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Gardner High students at MWCC Manufacturing expo

Gardner High School students, who attended the event with guidance counselor Christine Leamy, participated in robotics demonstrations and other presentations during Mount Wachusett Community College’s Manufacturing Career Expo.

Teenagers and young adults, career changers, employers and business leaders were among those participating in Mount Wachusett Community College’s hands-on Manufacturing Career Expo at the college’s Devens campus.

The May 28 expo showcased regional job openings and career advancement opportunities, as well as training programs to help students enter or advance in the field. Attendees had the opportunity to learn about free training programs, explore career paths in modern manufacturing, participate in hands-on demonstrations, and meet local employers, recruiters, service providers, and MWCC admissions representatives. Biotechnology, mechatronics, women in technology, 3-D printing and robotics and quality systems were among the featured presentations.

“These students are all into robotics and they are definitely STEM-driven,” said Gardner High School Guidance Counselor Christine Leamy, who brought a group of sophomores and juniors.

MWCC offers several noncredit programs, currently grant-funded and free to participants, as well as academic certificate and associate degree programs in the fields of advanced manufacturing, biotechnology and biomanufacturing and other science, technology, engineering and math-related fields.

For the upcoming year, the noncredit programs are free to qualifying students through a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration.

A six-week Industry Readiness Training program was developed with industry employers to prepare students for entry-level to mid-level jobs in the local, diverse advanced manufacturing industry. The program is designed especially for unemployed or underemployed adults, veterans and recent high school graduates who want to train for careers the manufacturing industry. Programs provide students with training in skills required for entry-level employment in positions such as technicians in manufacturing, validation, quality control, documentation, and process operations.

Students who successfully complete the program earn an MWCC Certificate of Completion, an OSHA 10-hour Safety Certification and the National Career Readiness Certificate, while learning about working in the fast-growing manufacturing field.

A two-week Quality Systems Training program prepares students for jobs in quality assurance and quality control for a variety of manufacturing industries including biopharmaceutical processing and medical device manufacturing.

Classes are forming now for free, six-week Industry Readiness Training courses and free, two-week quality systems training courses that begin in July, September and November. For more information and to register, visit mwcc.edu/advancedmanufacturing or call 978-630-9883.

247068a[1]GARDNER — An Olympic hopeful, an 18-year-old transferring directly into a doctoral program, and several teenagers who are the first in their families to attend college are among the 32 graduates of Mount Wachusett Community College’s dual enrollment programs.

This year’s graduates of the Pathways Early College Inno­vation School and the Gateway to College program were recognized during a May 26 graduation ceremony at MWCC. The programs, offered in partnership with the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District, allow students to use school choice funding to earn their high school diploma while simultaneously earning college credits, an academic certificate or an associate degree.

“We have all been given the amazing opportunity to get two years of college out of the way while in high school, which I am glad we all decided to take on, although challenging,” said Pathways valedictorian Emily Lapinskas of Athol, who earned an associate degree from MWCC last week and will continue her studies in biology at the University of Massachusetts. “I have been assured by many parents and current students that it is indeed amazing, especially when you look at all the money we save. You’re welcome, mom and dad!”

Gateway valedictorian Sam­an­tha Buckler of Winchendon was home-schooled before enrolling in the program. This fall, she is transferring to Keene State College, where she was awarded a presidential scholarship that will cover more than a year’s worth of tuition, fees and housing.

“Gateway is a wonderful opportunity for students of all different backgrounds to receive a high school diploma while earning college credits,” she said. “I am excited to see where life brings me as well as where it will bring everyone else who has been blessed with this opportunity.”

Sarah Raulston of Baldwin­ville, who earned an associate degree in liberal arts and sciences with a concentration in biology from MWCC last week, is the youngest student to be accepted into the Doctor of Pharmacy program at the University of New England in Maine. With the first two years of the six-year program accepted as transfer credits, she is on target to graduate with a doctor of pharmacy degree by the time she is 22.

“I knew I wanted to go to pharmacy school, so I wanted to get a head start. High school is fun, but dual enrollment is such a good opportunity to get ahead,” she said.

Keynote speaker Jason Zele­sky, MWCC dean of students, encouraged the graduates to “make lasting, positive change” in a world that needs their optimism, and also took a moment to address their families and friends in the audience.

“Thank you for allowing them to take this risk and complete their education in such an innovative and transformative way.”

MWCC Vice President of External Affairs, Communic­ations and K-12 Partnerships Lea Ann Scales, Mahar Super­intendent Tari Thomas, and MWCC Dual Enrollment Dir­ector Craig Elkins also congratulated the students on their achievements.

Established in 2010 as one of the first two innovation schools in Massachusetts, the Pathways Early College Innovation School provides motivated high school juniors and home-schooled students the opportunity to accelerate the pace of their academics.

MWCC’s Gateway to College program, established in 2005 as the first Gateway site in New England, provides a second chance for students ages 16 to 21 who have dropped out of high school, are at risk of dropping out, or experienced a setback, as well as an opportunity for home-schooled students to complete high school and college studies. MWCC’s Division of Access and Transition is currently enrolling students for the fall semester.

