Access and Transition

Signaling Success SummerUP 2016

Student participants in MWCC’s Educational Talent Search and North Central Massachusetts Talent Search programs recently joined peers on campus for Signaling Success training to enhance skills for success in work, school and life.

The U.S. Department of Education will award two grants totaling $573,600 to Mount Wachusett Community College through its Talent Search Program, Congressman Jim McGovern announced on July 21. The program supports efforts on campuses in Massachusetts and across the country to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds to succeed in higher education.

“Every student deserves access to a strong education and the bright future it brings. These grants will provide a critical boost to the great work Mount Wachusett Community College is doing to help more students succeed and reach their full potential,” Congressman McGovern said. “Where you grow up should never limit your ability to go to college and pursue your dreams. These grants will help to open new doors of opportunity for so many students right here in Massachusetts. I am proud to support our local schools and look forward to seeing all the good this funding will do for our communities.”

“Community colleges play a vital role in our nation’s economy, and we are grateful for our Congressional delegation’s continued support of students who benefit from these TRiO programs,” said Mount Wachusett Community College President Daniel M. Asquino. “These two grants will serve nearly 1,200 students in area school districts, providing them with the support needed to be successful in middle school and high school, and ready to meet the challenges and opportunities of post-secondary education.”

Each grant is anticipated to be continued for a total of five years to support the program, which are administered through the college’s Division of Access & Transition.

MWCC’s long-running Talent Search program, now entering its 26th year, serves 695 students annually at the Longso and Memorial middle schools in Fitchburg, Fitchburg High School, Gardner Middle School, Gardner High School, Samoset and Sky View middle schools in Leominster, Leominster High School and Leominster Center for Technical Education Innovation.

The North Central Massachusetts Talent Search program was launched in 2011 with a similar TRIO grant. The program is designed to prepare 500 students annually at Athol-Royalston Middle School, Athol High School, Clinton Middle School, Clinton High School, Ralph C. Mahar Regional School in Orange, Murdock Middle/High School in Winchendon and the Sizer School in Fitchburg.

The Talent Search program identifies and assists individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds who have the potential to succeed in higher education. The program provides academic, career, and financial counseling to its participants and encourages them to graduate from high school and continue on to and complete their postsecondary education.

The program also publicizes the availability of financial aid and assist participant with the postsecondary application process. Talent Search also encourages persons who have not completed education programs at the secondary or postsecondary level to enter or reenter and complete postsecondary education. The goal of Talent Search is to increase the number of youth from disadvantaged backgrounds who complete high school and enroll in and complete their postsecondary education.

For more information about MWCC’s Talent Search programs, click here.



Members of the Fitchburg High School Class of 2015, pictured with Principal Jeremy Roche and Victor Rojas, Assistant GEAR UP Director at MWCC, returned to the school to advise seniors on transitioning to college.

Take time to tour a variety of colleges and universities prior to enrolling. Seek out scholarships and financial aid. Once enrolled, become involved with clubs and activities to meet new friends. Beware the “freshman 15” weight gain. Learn to manage your time. Don’t skip class, and above all, study.

A dozen Fitchburg High School alumni returned to their alma mater on January 8 to offer these and other tips to high school seniors about successfully transitioning to college. The alumni, all graduates of the Class of 2015, are now pursuing a variety of academic programs at public and private colleges and universities.

The hour-long Alumni Breakfast forum, sponsored by Mount Wachusett Community College’s Division of Access & Transition and the high school’s guidance department, covered a wide range of topics including selecting a school and a major, financing an education, study habits, course load, time management, dorm life and enduring difficult roommates.

“If you’re not a morning person, I don’t recommend taking early morning classes,” advised Mariah Comeau, a student at the University of South Carolina. “Your mother is not there to wake you up.”

The forum was open to the entire senior class through MWCC’s GEAR UP program (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs), which is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The annual event was initiated more than a decade ago and is still going strong.

“It is a wonderful chance for FHS alumni from the class of 2015 to give back to FHS,” said Principal Jeremy Roche. “They provide the messages and advice about planning for college that the current seniors find most relevant and credible. This is some of the most helpful information coming directly from their peers.”

When discussing balancing classes, homework, study time and a social life, Worcester State University education major Kelsen Boyette advised the students, “manage your freedom well.”

