems and campus cultures to provide a reference point for service members, military veterans and their families. In order be considered for the rankings, MWCC and other colleges meticulously documented these services through a survey with over 100 questions.

MWCC was ranked seventh nationally among two-year schools in a list that includes a total of 140 four-year, two-year, online and nontraditional schools. The list will be published in issues of Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times, Marine Corps Times and Military Times EDGE magazine, as well as online at MilitaryTimes.com, ArmyTimes.com, NavyTimes.com, AirForceTimes.com and MarineCorpsTimes.com.

“Given this award’s proximity to Veterans Day, we express our collective gratitude to veterans throughout this country, including those we are fortunate to call MWCC students,” said President Daniel M. Asquino. “These students strengthen our campus community, and we are proud to provide the services that help them flourish.”

“This is a school whose faculty and staff are genuinely good people who sincerely care about our veteran population,” said Veterans Services Director Robert Mayer. “I can’t express how good it makes me feel to know that, wherever they go on campus, our veterans will be taken care of.”

MWCC launched the Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success in 2010 to address the unique academic, financial, social and physical needs of veterans, military personnel and military families transitioning to college life. Student veterans are also active members of the campus community, participating in such clubs and organizations as the Veterans Group and Student Government Association.

In August 2013, MWCC became one of the first 250 higher-education institutions to implement President Obama’s “8 Keys to Success” initiative to help boost academic opportunities and improvement employment outcomes for veterans.

MWCC also maintains community partnerships with the Montachusett Veteran Outreach Center, the Northeast Veteran Training & Rehabilitation Center operated by Veteran Homestead, Inc., the Massachusetts Department of Veterans Services’ SAVE program, and local posts of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.

The residential and educational partnership between MWCC and the NVTRC, run on a portion of campus property, served as the focus of a recent segment on WGBY in Springfield.

American Legion donation Nov 2014

Members of the Gardner-based Chapter 907 of the Vietnam Veterans of American donated $2,000 to the MWCC Foundation to support scholarships for veterans. Pictured from left: James Benton III, Foundation Executive Director Carla Zottoli, President Daniel M. Asquino, Bryan Wickman, Dan Ninno and Jay Ringquist.

Members of Gardner-based Chapter 907 of the Vietnam Veterans of America donated $2,000 to the Mount Wachusett Community College Foundation’s Veterans Memorial Scholarship.

President Daniel M. Asquino and Foundation Executive Director Carla Zottoli accepted the generous contribution from chapter President Bryan Wickman, Vice President and Secretary James Benton III, Treasurer C. Dan Ninno and Jay Ringquist.

The scholarship was established to assist student veterans and ensure that their service and sacrifices will not be forgotten. Scholarship funds are awarded to new or returning full-time students who were honorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces, or are currently serving in the Reserves or National Guard.

 

Daniel M. AsquinoAs we prepare to recognize the service of all the men and women who have served our country, I urge all of you to take the opportunity to reflect on the importance of Veterans Day and the contributions and sacrifices made by millions of Americans. About 350 veterans are currently attending Mount Wachusett Community College, and I am proud of their accomplishments both in service to their country and in our classrooms. I want to thank each of these students for their service.

The majority of these students served their country in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) or Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). The history of our college has always been closely tied to our veterans. When members of our local Veterans of Foreign Wars post visit us each year to make a contribution to support student scholarships, past commander and MWCC alumnus Don Progen and others remark that when they returned home from Vietnam, they found Mount Wachusett Community College to be, “a haven.”

We strive to continue to be that haven for our veteran students. These students bring great leadership skills to our campus and ultimately to our workforce. They are a tremendous asset to our communities. I am proud that Mount Wachusett Community College has been named for the fifth consecutive year, as a “Top Military School” and is also a designated Yellow Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs. In addition, USA Today has named MWCC as one of its “Best Colleges for Vets” in 2014. Most recently, WGBY in Springfield filmed a segment spotlighting our residential and educational partnership with the Northeast Veteran Training and Rehabilitation Center, run on a portion of campus property by the Fitchburg-based nonprofit Veterans Homestead, Inc. To view this inspiring video, go to http://ow.ly/DOW4r.

If you would like to learn more about our Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success, visit mwcc.edu/veteran. I extend my deepest gratitude to our staff in this center and across the campus who work with our student veterans as they pursue their academic goals.

The campus will be closed on Veterans Day as we honor our veterans.  Please take the time for reflection and recognition of our heroes.

