Student Stories

SL celebration 2016 Dan Chelse and Stevie

Student leaders Chelsea Garrity and Stevie LaBelle presented President Asquino with a globe representing the far-reaching civic impact of MWCC’s students under his leadership.

It was a quintessential Mount moment. After leading MWCC’s decades-long commitment to civic engagement, President Asquino had an opportunity to pair his pride in student volunteerism with a song by one of his favorite musicians – Elvis – crooning one of his favorite anthems, “America the Beautiful.”

More than 130 students, faculty and staff stood, many singing along, as the music filled the South Café during the college’s annual Service Learning and Volunteerism Celebration. While the event marked the altruism of MWCC students, the Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement paused to reflect on the president’s dedication to the college and to the community as he prepares to retire early next year.

“Fifteen years ago President Asquino declared to this region a Decade of Civic Engagement. It was so successful, after that decade ended in 2011, he declared a subsequent decade,” said retired Senator Stephen M. Brewer. “This incredible advocacy and successful effort resulted in the only endowment given to a community college for civic engagement in the entire nation.”

MWCC Parent Support Group

Members of the Parent Support Group, with club advisor Ann Reynolds, were recognized with the Above and Beyond Award for their many initiatives on campus this academic year.

“There is a value and a virtue for what you do,” Senator Brewer told the students. “We know government cannot do it all – no entity can – but we can do our part. That is the value. The virtue of what you do is as old as the Chinse proverb, ‘Those who sheld light onto others can only have it reflect back onto themselves.’ As leaders of our future, you are lighting the way as you go forward.”

The May 17 event, organized this year by student leaders, recognized a wide range of campus and community service learning and volunteer initiatives throughout the academic year. As of last year, MWCC students annually completed over 157,000 hours of experiential learning, volunteerism, community service, internships, co-ops, practicums and field experience, which carries a value of over $3.6 million to the region, said Fagan Forhan, Assistant Dean of K-12 Partnerships and Civic Engagement.

Dozens of graduating students received pins or medallions to wear during commencement in recognition of their extensive hours of service.

The United Way of North Central Massachusetts was presented with the Community Partner of the Year Award in appreciation for its efforts to establish MWCC as a “Day of Caring” site, which has enabled students, faculty and staff to volunteer for the annual service day during their free time on campus. During the event this past September, the college community packaged more than 21,000 meals for area residents in need.

Service Learning celebration nurses group photo

Graduating nursing students proudly display their service learning medallions for their hours of patient care.

Service learning scholarships were presented to Tatijana James and Bonnie Veilleaux and Rafaela Lopes was honored in recognition of receiving the national Newman Civic Fellows Award from Campus Compact.

Professor Janice Gearan, who is retiring this spring, was presented with the Civic Engagement Career Achievement award and Assistant Professor Daniel Soucy was presented with a civic engagement medallion. The event also featured a slideshow of murals created throughout Gardner by MWCC art students.

The Above and Beyond Award was presented to the Parent Support Group, an active club that has sponsored numerous events and initiatives to benefit students and families, and students who serve through the Students SOS office and SLiCE program (Student Leaders in Civic Engagement) were also recognized.

 

Bella Ballin and Gov Charlie Baker 3At just 18, graduating scholar Bella Ballin has already reached many milestones. Last week, as MWCC’s recipient of the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s “29 Who Shine” award, she achieved another.

“I fist-bumped the governor and that was the highlight of my day,” she said with a smile.

Ballin, who will graduate from MWCC on May 18 with an associate degree in Liberal Arts: Chemical Science, and on May 20 with her high school diploma through the college’s Pathways Early College Innovation School, was among the 29 public college and university honorees recognized during the sixth annual celebration at the State House. She and her MWCC mentor, Academic Counselor Natalie Mercier of the Division of Access & Transition, were recognized by Gov. Charlie Baker and top education officials during the May 9 ceremony.

“Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito and I congratulate all 29 of the 2016 award recipients and thank them for their substantial contributions to their campuses and local communities,” Governor Baker said. “Each of the 29 Who Shine honorees represent our future citizenry and workforce and have already made a positive impact on the Commonwealth.”

Diagnosed at age 16 with Multiple Sclerosis, Ballin chose to accelerate the pace of her education by tapping into the opportunities available through MWCC’s unique Pathways program, which has allowed her to simultaneously earn her high school diploma and an associate degree at no cost through school choice funding.

At MWCC, she has been named to the President’s List every semester for maintaining a perfect 4.0 grade point average. She served as a math and chemistry tutor within MWCC’s Academic Support Center, as president of the student math Club, and has volunteered at the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster. Additionally, she participated in MWCC’s Leadership Camp, Leadership Retreat and Women in Leadership forum. This spring, Bella was named to Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges and received the MWCC Alumni Award.

She was accepted into numerous four-year institutions and plans to transfer this fall to Carnegie Mellon University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in science, then return to Massachusetts to build a career in science.

“It’s exciting to see how this exceptional group of student leaders have chosen to put their brainpower and civic engagement to work in so many different ways that benefit our state — through STEM, through the arts, and through teaching, and medicine,” said Secretary of Education Jim Peyser. “We wish all of them well in their next steps, whether in their careers or additional scholarly pursuits.”

VFW donation to MWCC scholarship fund

The Ovila Case Post VFW continued its support for student veterans at Mount Wachusett Community College by presenting a $1,000 donation to the MWCC Foundation for scholarships. Pictured from left, Foundation Executive Director Carla Zottoli, President Daniel Asquino, Commander Joseph LeBlanc, past Commander Donald Progen and MWCC Director of Veteran Services Bob Mayer.

The Ovila Case Post 905 Veterans of Foreign Wars recently donated $1,000 to Mount Wachusett Community College Foundation’s Veterans Memorial Scholarship.

President Daniel Asquino, Foundation Executive Director Carla Zottoli, and Director of Veteran Services Bob Mayer accepted the generous donation from VFW Commander Joseph LeBlanc and past Commander and MWCC alumnus Donald Progen, and thanked the post members for their ongoing support of MWCC and student veterans.

The scholarship was established to recognize the important role played by MWCC in ensuring that the sacrifices and service of veterans who served the country 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.

Dental Hygiene Class of 2016

Dental Hygiene Class of 2016 with their proud professors.

Graduates of MWCC’s Dental Hygiene and Dental Assisting programs were welcomed into the profession during the department’s 10th annual pinning ceremony on May 13 in the South Café.

Executive Vice President Ann McDonald and Cynthia Cadoret, chair of the Dental Programs department were joined by guest speaker Dr. Peter Billia, dental director for Community Health Connections, and program faculty in congratulating the graduates on their achievement.

Over the past year, the dental hygiene and dental assisting students treated more than 800 patients through the college’s partnership with the Community Health Center.

Dental Assisting Class of 2016

Dental Assisting Class of 2016 with their proud professors.

Several students were recognized with awards. Caitlin Riendeau received the Johnson & Johnson Award, Paulette Hachey receive the Hu-Friedy Award, Monica Kwan and Wendy Uribe received the Dental Hygiene Department Award; Alyssa Adoretti received the Dental Hygiene Curriculum Award and the Massachusetts Dental Hygienists’ Association Academic Scholarship; Amanda Melanson received the Dental Assisting Department Award, and first-year students Leah Trudeau and Casey Bedingfield received the Ellen Daly Scholarship.

 

Honors Program grads with Dan Soucy

Honors Program graduates with Assistant Professor Dan Soucy.

MWCC celebrated the academic achievements of extraordinary students during its annual Evening of Excellence awards dinner May 12 at the DoubleTree by Hilton, Leominster. Students were recognized for their academic performance as well as for their contributions in the community.