Similar events are also taking place this month at Leominster, Athol, Ralph C. Mahar and Murdock high schools.

“This is certainly an impactful experience from which the seniors get important lessons on the transition to college,” said MWCC GEAR UP Director Andrew Goodwin.

Participating Fitchburg High School alumni were Micaela Canessa Giorello (Mount Wachusett Community College); Alicia Giannetti (Boston University); Caylin Rymph (Ashland University); Jillian Crocker (Fitchburg State University); Dasia Aldarondo (Worcester Polytechnic Institute); Hannah Hallett (UMass Amherst); Morgan Gray (UMass Amherst); Kelsen Boyette (Worcester State University); Janelle Forgues (Bridgewater State University); Mariah Comeau (University of South Carolina); Isabel Wilder (Southern New Hampshire University); and Bridget Colon (UMass Dartmouth).




UBMS 2014 student group

UBMS Director Angele Goss and State Rep. Jon Zlotnick are joined by this year’s Upward Bound Math and Science students during the program’s recent year-end celebration.

Dozens of area high school students from Gardner, Athol and Winchendon were recently recognized for their academic success in Mount Wachusett Community College’s Upward Bound Math and Science program, a federal TRIO program celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Sixty-three students participated in the program’s summer residential component, which included dual enrollment courses, extracurricular activities, career exploration and field trips and took place at Fitchburg State University.

State Rep. Jon Zlotnik of Gardner was the keynote speaker. Lea Ann Scales, MWCC Vice President of Access, Transition and Development delivered a welcome from the college. UBMS Director Angele Goss and program coordinator Ralph Hogan also congratulated the students on their success.

“The six-week residential UBMS program provides a great environment for students to grow academically, socially and culturally,” said Angele Goss Director of Upward Bound Math Science and the North Central Mass Talent Search program, both offered through MWCC’s Division of Access and Transition. “We build a small supportive community that allows student to take positive risks toward educational and personal development.”

The program is offered to students who have an aptitude for math and science and are in grades 9 through 12 at Gardner High School, Athol High School and Murdock Memorial Middle/Senior High School in Winchendon. Two thirds of the students are from low income or first-generation college families and have an identified need for services.

During the summer, students dual enrolment courses in biology, psychology and English and attended a leadership conference, career roundtable, a variety of recreational and educational, career building workshops. The also learned languages from Rosetta Stone, Spanish, Korean, Mandarin and Italian, participated in community service. Other summer highlights include trips to several colleges and universities, Boston, Mystic Seaport, a talent show and family fun night.

MWCC’s North Central Massachusetts Upward Bound Math and Science program began in 2008 with a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. In 2012, the college received a five-year, $1.3 million grant to continue funding the program. Now completing its seventh year at the college, the program prepares high school students from Gardner, Athol, and Winchendon for success in high school and college in the fields of math and science.

The primary goal of the program is to prepare high school students for postsecondary education programs that lead to careers in the fields of math and science. The program provides a comprehensive academic year, summer and bridge program during the-five year period that is customized to the needs of each participant. On Saturdays and school vacations during the academic year, students  participate in college tours, monthly science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)-based cultural/academic enrichment opportunities, hands-on laboratory activities; STEM-based field trip, lectures and other activities.

The students also receive individual success plan development and follow-up meetings with academic counselors and program aides, secondary school course selection advising, after-school tutoring, guidance and assistance, alternative education programs, parent/guardian workshops, e-mentoring and workshops.

Freshmen and sophomores have access to state-mandated test preparation and a career fair and roundtable, while juniors and seniors have access to dual enrollment courses, SAT and ACT preparation, Accuplacer preparation, a college fair, college admission assistance, financial aid assistance, and postsecondary course selection advising during the academic year.



MWCC and Leominster Public Schools have developed a pilot program to help prepare high school seniors for college-level math. Pictured, from left, Leominster Superintendent of Schools James Jolicoeur, MWCC President Daniel Asquino, LHS Principal Thomas Browne, LHS senior Matt Banchs, LHS math teacher Jim Kelly, LHS senior Hannah Davidson, MWCC Dean of Access and Transition Patrice Lincoln and LHS senior Tiara Rosado.

Mount Wachusett Community College has teamed up with Leominster High School in a pilot program designed to tackle a national issue: preparing high school graduates for success in college-level mathematics.

