dual enrollment

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President Asquino and Mahar Superintendent Tari Thomas recently signed off on the 10th year dual enrollment agreement between the two schools during a campus visit from Higher Education Commissioner Carlos Santiago, front, left. Also pictured, from left, Executive Vice President Ann McDonald, Senior Director of Dual Enrollment Craig Elkins, Assistant Dean of K-12 Partnerships and Civic Engagement Fagan Forhan, Mahar Co-Principal Eric Dion, Mahar Director of Finance Daniel Haynes, and Mahar guidance counselor and liaison Sara Storm, and Lea Ann Scales MWCC Vice President of External Affairs, Communications and K-12 Partnerships.

MWCC is marking the 10th anniversary of its dual enrollment partnership programs for teenagers and young adults.

The Pathways Early College Innovation School and the Gateway to College program, run in partnership with the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District, allow students to complete requirements for their high school diploma while also earning credits toward a college degree. School choice funding covers the cost of tuition and fees of both programs.

Information sessions for each program will take place this spring and summer for fall 2016 enrollment.

“The partnership is so impactful for students whether they are in the Pathways program or Gateway program.” said Mahar Superintendent Tari Thomas, who recently joined MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino in signing the memorandum of understanding between the two schools for the upcoming academic year. “Many are first generation college students. For them to be so embraced by this community college, to work with them to grow and achieve, I’m so grateful. And it’s not just for Mahar kids, but for kids all over the state. The way these academic programs meet individuals needs is profound.”

One of the first two innovation schools created 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 academic careers by simultaneously earning an associate degree and their high school diploma.

To be eligible for Pathways, students must live in Massachusetts, possess a minimum high school grade point average of 3.0, be at least 16 years old and entering grade 11 by the start of the fall semester, and be recommended by the sending school.

Students must attend a Pathways information session and have current Accuplacer scores in order to apply. Upcoming information sessions for the Pathways school will take place on May 10 and 12; June 14 and 16; and July 12 and 14. The first day of each session provides the information about the school, and the second day of each session includes the Accuplacer test.

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 or are at risk of dropping out. Students simultaneously earn their high school diploma as well as college credits toward an academic degree or certificate. The majority of the graduates continue their education at MWCC or at another college or university.

Gateway applicants must attend a two-day information session to be considered for the program. Upcoming Gateway information sessions will take place on May 11 and 13; June 15 and 17; July 20 and 22; Aug 3 and 5; and August 10 and 12.

To register for an upcoming information session in either program, contact MWCC’s Division of Access & Transition at 978-630-9248. Visit mwcc.edu/access for more details about the programs.

Fagan Forhan

Fagan Forhan

MWCC has appointed two staff members to key positions within the college’s Access & Transition division. Established by President Daniel M. Asquino nearly two decades ago, the division now serves 4,000 North Central Massachusetts middle and high school students annually through 18 distinct programs in partnership with a dozen area school districts.

Fagan Forhan of Lancaster has been appointed assistant dean of K-12 partnerships & civic engagement. For the past 10 years, she has worked to propel MWCC to the forefront of state and national civic engagement leadership, most recently as director of experiential learning opportunities and civic engagement and director of MWCC’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement.

She has been responsible for the strategic direction and oversight of implementation for the Center for Civic Learning & Community Engagement, which includes United Way Youth Venture of North Central Massachusetts, the Students SOS program, internships, service learning and career placement. In her new role, she will work to further incorporate civic learning into the K-12 partnership programs.

Forhan serves on the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education’s study group on civic learning and is a member of the national steering committees for The Democracy Commitment and for the American Association for State Colleges and Universities’ (AASCU) Economic Inequality Initiative. She serves on the foundation board for the Sizer School in Fitchburg, and as advisor to MWCC’s chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society, and the student club Otaku United.

Prior to joining MWCC in 2006, Forhan served for six years as chief of staff for former State Rep. Brian Knuuttila. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and is pursuing a master’s degree in applied communications from Fitchburg State University.

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Craig Elkins

Craig Elkins of Fitchburg has been promoted within the division to senior director of dual enrollment, assuming greater responsibility overseeing the college’s dual enrollment and early college initiatives. Over the past decade, Elkins has been committed to helping underrepresented youth from North Central Massachusetts achieve their educational goals through his service in local school districts as well as state and federally funded grant programs at MWCC.