President Daniel M. Asquino congratulated the honorees on their accomplishments. “You are humble, you’re engaged, you care, you’re involved. I am really inspired and encouraged about where you are going in the world.”

In addition to college curriculum and outstanding achievement awards, the MWCC Foundation also presented a number of memorial awards and scholarships during the ceremony. The foundation has awarded more $300,000 in scholarships this year.

The following awards were presented:

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS

All USA Academic Team Nominees: Chelsea L. Garrity and Jana C. Murphy

Visions Program Award: Megan E. Bernard and Michel L. Cocuzza

RX Award: Elizabeth J. Fogle

Best of Mathematics: Chandler Guiffre

Sandy Signor Award: Meaghan K. Bruce

Sharyn Rice Award: Michel L. Cocuzza

Jean Tandy Award: Alannah M. McDonald

2016 Newman Civic Fellow Award: Rafaela O. Lopes

Service Learning Scholarship: Bonnie Veilleux and Tatjana I. James

CURRICULUM AWARDS

Accounting Concentration: Silvana Sosa

Automotive Technology: Bjarne W. Hansen

Biological Science Track: Benjamin Spurr

Biotechnology/Biomanufacturing: Sarah S. Tuomala

Business Administration Career: Angelique Chaput

Business Administration Transfer: Mellissa S. Richard

Chemical Science: Bella Ballin

Communications Track: Melissa Bobka

Computer Information Systems: Jonathan Inman

Complementary Health Care: Diane Polewarczyk

Criminal Justice Corrections: Emily S. Jillson

Criminal Justice Law Enforcement: Jared Racette

Dental Hygiene: Alyssa B. Adoretti

Early Childhood Education Career: Emily C. Wuoti

Early Childhood Education Transfer: Elizabeth Hart

Elementary Education: Chelsea M. Gentile

Exercise and Sports Science: Ashley Hamel

Fire Science Technology: Michael J. Gadbois

General Studies: Lorraine S. Desjean

Graphic & Interactive Design: Thomas P. Hill Jr.

Health Information Management: Linda G. Coyne

Human Services: Amanda D. Favreau

Interdisciplinary Studies: Christopher Stefanski

Interdisciplinary Studies – Allied Health: Amanda L’Ecuyer

Legal Studies: Denise A. White

Liberal Arts & Sciences: John Blombach

LPN to ADN Bridge: Rebecca A. Daniel

Media Arts & Technology: Jacob M. LaFreniere

Medical Assisting: Kristen M. Mauro

Medical Laboratory Technology: Rebecca M. Gleason

Natural Resources: Rebekah Amburgey

Nursing: Casandra L. Brisson and Mercy T. Dhliwayo

Physical Therapist Assistant: Sandra C. Lefferts

Physics or Pre-Engineering Track: Chandler Giuffre

Theatre Arts Track: Kevin W. Figueroa

MWCC FOUNDATION, INC. AWARDS

Alumni Scholarship: Bella Ballin

Barbara Chaplin Memorial Scholarship: Ashlie Visco

Barnes & Noble Scholarship: Dillon T. Hammond and Benjamin Spurr

Carl Tammi Award: Andre Berberena

Carrie Progen Memorial Scholarship: Kayla Arianna Shabo and Tiana L. Bean

Craig Hamel Scholarship: Breana L. Keegan

Ellen Daly Dental Hygiene Scholarship: Casey Bedingfield and Leah Trudeau

Father Adamo Scholarship: Amanda D. Favreau

James D. Murphy Scholarship: Thomas Berger

Jonathan C. Craven Scholarship: Kimberly A. Cook

Joseph Baldyga Scholarship: Jason R. Catalano

Joseph B. Ruth Scholarship: Robin A. Wead

Keith Nivala Award: Kyle M. Morneau

Marilyn Kiosses Scholarship: Cassandra R. Pateneaude

Melissa Herr Marsh Scholarship: Stacy L. Riel-Rigiero

Michael & Christine Greenwood Business Scholarship: Angelique Chaput

Mount Observer Scholarship: Stevie LaBelle

MWCC Veteran’s Memorial Scholarship: Nicholas A. DePaula

MEMORIAL AWARDS

Aspasia Anastos Award: Edward J. Santos

Judge Moore Award: Chelsea Garrity (Academic Excellence) and Emily Lemieux (Excellence in Writing)