This year’s graduates include:

Pathways Early College Innovation School

Ashburnham: Sarah E. Lahtinen
Athol: Madison L. Guiffre, Emily N. Lapinskas
Baldwinville: Sarah A. Raulston Blackstone: Mary C. Volpe Clinton: Sammi Tovar
Hubbardston: Micaiah S. Bushnell Orange: Collin J. Mailloux, Nathaniel R. O’Lari
Westminster: Emily K. Ulrich Winchendon: Roger C. Anctil II, Sharon R. Rossi

Gateway to College

Ashby: Kathleen Julius
Athol: Elizabeth Zewiey
Fitchburg: Kimberly Allen, Joseph Almeida, Elisha Fernandes, Megan Rossi
Gardner: Micah Cernoia, Harley Johnston, Cynthia Lauricella, Gabriella LeBlanc
Leominster: Nicholas Chery, Annalese Chila, Hannah Conlon, Karimah Gonzalez,
Littleton: Moira Legault
Orange: Jasson Alvarado-Gomez, Kayla Pollack
Rutland: Molly Shipman Winchendon: Samantha Buckler

247061a[1]GARDNER  What used to be an average, graffiti-covered wall at Jackson Playground is quickly becoming the city’s first large-scale piece of public art, thanks to Mount Wachusett Community College students armed with cans of spray paint.

Over the past week, a team of about half a dozen students have been working on the “Unplug and Play” mural depicting a scene of children leaving behind their video games to take advantage of a playground.

“Technology is the obsession of a generation,” said Mount Wachusett artist Ben Mikel. “They’re getting sucked in. We’re trying to encourage kids to go outside and play and drop their phones.”

Last year, the city redid Jackson Playground, upgrading all of the equipment and improving the landscape. However, after a series of trees came down to provide the public with better visibility, a wall covered with both generic tags and more complex graffiti became a problem for some officials.

So the city decided to have it painted over. “With the mural, we’re hoping people might take some pride in the park, instead of seeing it as a place to graffiti,” said Joshua Cormier, the city’s economic development coordinator who pushed for the project. “This is a quality-of-life thing.”

Using art to deter graffiti isn’t a new idea. In 1984, Philadelphia became a pioneer in anti-graffiti by reaching out to street artists and asking them to make large murals of public art.

The program — which continues to this day — changed the landscape of the city and inspired other communities. In the past few years, cities such as Tampa Bay, Minneapolis and Buffalo have created their own programs.

“Using spray paint is not such a bad thing if you know how to use it,” said Mr. Mikel, who has enjoyed handing out official letters from Mayor Mark Hawke to any skeptical residents.

As part of the project, Mr. Mikel and friend and fellow “aerosol artist” Jesse Maguine are teaching other Mount students — who have all volunteered their time — the finer points of spray-painting: such as how to hold a can, create depth and develop a style.

One of these students is Kabilgangai Subramanian, who started by working on the grass but has slowly moved up to people.

“I’ve always wanted to do murals and I want to try all different kinds of art,” she said. “It’s fun, though my fingers were cramping up when I did the grass.”

The mural — built to tell a story about the benefits of playing outside — is full of Gardner-specific details. The Big Chair is there, as well as Mount Wachusett’s wind turbines, Wildcat pride, and a replica of Jackson Playground.

“There’s a lot of little details in it,” said Mr. Mikel. “The kids are going to be able to relate to the characters and the scene.”

Among themselves, the artists joke that one day the playground will be known as the “Unplug and Play” Playground.

Both the artists, the Mount and city officials share a hope that this won’t be the last mural for the city. Mr. Cormier said he is asking community members what other walls would make good spots for public art projects.

While plans are still on the drawing board, he said the city will likely apply for grant funding to offset the costs of paint.

Simultaneously, the city has also partnered with Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis to have an inmate work crew paint remove unwanted graffiti throughout the city. Mayor Hawke is asking citizens to report target areas on his Facebook page.

Katie Landeck, The Gardner News, May 27, 2015

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News Staff Photos by KATIE LANDECK. John Day, Recipient of the Dean’s Key, and student speaker Yasmine Kanaan take part in Mount Wachusett Community College’s 50th commencement celebration on Wednesday.

GARDNER  Like many of the 785 graduates on Wednesday night, Mount Wachusett Community College presented a second chance for student speaker Yasmine Kanaan.

“Five years ago, I thought I knew who I was and what path I wanted to take and who I wanted to become,” Ms. Kanaan said. “I soon lost my passion, my focus, and myself, and believed I would never be able to achieve a bright future.”
Soon after that, she was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Two years ago, she decided she was ready to put her life together and enrolled at the Mount.
“Here, I learned that it is not about how hard you fall, but about how hard you work to stand back up. You see, the thing
about this college is, when no one else opens their doors to give you a second chance at an education, MWCC does,” said Ms. Kanaan, who received her associates degree in business. “They see the potential in all of us and, in doing so them, empower us.”

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Top right, keynote speaker Kevin Berg, a CBS network executive, talks about how he started his professional life in a Gardner chair factory. Above and right are some of the 785 students who graduated from the Mount on Wednesday.