As a first-generation college student, Elkins is aware of the challenges young people face as they work toward completing high school and earning college degrees. He works diligently to educate and mentor students and instill in them the skills necessary to be academically successful, engaged citizens and active community members.

Elkins received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Plymouth State University and a master’s of education degree in leadership and management from Fitchburg State University.

“We are delighted to announce these key leadership appointments to the enterprising division of Access and Transition,” said Lea Ann Scales, Vice President of External Affairs, Communications and K-12 Partnerships. “Fagan and Craig both bring great energy, strategic thinking and a deep commitment to our K-12 partners and our region’s students.”

 

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Mary-Ann Nkongchu of Worcester, Andrew Wegiel of Leominster and Alexander Ramos Jr. of Leominster were among a class of 26 dual enrollment students completing English Composition I in December through the Commonwealth Dual Enrollment Partnership at Mount Wachusett Community College.

High school and homeschooled students interested in saving money while getting a head start on their college education can choose from several upcoming courses available through the Commonwealth Dual Enrollment Partnership (CDEP) at MWCC. The three-credit courses are being offered at the grant-funded price of $30, including textbooks, for the spring semester beginning January 20. 

Managed and supported by the Massachusetts departments of Higher Education and Elementary and Secondary Education, CDEP provides opportunities for high school students to take college-level courses at a discounted price and earn credit toward their high school diploma and future college degrees.

In September, MWCC was awarded a $50,000 CDEP grant from the Department of Higher Education, which has set a goal of increasing statewide dual enrollment from 2,000 to 3,400 each year. More than 500 high school students are concurrently enrolled at MWCC throughout the college academic year. In addition to CDEP, MWCC’s academic programs are available to high school students through traditional full-time and part-time dual enrollment, the Gateway to College program and the Pathways Early College Innovation School.

CDEP provides meaningful and challenging academic experiences to qualified students who otherwise may not have access to an early college experience, and strives to increase the population of high school graduates who are college-ready. The program aims to serve students who are underrepresented in higher education, including first-generation college students and students who come from low income families.

Upcoming spring semester CDEP courses include Digital Imaging (Photoshop) on Mondays from 3 to 6:30 p.m. at MWCC’s Gardner campus; Introduction to Sociology on Tuesdays from 3:30 to 6 p.m. at the Gardner campus; English Composition 1 on Tuesdays from 5:15 to 7:45 p.m. at MWCC’s Leominster campus; Introduction to Psychology on Tuesdays from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at Leominster High School; Introduction to Criminal Justice on Wednesdays from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at Fitchburg High School; Strategic Management on Thursdays from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School; and Introduction to Psychology on Thursdays from 3:30 to 6 p.m., also at Monty Tech.

New CDEP students are required to attend a mandatory orientation with completed dual enrollment application and transcript. Parents or guardians are encouraged to attend. Orientation sessions will take place Tuesday, Dec. 29 from 2 to 3 p.m. and Thursday, Jan. 7 from 6 to 7 p.m. in the North Café at MWCC’s Gardner campus, and Thursday, Jan. 14 from 6 to 7 p.m. at MWCC’s Leominster campus.

All students must meet Accuplacer/Placement requirements, attend or have attended a dual enrollment orientation session, complete a dual enrollment application, provide a high school transcript and payment.

Alexander Ramos Jr. of Leominster said he enrolls in dual enrollment courses to get a head start on his career goal of becoming an attorney. “I want to earn college credit while in high school and I want to challenge myself,” he said.

For more information about enrolling in CDEP courses, contact Melissa Bourque-Silva at m_bourque@mwcc.mass.edu or the Division of Access & Transition at 978-630-9248. Additional information about dual enrollment programs can be found online at mwcc.edu/access.

 

The Gardner News

Friday, July 10, 2015

GARDNER – A career-oriented dual enrollment program that allows high school seniors from Winchendon to simultaneously earn their diploma and an academic certificate while enrolled full time at Mount Wachusett Community Col­lege, is among three early college partnerships lauded in a newly released report from the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy.

The Rennie Center policy brief, Early College Designs: Ac­hieving College- and Career-Readiness for all Massachusetts Students, explores successful e­ar­ly college models as part of the center’s Roadmap to Ex­panding Opportunity series.

T­h­e Robinson-Broadhurst Fou­ndation Career Tech Sch­ol­arship program, a one-year, full-time dual enrollment program for seniors at Murdock Mi­ddle/High School, prepares students for a variety of careers including information technology, allied health, auto technology, cybersecurity, accounting, bookkeeping, analytical laboratory and quality systems, and small business management.