Peter J. Trainor Leadership Award: Michel L. Cocuzza

Roberts Scholar: Kimberly A. Cook

HONORS SOCIETY RECOGNITION

Alpha Beta Scholarship: Michel L. Cocuzza and Kimberly L. Mertell

Honors Program Graduates: Kwadwo D. Acheampong, Victoria R. Allen, John D. Blombach, Jamie J. Grant, Stevie LaBelle, Yanjun Li, Jenna M. McCann, Diane Polewarczyk and Calvin C. Seppala

 

Jasson Alvarado Gomez film premiere TGN

Mount student director Jasson Alvarado Gomez, second from right, and others created a student film which premiered Thursday at the school. From left, are filmmakers Anastasia Anderholm, Kendall Mallet, Gomez and Anders Bigelbach. (News staff photo by Andrew Mansfield )

As far as anyone can remember, prior to Jasson Alvarado Gomez, no Mount Wachusett Community College student has ever held a film premiere at the school.

But a lack of precedent means little to the ambitious, aspiring filmmaker or his friends at the Mount who played starring roles in his first feature-length movie, “Black Diamond.”

“I always like to do new things no one has ever done.

Doing this is good for students because they can see anything can happen … to follow their dreams,” said Gomez.

Gomez wrote, produced and directed the movie, with the cast being mostly made up of Mount students or former Mount students he’s met over the past few years.

Filming began in April 2015 and was completed recently, all the work culminating in the premiere of the movie held May 5 at the school.

The event mimicked the bright lights and glamour of the Hollywood scene; the red carpet was rolled out for the students, who wore dapper suits and elegant dresses.

The movie “Black Diamond” itself is far more rugged, being in the action-crime genre, involving a California teenager in foster care named Karla who is kidnapped by a gang that surgically implants a rare diamond in her body, hoping to use her as a trafficker into Mexico.

But with the help of people in the foster care system, Karla is moved out of state away from the gang, which instigates the drama of the movie as the gang does everything it can to find her and recuperate the valuable diamond.

All the action involved played out a childhood dream for Gomez, who said he always wanted to know how to make television since he was a little kid growing up in Honduras.

At the age of 14 he came to America to live with his uncle, and his parents still remain in Honduras.

Currently, Gomez lives in Orange.

At the Mount, he is enrolled in the Media Arts & Technology major, allowing him to hone his skills in the craft of film directing, which he hopes to make into a career.

“When I came here, there are so many opportunities in this country.

This is what I want to do with my life,” he said.

Considering “Black Diamond” is an amateur production without any real budget behind it, Gomez relied on plenty of help from his peers to play the actors in the movie.

He said “I was just talking to anyone that came my way” in order to make the project come to fruition.

Front and center in the effort was former Mount student Kendall Mallet, who played the lead role of Karla, the teenage girl who is implanted with the diamond.

Mallet has a background in singing and will be attending seamstress school for fashion in the fall.

She met Gomez while she attended the Mount and thought the project was a different, interesting endeavor to pursue.

“I think it will be cool to show my kids, show my grandkids, ‘Hey, I was in this movie,’” she said.

Playing Karla’s foster care mother in the film was Mount student Tammy Goodgion, who studies Business and Human Services.

She had no experience with acting, but when Gomez asked her if she wanted to try, she said she figured why not.

“I loved the experience.

The cast and crew they were wonderful, wonderful to work with,” she said, calling everyone a “big family.”