The LEAD team (Let's Empower, Advocate and Do) took home the award for Changemaker of the Year.

The LEAD team (Let’s Empower, Advocate and Do) received the award for Changemaker of the Year.

MWCC coordinates the Youth Venture program along with the United Way and Ashoka’s Youth Venture.

The program exists to empower youth through support for innovative, community-outreach proposals, and its annual event celebrates and further educates these future leaders. Successful proposals from this most recent year offered support for animal shelters, Alzheimer’s patients and homeless children.

Through various training sessions, attendees in the 2014 kickoff received guidance on creative fundraising, mentorship and leadership, outreach to communities and schools, and collaboration with fellow venture participants. Speakers from the United Way and its community partners, including MWCC, also offered words of encouragement to an audience that represented 10 percent of the student population.

“Change your world,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino during his opening remarks. MWCC’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement also houses a segment of the UWYV.

Keynote speaker Marquis Cabrera discussed Foster Skills, initially a venture and now an award-winning social enterprise dedicated to empowering foster children to become successful, productive citizens.

Additional speakers included Phil Grzewinski, president of the United Way of North Central Massachusetts; Bob Chauvin, president of Tyco SimplexGrinnell; and Autumn Williams, partnerships manager at Ashoka’s Youth Venture.

Through three separate awards, the United Way recognized Ally of the Year, Champion of the Year, and Changemarker of the Year. Last year’s Changemaker honoree, Kylee McCumber, presented the award to the 2014 wining team, Let’s Empower, Advocate & Do (LEAD).

Throughout last year, over 8,965 students were exposed to the UWYV program, with 2,623 actively engaged in workshops and developing ideas for ventures. A total of 748 students took leadership roles in current ventures or launched one of 29 new ventures, receiving over $22,000 in direct seed funding for their efforts.

Mount Wachusett Community College pre-engineering student Casey Bortle pilots the college’s new drone during a Math Modeling Initiative presentation to 350 area high school seniors.

Mount Wachusett Community College pre-engineering student Casey Bortle pilots the college’s new drone during a Math Modeling Initiative presentation to 350 area high school seniors.

Mount Wachusett Community College lauded the 350 high school students participating in this year’s Math Modeling Initiative and encouraged them to explore the opportunities available through a college education.

As part of the Oct. 29 event, students and teachers from partnering institutions Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School, Fitchburg High School, Leominster High School and Leominster’s Center for Technical Education Innovation witnessed the unveiling of MWCC’s new quadcopter drone.

Through the initiative, MWCC offers the Modeling in Mathematics course to provide essential skills to high school seniors who require developmental math education. The free course emphasizes complex problem solving and the application of math in everyday life and eliminates the need for students to take remedial mathematics upon entering college.

“I want to congratulate you for getting a head start on your mathematics education and thank the faculty and staff who commit to your welfare,” MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino said during his opening remarks. “Our goal is to help you become college-ready so that you can move on to earn your degrees. Math has traditionally been an impediment to students, but by being college-ready, you will be unique.”

Led by MWCC Professor and Math Department Chair Yoav Elinevsky, educators from MWCC’s Access & Transition and Academic Affairs divisions and LHS developed the initiative as a pilot program in 2012. After 116 LHS seniors initially took one of six Modeling in Mathematics sections, MWCC expanded the initiative for the 2014-2015 academic year to include Monty Tech and Fitchburg High.

“Congratulations on being so close to graduating high school and preparing yourself for college and the job market,” Elinevsky said.

To promote the physics department and the importance of mathematics, faculty member Dr. Peter Olszak and students Adam Suzor and Casey Bortle led a demonstration of the quadcopter drone, which hovered for several minutes while displaying a live video feed.

Dean of Students Jason Zelesky, a first-generation college student, emphasized the importance of a college education as an investment in their future. Recruitment Counselor Natasha Robinson, Career/Vocational Education Transition Counselor Shaunti Phillips and Kijah Gordon, academic advisor for STEM programs, discussed the enrollment process, articulation agreements, and the college’s STEM Set Scholarships and STEM Starter Academy.

In addition, chairs from academic departments, including Dan Donovan from computer information systems, John Little from media arts & technology, and Tom Matsuda from art explained their respective programs. Students from the pilot course encouraged their successors to take advantage of the program and continue their educations after graduating high school.

- Cameron Woodcock

MWCC student leader John Day received the Dean Sullivan Award at the Community College Student Leadership Association's annual conference in Wakefield.