The program was established in 2012 through a grant from the Robinson-Broadhurst Fou­ndation to assist low-income, first-generation college stude­nts, and accepts up to six students each year.

By the end of a full academic year attending college courses, the students earn credentials to enter the workforce and compl­ete the first year toward an associate or bachelor’s degree. Stu­dents are provided with scholarships from the Robinson-Bro­adhurst Foundation to cover the costs of the college courses.

The programs highlighted in the policy brief “demonstrate that early college offers an innovative – and viable – solution to persistent problems of college access and persistence,” Chad d’Entremont, Executive Dir­ector of the Rennie Center, no­tes in a letter announcing the ne­w policy brief. “By allowing participants to accumulate college credits and complete foundational courses before leaving high school, early college helps put students on a trajectory toward degree attainment.”

In its brief, the Rennie Center notes the Mount Wac­husett-Murdock par­tner­ship includes a variety of support services for students, including weekly meetings with an advisor, and three hours each week of professional tutoring a­n­d peer tutoring. In addition, stu­dents retain their connection with their guidance counselor at Murdock.

The program, which begins its fifth year this fall, is an innovative partnership between the college, the Winchendon school system and the private community foundation, said Mount Wachusett President Daniel M. Asquino.

“We are most grateful for the continued support of the Rob­inson-Broadhurst Fo­un­dation. This program not only helps student achieve their goal of obtaining a college education without accruing tremendous loan debt, but ultimately suppo­rts the region’s economy by pre­paring young people with skills they can directly apply in the workforce.”

“The dual-enrollment program allows Murdock students a­­n amazing opportunity to earn college credits for free,” said Pri­ncipal Joshua Romano. “Any ad­vantage our students can get to become competitive with stude­nts from other schools just helps more of our students succeed in college and beyond.”

Being in the Robinson-Bro­adhurst dual-enrollment program was “a life-changing experience,” said Dakota Wood, a 2014 graduate who went on to earn an associate degree from Mount Wachusett in Allied Health in anticipation of continuing on for a degree in nursing. “I graduated high school with a free year of college under my belt. It’s absolutely the best thing I could have done.”

Wood said the flexible schedule allowed him to still participate in high school activities, in­c­luding music classes, band, chorus and theater productions.

In addition to the Com­monwealth Dual Enrollment Program, also cited in the policy brief, Mount Wachusett offers two other signature dual enrollment programs open to Mas­sachusetts students, The Pa­thways Early College Inn­ovation Sc­hool and the Ga­teway to Co­llege program, in partnership wi­th the Ralph C. Mahar Reg­ional School Di­strict.

An early college program bet­­ween Amesbury High Sch­ool and Northern Essex Com­mu­nity College, and a dual enr­ollment program between Mar­lborough High School an­d Fra­mingham State Un­ive­rsity, were also highlighted by the Rennie Center’s policy brief.

The Rennie Center was lau­nched in 2002 by then-Secr­etary of Education Paul Reville as a di­vision of the Mas­sachusetts In­s­titute for a New Com­m­onwealth (MassINC). In 2005, the Cambridge-based center be­came an independent non-profit organization committed to addressing the critical challenges of reforming education in Massachusetts.

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, and CVTE Transition Counselor and student advisor Shaunti Phillips.

Four Murdock High School seniors earned MWCC academic certificates through the Robinson-Broadhurst Career Tech Scholarship program during the past academic year. Pictured, from left, Andrew Phelps, Amber Dignan, Melanie Cranfill, and CVTE Transition Counselor and student advisor Shaunti Phillips. Missing from photo: Samantha Strong

A career-oriented dual enrollment program that allows high school seniors from Winchendon to simultaneously earn their diploma and an academic certificate while enrolled full time at Mount Wachusett Community College, is among three early college partnerships lauded in a newly released report from the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy.

The Rennie Center policy brief, Early College Designs: Achieving College- and Career-Readiness for all Massachusetts Students, explores successful early college models as part of the center’s Roadmap to Expanding Opportunity series. The Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation Career Tech Scholarship program, a one-year, full-time dual enrollment program for seniors at Murdock Middle/High School, prepares students for a variety of careers including information technology, allied health, auto technology, cybersecurity, accounting, bookkeeping, analytical laboratory and quality systems, and small business management.