Gomez also benefited from the generosity of some local establishments in Gardner such as the restaurant Taco Rey Coliman and the South Gardner Hotel that let him shoot some scenes there.

Many of the scenes were also shot at the Mount or in outside areas.

For now, there is no release plans for the film, but Gomez said he might put it on DVD later on.

In total, about 10 actors were used for the film, and since many are current or former Mount students, the film marks an accomplishment not just for them, but the school as well.

Individually, Gomez is quite accomplished himself too.

Next school year he will serve as the student trustee on the Mount’s board of trustees, making him a voting member.

He was also elected to serve as a student member for the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education next year, and will be sworn into the position this summer.

Perhaps more notable than any one achievement is in general how independently driven Gomez is, working toward success in America while being away from his parents who live in their native Honduras.

“Going to school has helped me so much. I want to make my mom and dad proud,” he said.

By Andrew Mansfield, The Gardner News, May 11, 2016

left to right: Vice President Lea Ann Scales, Director Fagan Forhan, Honoree Jana Murphy, State Representative Jon Zlotnik, Honoree Chelsea Garrity, and her parents

Pictured left to right: MWCC Vice President Lea Ann Scales, Assistant Dean Fagan Forhan, Honoree Jana Murphy, State Representative Jon Zlotnik, Honoree Chelsea Garrity and her parents

Two Mount Wachusett Community College students, Jana Murphy and Chelsea Garrity, were selected for the All-Massachusetts Academic Team of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society today at Nurses Hall of the State House in Boston in recognition of their academic excellence. The celebrations included a speaking program, presentation of awards, and lunch. Secretary of Education Jim Peyser delivered the special keynote focusing on the value of students who strive for excellence.

Jana Murphy has been a member of Phi Theta Kappa for two years. This year, she served as the student representative for the Honors Program, the President of Phi Theta Kappa, and as a Student Leader in Civic Engagement. Jana always strives to make sure that programming she is involved with is student-centered and community focused, with the unusual ability to be unreservedly honest but always respectful.

Chelsea Garrity is a first generation college student who has worked at least two jobs at a time over the past three years to put herself through college. She serves as a Student Leader in Civic Engagement at MWCC, where she coordinated this year’s Day of Caring event and recruited over 100 volunteers to package over 20,000 meals in just a few hours.

The Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and community college presidents co-sponsor the All-State Academic Team, where high performing Phi Theta Kappa members are selected for nomination and ranking on the team is determined by each student’s score in a national competition.

“We are so proud of our students and the hard work that brought them to the State House today to be recognized,” said Lea Ann Scales, Vice President of External Affairs, Communications & K-12 Partnerships.

Students are eligible for nomination by their College president if they have earned a minimum cumulative 3.5 GPA and have significant community service. Once selected they are eligible for additional scholarships provided by the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation.

Rafaela Lopes 2016 Newman Civic Fellow

Newman Civic Fellows Award recipient Rafaela Lopes

For her dedication and commitment to serving others, Mount Wachusett Community College student Rafaela Lopes has been presented with Campus Compact’s national 2016 Newman Civic Fellows Award.

The Leominster resident was inspired to make a difference in the lives of others by creating a youth-run social venture that helps young people experiencing or close to homelessness, as she had experienced as a child in Brazil before moving to Massachusetts seven years ago.

“Rafaela has made such significant contributions to our community both locally and globally, that even at her young age, she truly stands out as an inspirational leader deserving of recognition,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “We are very proud of her for her spirit of generosity, and proud that she becomes MWCC’s fourth student to consecutively receive this prestigious award.”

Campus Compact is a national coalition of nearly 1,100 college and university presidents who are committed to fulfilling the civic purposes of higher education to improve community life and to educate students for civic and social responsibility. The award honors the late Frank Newman, one of Campus Compact’s founders and a tireless advocate for the civic engagement of higher education.