More than half of incoming Massachusetts community college students require developmental math education, and 31 percent of those who complete the developmental course go on to complete a college-level course within two years, according to statistics from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education. Approximately 80 percent of incoming community college students in 2006 did not complete a college level math class within two years. Of the 11,000 community college students who took remedial math in fall 2010, 9,000 have yet to pass a credit-bearing course, concluded a task force on Transforming Developmental Math Education convened this year by Higher Education.

A year ago, educators at MWCC and Leominster High School met to address the issue, which subsequently led to the creation of a pilot course, Math Modeling. Spearheaded by MWCC Professor Yoav Elinevsky, chair of the college’s math department, the pilot program was developed by a team of Leominster public school teachers, the school district’s curriculum coordinator, and MWCC math faculty, with support from MWCC’s Access & Transition and Academics Affairs divisions.

The Math Modeling program identifies sooner, rather than later, whether students need developmental math before being accepted into college-level courses required for an academic degree.

Traditionally, students discover during the college application process that they could need up to three developmental courses before they are ready to take on college-level math courses, a process that causes many to become discouraged and drop out. Instead, the Math Modeling program tests high school students at the end of their junior year. Those needing developmental math can then take the course during their senior year.

Six sections of the Mathematics Modeling course are being offered this year to 134 seniors at LHS and the district’s vocational school, the Center for Technical Education Innovation.

The course includes the traditional curriculum of a developmental mathematics course (arithmetic, percentages, basic geometry and basic algebra) with a strong emphasis on solving complex problems and linear modeling. Different techniques of problem solving are practiced throughout the course, which also emphasizes using math for everyday applications.

The program seeks to answer students’ age-old question:  “Why would I ever need to learn this?” said Patrice Lincoln, Dean of MWCC’s Division of Access & Transition. Upon successful completion of the course, students will be ready to take college-level mathematics courses.

“It’s all about getting students ready for college credit and to succeed in college,” said MWCC President Daniel Asquino. The college anticipates partnering with other area school districts to provide the course in 2014.

“We’re all in the same situation, trying to help all students be successful,” said Leominster Public Schools Superintendent James Jolicoeur. “This is an example of one of many partnerships between Leominster Public Schools and Mount Wachusett. We appreciate the college stepping up to help with this course.”




Mount Wachusett Community College’s biotechnology and access and transition programs were among the featured topics during the 10th annual Massachusetts STEM Summit. More than 1,000 people attended the Nov. 13 event at Gillette Stadium.

Throughout the day, panel presentations and the lunchtime plenary session addressed the goals, plans and progress of STEM education, bringing leaders and practitioners from the state’s education, business and government sectors together to share information and ideas. Sessions covered the entire education spectrum, workforce development, economic development, and other key policy issues faced by the Commonwealth. MWCC was invited to sit on two panels.

MWCC, WPI, Middlesex Community College and Boston University presented on the topic of “Training for Jobs in Life Sciences: What Happens After High School?”

MWCC Biotech/Biomanufacturing graduate Brenda Proctor and department chair Dr. Lara Dowland discussed the workforce development aspect of the MWCC program and its unique features.  Proctor described how well prepared she was to enter the workforce and receive an excellent position at Cell Treat, located in Shirley.  The skills, education, and hands-on preparation of the MWCC biotech program were covered during the panel discussion as well as during the question and answer period immediately following.

Patrice Lincoln, Dean of Access and Transition, joined staff members from Quinsigamond andBristol community colleges in the panel presentation “STEM Pathways from Secondary through Post-secondary Education.” The panel discussed pathways between secondary and post-secondary institutions for students interested in STEM fields.

Lincoln addressed the numerous initiatives offered through the division of Access and Transition in collaboration with Academic Affairs at MWCC that can lead to post-secondary interest in STEM-related degree or certificate tracks. With 18 different programs servicing nearly 4,000 students annually, the division is able to leverage many of the current programming to create STEM interest.

These programs include the federally funded Upward Bound Math and Science grant and the Math and Engineering Program. In these programs, students are exposed to STEM-related fields on an on-going basis. The division also offers numerous dual enrollment opportunities for students to get a jump start on college level classes while in high school, or for those who are not college-ready, the division’s summer bridge program allows graduated high school seniors to take developmental courses prior to entering college in the fall.