The program was established in 2012 through a grant from the Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation to assist low-income, first-generation college students, and accepts up to six students each year. By the end of a full academic year attending college courses, the students earn credentials to enter the workforce and complete the first year toward an associate or bachelor’s degree. Students are provided with scholarships from the Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation to cover the costs of the college courses.

The programs highlighted in the policy brief “demonstrate that early college offers an innovative – and viable – solution to persistent problems of college access and persistence,” Chad d’Entremont, Executive Director of the Rennie Center, notes in a letter announcing the new policy brief.  “By allowing participants to accumulate college credits and complete foundational courses before leaving high school, early college helps put students on a trajectory toward degree attainment.”

In its brief, the Rennie Center notes the MWCC-Murdock partnership includes a variety of support services for students, including weekly meetings with an advisor, and three hours each week of professional tutoring and peer tutoring. In addition, students retain their connection with their guidance counselor at Murdock.

The program, which begins its fifth year this fall, is an innovative partnership between the college, the Winchendon school system and the private community foundation, said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “We are most grateful for the continued support of the Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation. This program not only helps student achieve their goal of obtaining a college education without accruing tremendous loan debt, but ultimately supports the region’s economy by preparing young people with skills they can directly apply in the workforce.”

“The dual-enrollment program allows Murdock students an amazing opportunity to earn college credits for free,” said Principal Joshua Romano. “Any advantage our students can get to become competitive with students from other schools just helps more of our students succeed in college and beyond.”

Being in the Robinson-Broadhurst dual-enrollment program was “a life-changing experience,” said Dakota Wood, a 2014 graduate who went on to earn an associate degree from MWCC in allied health in anticipation of continuing on for a degree in nursing. “I graduated high school with a free year of college under my belt. It’s absolutely the best thing I could have done.” Wood said the flexible schedule allowed him to still participate in high school activities, including music classes, band, chorus and theater productions.

In addition to the Commonwealth Dual Enrollment Program, also cited in the policy brief, Mount Wachusett offers two other signature dual enrollment programs open to Massachusetts students, The Pathways Early College Innovation School and the Gateway to College program, in partnership with the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District.

An early college program between Amesbury High School and Northern Essex Community College, and a dual enrollment program between Marlborough High School and Framingham State University, were also highlighted by the Rennie Center’s policy brief.

The Rennie Center was launched in 2002 by then-Secretary of Education Paul Reville as a division of the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth (MassINC). In 2005, the Cambridge-based center became an independent non-profit organization committed to addressing the critical challenges of reforming education in Massachusetts. For more information, visit www.renniecenter.org.

Bella 2

MWCC student Bella Ballin, second from left, is among this year’s recipients of the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s prestigious Christian A. Herter Memorial Scholarship. Pictured with her at the May 28 ceremony at the Massachusetts Statehouse, from left, Lea Ann Scales, MWCC Vice President of External Affairs, Communications and K-12 Partnerships, Natalie Mercier, director of MWCC’s Pathways Early College Innovation School and Early College Experience programs, and DHE Commissioner Richard Freeland.

Bella Ballin, a high school junior enrolled in the Pathways Early College Innovation School at Mount Wachusett Community College, is among the 25 recipients of this year’s prestigious Christian A. Herter Memorial Scholarship.

The award, presented by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education during a ceremony at the Statehouse on May 28, covers 50 percent of recipients’ expenses toward a bachelor’s degree at the public or private college or university of their choice.

“It really is a great honor,” said Ballin, a Worcester resident. “With this scholarship, many new opportunities are opening up for me that before were completely out of my range. I’m still looking for my niche, though I know I’m more oriented toward the STEM fields.”

As a dual enrollment student at MWCC, Ballin is majoring in Liberal Arts and Sciences with a concentration in chemistry and plans to continue studying science at a four year school after graduation. She said she enjoyed high school, but wanted to tap into the opportunities provided through the Pathways school, including the cost of tuition and fees covered through school choice funding. Pathways students simultaneously earn their high school diploma and a transferrable associate degree.

“The Pathways Early College Innovation School provides highly motivated and academically successful students, like Bella, the opportunity to start their college experience early while being engaged in a comprehensive support system that develops academic and social skills,” said Pathways Director Natalie Mercier. “Bella is a dedicated and hardworking student who exemplifies the mission of our program. We’re very proud of her.”