A dual enrollment student in MWCC’s Gateway to College program, Lopes will earn her high school diploma this spring and an associate degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences in the fall. After that, she plans to transfer to pursue a bachelor’s degree, and then enroll in dental school.

“I believe that helping others is my life’s mission. I try to lead by example, in the hope that one kindness will yield another, in turn generating a chain of kindness,” she said.

For the past three years, Lopes has been actively involved in the United Way Youth Venture program, which is co-sponsored by MWCC, the United Way of North Central Massachusetts and Ashoka’s Youth Venture. She created the social venture Go Make a Difference when she was just 15. Since then, she has led her team in fulfilling its mission to help the community locally by providing regular birthday celebrations for homeless children and volunteering for Habitat for Humanity of North Central Massachusetts.

The culmination of her dream – to make the impact of her venture global – was realized in February when she organized a student trip to a rural village in Haiti for a week of service at a nutrition and health center. She was instrumental in raising thousands of dollars and collecting 14 suitcases packed with essential supplies in preparation for the trip. She is in the process of organizing another group trip to Haiti next winter so more young people can experience the joy of giving back.

Lopes is also actively involved with the UWYV team Friends of Rachel’s Challenge at Leominster High School and with the ALANA club at MWCC.

“With both organizations, I’ve been able to serve and support the community while sharing positivity and friendship. I plan to continue to lead service and inspire my fellow students to help me make a difference with volunteering, whether with homeless families or in regions of severe poverty.”

Recipients of the Newman Civic Fellows Award are nominated by their college’s president or chancellor. Honorees are chosen for their leadership and ability to take action in pursuit of long-term, positive social change. This year, 218 students were selected to receive the award.

“We are fortunate to have the opportunity to celebrate such an extraordinary group of students,” said Campus Compact president Andrew Seligsohn. “We are seeing a resurgence in student interest in acting to create lasting social change, and this year’s Newman Civic Fellows exemplify that commitment.”

PTK officers group photo cropped

From left, PTK advisor Fagan Forhan, assistant dean of K-12 partnerships and civic engagement, Stevie LaBelle, Lindsay Jamison, Thomas Berger, Jana Murphy, Lisa Barry, Kimberly Cook, John Bombach and Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke.

MWCC’s Phi Delta Chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa international honor society inducted 61 new members and presented donations to community organizations from funds raised through a variety of events this academic year.

During the May 5 induction ceremony, the chapter presented checks of $500 each to the Gardner Community Action Council, the Winchendon Community Action Council, and the student-run Students Serving Our Students (SOS) mentor program at MWCC. PTK officers also recognized MWCC staff member Gardner Wood for his volunteer support building creative, fanciful props for the PTK annual Character Breakfast.

Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke, an MWCC alumnus and honorary PTK member, was the keynote speaker.

“Coming to the Mount was truly the best decision I ever made,” he said after confessing to being a “straight C” student in high school. “It gave me the direction I needed and showed me what hard work would help me achieve. My professors gave me encouragement and inspiration to carry on.”

After graduating from MWCC in 1994, Mayor Hawke went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in political science from UMass, Amherst, and an MBA from Anna Maria College.

“If Mount Wachusett Community College had not been here, if Mount Wachusett Community College had not had the caring and professional professors and staff, I wouldn’t be here. And if I’m not here, just imagine what condition the city of Gardner would be in,” the five-term mayor quipped.

Chapter officers during the 2015-16 academic year were recognized for their service: President Jana Murphy; Vice President Thomas Berger; Secretary Stevie LaBelle; and Treasurer Lindsay Jamison. Officers installed for the upcoming academic year include Jana Murphy, for her second year as president; Lisa Barry, vice president; Kimberly Cook, secretary; and John Blombach, treasurer.

Founded in 1918, Phi Theta Kappa recognizes and encourages the academic achievement of two-year college students and provides opportunities for personal, academic and professional growth through participation in honors, leadership, service and fellowship programming.