MWCC student leader John Day received the Dean Sullivan Award at the Community College Student Leadership Association’s annual conference in Wakefield.

Mount Wachusett Community College student leader John Day was recognized for his enthusiasm and dedication, qualities demonstrated by Dean Richard Sullivan, formerly of Cape Cod Community College (CCCC).

Day received the Dean Sullivan Award at the Community College Student Leadership Association’s (CCSLA) annual conference, held Oct. 16 through 17 in Wakefield, months after receiving the MWCC Peter J. Trainor Leadership Award.

As an AmeriCorps VISTA in the Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement, Day recruited 200 volunteers to package over 20,000 meals for the MWCC edition of September’s 19th Annual United Way Day of Caring. He also serves as president of Beyond Str8 and the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, as well as treasurer of the Student Government Association (SGA), an ambassador for Saltmoney.org and a mentor for Students Serving Our Students (SOS).

“I am very humbled and touched that my MWCC advisors, particularly Associate Dean of Students Greg Clement, nominated me for this award and put so much thought into the submission letter,” said Day. “Opportunities at MWCC are abundant, and the people I’ve met have led me into the various roles I currently perform.”

“John is an ideal candidate for the Dean Sullivan Award. In a short amount of time, he has become an active participant in student and veteran affairs and a mentor and advocate for students from all backgrounds,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino, who spent seven years as Sullivan’s colleague dean at CCCC and also praised Day’s leadership in the Day of Caring. “Dean Sullivan’s number-one concern was always the well-being of his students. He would bend over backwards to help any student in trouble, and John exemplifies these qualities.”

During his two-plus years at MWCC, Day has also served as SGA Vice President, an orientation leader and a work-study employee in the Veterans Success Center.

“John is an exceptional role model for MWCC students. His greatest characteristics are his kindness and energy,” said Clement. “He takes advantage of all the opportunities offered here and encourages other students to do the same. ”

The CCSLA is comprised of all 15 Massachusetts community colleges, as well as New Hampshire Technical Institute and Nashua Community College in New Hampshire.

- Cameron Woodcock

MWCC faculty, staff and alumni gathered at the summit of Wachusett Mountain after completing the five-mile hike. Participants raised funds to supper the college's Humanities Project.

MWCC faculty, staff and alumni gathered at the summit of Wachusett Mountain after completing the five-mile hike. Participants raised over $5,000 to support the college’s Humanities Project.

With President Daniel M. Asquino leading the way to the summit of Wachusett Mountain, Mount Wachusett Community College began an annual tradition on the mild morning of Saturday, Oct. 18.

In the first “Hike for the Humanities” fundraiser, a group of MWCC faculty, staff and alumni simulated Henry David Thoreau’s 1842 hike of Wachusett Mountain, collectively raising over $5,000 for the college’s Humanities Project.

Under the leadership of English Professor Michelle Valois and Director of Grant Development Heather Layton, MWCC received a $500,000 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) challenge grant to strengthen its humanities curriculum through the interdisciplinary project. The first-year theme, “East Meets West in a Cabin in the Woods: Walden and Beyond,” based on Thoreau’s 1854 classic, is being integrated into MWCC courses and community events.

“This is a great day for our college. The turnout speaks volumes about the commitment of our faculty and staff, who were more than willing to support a good cause and a singular purpose,” said President Asquino, the first to complete the five-mile Pine Hill Trail. “We plan to hold this fundraising hike annually for the duration of the Humanities Project to support continued enrichment opportunities for our students and members of the community.”

As the NEH will match all funds raised by 50 percent, MWCC will receive an additional $2,500, adding to its previous total of $225,000.

“The fundraising aspect is important, but this hike goes beyond supporting the Humanities Project,” said Valois, who coordinated the event and initially proposed hiking Wachusett Mountain. “Just as important is the opportunity to build morale among faculty from multiple academic disciplines in a natural and extended-office setting. We very much wanted to capture the spirit of Thoreau, and of course everyone loves to hike.”

“We pursued an NEH grant to engage faculty, staff and students, and this hike, coupled with the four other events to this point, has been exactly what we envisioned,” said Layton. “Through this event to jump-start the Humanities Project, we also hope to communicate to donors that our own staff is thoroughly invested in this initiative.”

Thoreau was selected as the initial focus of the Humanities Project due in part to his affinity for Wachusett Mountain, which he developed through a noteworthy 1842 expedition. Thoreau and his companion, Richard Fuller, walked 34 miles from Concord to the mountain’s summit, moving him to pen the essay “A Walk to Wachusett.”