Lincoln also provided an overview of one of MWCC’s dual enrollment initiatives, which offers a partnering voc-tech school an opportunity to have its students earn seven credits from MWCC’s biotechnology degree program while still in high school. Upon successful completion of the classes, the students can automatically transfer those credits into our biotech degree program.


Patrick Nally and Ilse Hernandez were among the UBMS students earning college credits in courses offered this summer.

MWCC has been awarded a five year, $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to fund the North Central Massachusetts Upward Bound Math and Science Program. This marks MWCC’s sixth year of operating this program, which prepares 63 high school students from Gardner, Athol, and Winchendon for success in high school and college in the fields of math and science.

“We are delighted to receive this funding and the support of our Congressional delegation to continue this outstanding program,” said President Daniel M. Asquino. “The Upward Bound Math and Science program provides talented students with greater opportunities to hone their skills in the essential STEM fields.”
The UBMS program will provide a comprehensive academic year, summer and bridge program during the five year period that is customized to the needs of each participant. On Saturdays and school vacations during the academic year, all students will participate in college tours; monthly science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) based cultural/academic enrichment opportunities; hands-on laboratory STEM activities; STEM based field trips; lectures and other activities. The students also receive individual success plan development and follow-up meetings by trained UBMS academic counselors and program aides; secondary school course selection advising; after-school tutoring, guidance and assistance; alternative education programs; parent/guardian workshops; e-mentoring; workshops and more.
Freshmen and sophomores also will have access to state-mandated test preparation and a career fair and roundtable, while juniors and seniors also have access to dual enrollment courses, SAT and ACT preparation, Accuplacer preparation, a college fair, college admission assistance, financial aid assistance, and postsecondary course selection advising.
In the summer, students will participate in a six-week residential program on a college campus that simulates a college going experience, while having the opportunity to take courses in a variety of subjects. Juniors and seniors have the option of earning dual enrollment college credit.

Gateway valedictorian Megan Reiser and Pathways valedictorians Thomas Elbourn.

Whether they came to MWCC to accelerate the pace of their education or to get back on track after a problematic high school experience, the 44 graduates of the Pathways Early College Innovation School and the Gateway to College program have this in common: this spring they each reached a milestone.

Students enrolled in the two programs, which are offered in partnership with the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District, were recognized during a May 23 graduation ceremony in the college’s Raymond M. LaFontaine Fine Arts Center theatre. As dual-enrolled students, the graduates all completed the requirements for their high school diploma while simultaneously earning college credits or a degree.

Thomas E. Elbourn, the Pathways innovation school valedictorian who is transferring to Assumption College to continue his studies in psychology and counseling, shared that his faith and experiences inspired him to speak on the most important truth he’s learned in his young life.

“I firmly believe that the purpose of life, its deepest fulfillment, lies in that basic love and care and kindness to one’s fellow man. We live in a world of endless pursuits, infinite beauty, unbelievable experiences and 7 billion characters to play along with – don’t waste this chance, this life, on the mundane. Don’t waste it on the trivial. Don’t waste it by getting hung up on anger and sorrow and selfishness. Waste it on love,” he said.

“Whether this love is shown by living with the poor in Africa, the poor in New York or the poor in spirit next door, whether it is shown by the kind, encouraging word spoken to your friend or to your enemy, whether that love is shown by forgiveness and healing, whether that love is toward family, friends, a significant other or a stranger, or as Emerson stated, a little garden patch that you nurture, I urge you to love extravagantly.”

Elbourn thanked the college, the Mahar district and his classmates “for an unforgettable and unbelievable” two years. “We all became adults together, and I think that was – and is – something marvelous.”

Gateway valedictorian Megan Reiser said the program and its staff and faculty were instrumental in helping the graduates overcome adversity to achieve their goal.

“The education we have received here has helped us open doors full of new and exciting opportunities. We have all had our ups and our downs. However, we have reached one goal today receive a high school diploma. That is something that no one can take away from us, we have each earned it. There is no doubt that more struggles may come our way at times, but I leave you with this quote by Ralph C. Mahar to help you persevere throughout your lives:

“May you always have faith in yourselves whatever hardships may develop in the years ahead. May you be the individuals in the sense that you make up your minds, that you think straight and that you stand on your own two feet. May you have a sense of social conscience which shows concern for your fellow man, and yet, may I urge you to beware of the philosophy of those who advocate something for nothing.”