Identity, empowerment and the future were the central themes of the college’s 50th commencement celebration.

That theme was underlined by Alumnus of the Year and keynote speaker Kevin Berg, a CBS network executive — responsible for television shows like “NCIS,” “Criminal Minds,” “Survivor,” “The Amazing Race,” “America’s Next Top Model,” “Hawaii Five-0,” “The Good Wife” and many others — who started his professional life in a Gardner chair factory.

“I stood for 10 hours a day outside of the lacquer oven and sanded the dried lacquer chips off the bottoms of hardwood chairs,” Mr. Berg told the crowd. “It was then I decided to return to school and greatly improve my chances in the world.”

For Mr. Berg, the Mount Wachusett campus — particularly the in-house radio station where be broke Prince records — paved the way to internships and his career. It was also where he learned the power of choice.

“Life is a series of options we confront every single day. The option you choose today will determine your future and set you on your life’s course,” he said. “Each and every one of you will be embarking on a completely different path, some windy and curvy with roadblocks that seem impossible to maneuver, others will be full-speed ahead straight, clear, no bumps in the road. The type of path to your destination is not yours to choose. However, it is your to navigate.”

As the graduates move forward with their lives, he urged them to make decisions deliberately — knowing what they want 10 years from now and to continually ask themselves what it will take to get there.

Mr. Berg was presented with an honorary doctorate in the humanities, his first degree from MWCC. “I have to believe I am probably the only person to receive both their degree and alumnus of the year at the same evening,” he said.

Also at the ceremony: student trustee Phillip M. Stan received the Trustees’ Award; Bryce Bodley-Gomes of Ashburnham and Cindy Caron of Jaffrey, N.H., received President’s Keys; John Day of Gardner was presented with the Dean’s Key — and a new signature baseball cap with a tassel.

MWCC President Dan Asquino presented James Garrison — the namesake and benefactor of the Garrison Center for Early Childhood Education and Early Childhood Education scholarships — with the 2015 Service Above Self Award, as well as an honorary doctorate in humane letters.

“His philanthropic endeavors have resulted in countless improvements and changes to MWCC that have enhanced the learning environment for college students and children and the vital role the college plays in the community,” Mr. Asquino said.

Five retiring professors were awarded emeritus status: Joel Anderson, media arts and technology; Paul Laverty, mathematics; John McNally, health sciences, fitness and wellness; Elena Natalizia, criminal justice; and John Reilly, business administration.

(Katie Landeck, The Gardner News, May 21, 2015)

News staff photo by KATIE LANDECK Mount Wachusett Community College nursing students Lori Belliveau and Diana Bronson give a presentation about their recent trip to Haiti and encourage other students to sign up for the Mount’s upcoming trip in January 2016.
Mount Wachusett Community College nursing students Lori Belliveau and Diana Bronson give a presentation about their recent trip to Haiti and encourage other students to sign up for the Mount’s upcoming trip in January 2016.

GARDNER – When the first team of Mount Wachusett Community College nursing students came back from Haiti in January, they all said the same thing: we want to go back.

“There is a lot of beauty (in Haiti),” said nursing student Lori Belliveau while presenting the trip to other nursing students on Monday. “And it makes you think a little bit about what we have versus what they don’t have.”

The nursing students traveled to Haiti with Forward in Health, a locally started nonprofit that is providing health care to 7,500 people in the impoverished Fonde Fred region of Haiti. The trip was organized by Forward in Health cofounder Paula Mulqueen.

The students worked in health clinics, visited orphanages and nursing schools, and also had the chance to explore a little bit of the island nation.

The Mount is planning another trip for next January. The trip costs about $1,600 per person, but students found they were about to raise money to pay for the trip.

“It didn’t cost me anything,” said Ms. Belliveau. “My friends, family and coworkers were very generous.”

There is also talk of creating an exchange program where Mount Wachusett students would have the ability to live with and attend classes with nursing students in Haiti for a week.

Then the Haitian student would be able to attend classes at Mount Wachusett for a week.

Ideally, Mount Wachusett officials said, the students in the exchange program would be able to speak at least a little French.

By the next trip, Mount Wachusett students will be able to work in the clinic that Forward in Health will officially open this summer after years of fundraising and overcoming numerous hurdles, including the devastating earthquake of 2010.

“We are at the brink of opening the clinic doors,” Ms. Mulqueen told the audience. “We are doing a massive inventory and a massive setup. The scheduled date to open is Aug. 4. Great stuff is happening.”

The clinic will include a triage unit and offer permanent medical assistance to the region.

Since Ms. Mulqueen’s first trip to Haiti in 2002, she has traveled to the country 52 times, taking anyone who wanted to go and was willing to work, ranging from high school students to surgeons.

“International nursing is suddenly a hot topic,” she said. “Everyone is now going all over the world to serve.”

When choosing where to go and with whom to serve, Ms. Mulqueen recommends looking into an organization’s history in the country, the sustainability of its work, the compatibility of its objectives with that of the volunteer, and the group’s safety record.

For more information about traveling with Forward in Health, visit forwardinhealth.org.

The Gardner News, Katie Landeck, May 5, 2015