As MWCC continues its slate of free community events, professors from the disciplines of English, biology, business administration, nursing, sociology, graphic design, early childhood education, photography and math are engaging students in Thoreau-themed activities.

Echoing some of Valois’ sentiments, Associate Professor of Math Festus Kiprono said faculty participants in the hike are simultaneously supporting a “very worthy cause” and promoting “camaraderie and togetherness” across several academic disciplines.

“As a math professor, I felt it was important to participate because this is an interdisciplinary project that helps us provide students with a well-rounded education.” Having scaled Mount Monadnock several times, Kiprono also recognized the hike for its fitness benefits.

Beginning next week, the MWCC Humanities project continues with five additional events during the fall semester. These events include two book discussions of Thoreau-inspired books, a performance by a Thoreau re-enactor, lecture by the executive director of the Thoreau Society, and final student presentations and exhibits.

For a full schedule of events, visit http://mwcc.edu/humanitiesproject.

- Cameron Woodcock

MWCC student Louis Ayisi, seen here with Governor Deval Patrick, represented his school at the Department of Higher Education's "Go Public!" event in Worcester

Gov. Deval Patrick and MWCC pre-engineering student Louis Ayisi at the Department of Higher Education’s Go Public! event in Worcester.

Mount Wachusett Community College pre-engineering and Honors Program student Louis Ayisi delivered one of six student speeches to a large assembly at the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education “Go Public!” event held Oct 15 at Worcester’s North High School. With Governor Deval Patrick and Secretary of Education Matthew Malone on hand, Ayisi helped showcase MWCC to 350 high school seniors from Worcester’s North, South and Burncoat high schools.“Go Public!” brings together impending graduates at high schools throughout the state, promoting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs and the merits of an education at one of the Commonwealth’s 29 public campuses.

Ayisi, who emigrated from Ghana to the United States seven months ago, has found his niche at MWCC and in North Central Massachusetts. Two semesters into his college education, he has maintained a 4.0 GPA while also volunteering as a math tutor at the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster.

“Your past is an experience, and today is an experiment. So use your past in your experiment to achieve your expectation,” he said, while detailing his personal, academic and community-engagement experiences over the last seven months.

Following his speech, Ayisi joined MWCC admissions representatives at the subsequent college fair, which also featured demonstrations of STEM-related subjects. Additional student speakers represented UMass Medical School, UMass Lowell, Quinsigamond Community College, Fitchburg State University and Worcester State University.

The event was co-sponsored by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education and GEAR UP, a federally funded program providing early-college awareness activities to more than 7,000 students in seven high-poverty districts.

- Cameron Woodcock

(Photo courtesy of Mapping Thoreau Country)

(Photo courtesy of Mapping Thoreau Country).

In a show of college-wide support for the MWCC Humanities Project, faculty, staff and students will walk in the footsteps of Henry David Thoreau to the summit of Wachusett Mountain, a spot the noted author and philosopher once labeled “the observatory of the state.”

Participants in the first “Hike for the Humanities” fundraiser on Saturday Oct. 18 collectively aim to raise $6,000 for the Humanities Project and corresponding $500,000 National Endowment for the Humanities challenge grant. Hikers will each raise a minimum of $200 toward the $6,000-goal, with the NEH matching all funds by 50 percent.

Participants will walk either the rigorous, five-mile route taken by Thoreau or a more moderate two-mile path.

Through this grant, MWCC has implemented an ongoing humanities initiative, both on campus and in the community, beginning with this year’s theme, “East Meets West in a Cabin in the Woods: Walden and Beyond.” Thoreau was selected as the initial focus of the Humanities Project due in part to his affinity for Wachusett Mountain, which he developed through a noteworthy 1842 expedition. Thoreau and his companion, Richard Fuller, walked 34 miles from Concord to the mountain’s summit, moving him to pen the essay “A Walk to Wachusett.”

Participating hikers include President Daniel Asquino, Susan Blake, Greg Clement, Lorie Donahue, Susan Goldstein, Festus Kiprono, Heather Layton, Caela Kathy Panagiotes, Provost, Kara Roche, LeaAnn Scales, Madhu Sharma, Brenda Shelling-Biggs, Michelle Valois, David Wyman and Carla Zottoli.

To make a donation, visit https://www.crowdrise.com/mwcchike, click “donate to a fundraiser” and select a team participant.