The new inductees are: Donovan Aboal-Caceres, Kwadwo Acheampong, Terri Alden, Rebekah Amburgey, Linda Anderson, Sophia Andrews, Lisa Barry, Alexander Batutis, Sheila Boria, Amanda Boudreau, Romina Cabrera, Micaela Canessa Giorello, Matthew Casaubon, Karen Chapalonis, Sarah Chatigny, Kimberly Cook, Melanie Cranfill, Rhonda Cutler, Colleen Demboske, Simon Dufresne, Tara Dugan, Jaclyn Esparza, Amanda Favreau, Michelle Francisco Pimentel, Gregory Germagian, Samantha Goodale, Kristin Grantz, Zoe Hammond, Antonina Herbst, Michele Higginson, Nhat Hoang, Inna Kalfayan, Francis Koina, Rose LaFargue Joseph Leblanc, Christopher Lerew, Valerie Maloney, Yemni Mendez, Anne Nash, Matthew Niles, Hillary Nna, Cassandra Pateneaude, Lindsey Paul, Shannen Pimental, Marissa Pitisci, Dawn Marie Placentino-Olen, Crystal Pratt, Melissa Raggi, Kelsey Rayner, Brian Richard, Katelyn Schreiber, Rhonda Scoville, Benjamin Smith, Silvana Sosa, Michael Soto, Sarah Soto, Grace Stafford, Hollace Stevens, Casey Thoel, Rachel Vargeletis and Elizabeth Walsh.

 

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The state Department of Higher Education will recognize top students from across Massachusetts during the sixth annual “29 Who Shine” award ceremony on Monday, May 9 at noon at the Grand Staircase of the Massachusetts Statehouse.

The ceremony honors an outstanding graduating student from each of the state’s 29 public colleges and universities, as well as each award recipients’ faculty or staff mentor. The honorees, chosen because of their academic achievements and record of student leadership and community service, contribute greatly to the civic life and economic well-being of the state, whether furthering their education or entering careers in Massachusetts in fields as diverse as education, public policy, medicine, creative arts and engineering.

This year’s MWCC recipient is Bella Ballin, a Liberal Arts: Chemical Science major who is enrolled in the Pathways Early College Innovation School. Ballin began her academic studies two years ago at age 16 as a dual enrollment student.

While the Worcester resident enjoyed high school, she chose to tap into the opportunities available through MWCC’s unique Pathways Early College Innovation School, which has allowed her to simultaneously earn her high school diploma and an associate degree at no cost through school choice funding.

“I wanted to get ahead. Not for ambitious reasons, but because through experience, I learned that good health and time are not things that should be taken for granted,” said Ballin, who was diagnosed at age 15 with Multiple Sclerosis. “When I learned about the Mount’s Pathway’s Early College Innovation School, I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

A member of the Commonwealth Honors Program, Ballin is a 2015 recipient of the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s prestigious Christian A. Herter Memorial Scholarship. After earning her associate degree, she will transfer to a four-year school this fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree in science.

At MWCC, she has been named to the President’s List every semester for maintaining a perfect 4.0 grade point average, and this year was named to Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. A mentor to her two younger brothers, she plans to build a career in science in Massachusetts, and at some point in her future, would like to become a teacher.

She enjoys helping peers as a math and chemistry tutor within MWCC’s Academic Support Center, serves as president of the student Math Club, and has volunteered at the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster. Additionally, she participated in MWCC’s Leadership Camp, Leadership Retreat, and Women in Leadership Forum.

She chose Natalie J. Mercier, Academic Counselor in MWCC’s Division of Access & Transition, as her staff mentor.

“I can come to Natalie at any time with anything. I know I can always count on her.”

The 29 Who Shine honorees “represent our future citizenry and workforce and have already made substantial contributions to the Commonwealth,” said Carlos E. Santiago, Commissioner of Higher Education. “I am so proud of what they have achieved and look forward to seeing how they continue to put their talents to work on behalf of our local communities.”