The Herter scholarship program provides educational opportunities to students who demonstrate profound personal strength and academic promise and desire to pursue postsecondary education. The program was established in 1972 by the Massachusetts State Legislature in honor of Herter, who served as the 59th governor of Massachusetts from 1953 to 1957 and as U.S. Secretary of State from 1959 to 1961.

 

 

 

 

 

MWCC Pathways & Gateway grads 2015An 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 homeschooled 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 academic. 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 in both programs for the fall semester.

 

Mount Wachusett Community College has scheduled a series of information sessions at its Gardner campus for fall enrollment into two of its popular dual enrollment programs: the Pathways Early College Innovation School and the Gateway to College program.

Dual enrollment students complete requirements for their high school diploma while simultaneously earning college credits or completing an associate degree. School choice funding covers the cost of tuition and fees of both programs, which are offered in partnership with the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District.

One of the first two innovation schools created 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 academic careers by simultaneously earning an associate degree and their high school diploma.

To be eligible for Pathways, students must live in Massachusetts, possess a minimum high school grade point average of 3.0, be at least 16 years old and entering grade 11 by the start of the fall semester, and be recommended by the sending school.

Students must attend a Pathways information session and have current Accuplacer scores in order to apply. Upcoming information sessions for the Pathways school will take place on May 12 and 14; June 16 and 18; and July 7 and 9. The first day of each session provides the information about the school, and the second day of each session includes the Accuplacer test.

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 or are at risk of dropping out. Students simultaneously earn their high school diploma as well as college credits toward an academic degree or certificate. The majority of the graduates continue their education at MWCC or at another college or university.

Gateway applicants must attend a three-day information session to be considered for the program. Upcoming Gateway information sessions will take place on May 12, 13 and 15; June 2, 3 and 5; June 16, 17 and 19; ; July 7, 8 and 10; Aug 4, 5 and 7; and August 18, 19 and 21.

To register for an upcoming information session in either program, or for more details about the programs, contact MWCC’s Division of Access & Transition at 978-630-9248 or visit mwcc.edu/access.

CJ

Charles “CJ” Husselbee, a first-generation college student, simultaneously earned his high school diploma and an academic certificate in accounting through MWCC’s Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation Career Tech Scholarship. He went on to earn an associate degree in Business Administration in 2014 a year ahead of schedule, and is now pursuing a bachelor’s in accounting at the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Mount Wachusett Community College’s dual enrollment programs are showcased as innovative models in the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy’s second annual report, the Condition of Education in the Commonwealth. The report, released January 22 by the Cambridge-based research institute, examines areas of success and areas for continued improvement in student outcomes across the education pipeline, from birth to college and career success.

The report notes MWCC’s record of success and its potential to serve as a model for other communities across  Massachusetts, citing as examples the Gateway to College program for students at risk of dropping out, the Pathways Early College Innovation School, and the Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation Career Tech Scholarship.

The second annual report includes a set of 25 data indicators representing critical student outcomes and, for the first time this year, an action guide that focuses on three areas where data indicate the need for further reform: setting a strong foundation in early childhood, attending to the whole child with comprehensive supports, and preparing college-ready students through innovative high school designs.

The action guide focuses on existing programs that could, if brought to scale, lead to substantial progress in educational outcomes for students. Mount Wachusett Community College was showcased as a model for policymakers and practitioners.

“The Condition of Education project offers a platform for constructive dialogue among stakeholders about the most effective strategies to promote student success,” said the center’s Executive Director Chad d’Entremont. “Through this report, the Rennie Center brings together thought leaders to develop a shared understanding, grounded in evidence, of the state of our educational system. We are excited to shine a light on the great work that Mount Wachusett is doing to contribute to positive outcomes for Massachusetts students.”

“Dual enrollment programs expand academic opportunities and open doors to higher education for teenagers,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “Our programs cover a wide spectrum – including programs that restore excitement in learning for students who feel disengaged from the traditional high school experience, to those that help students accelerate the pace of their studies to get an early start on their career goals. We are delighted to partner with the Rennie Center to share our best practices with communities across the commonwealth.”

The report was released during a forum on Jan. 22 in Boston. Speakers included Massachusetts Secretary of Education James Peyser, Dr. Andrew Hargreaves of the Lynch School of Education at Boston College and author of The Fourth Way: the Inspiring Future for Educational Change.

Building upon its successful Gateway to College program, MWCC partnered with the Mahar Regional School District to launch the Pathways Early College Innovation High School in. Students with a GPA of 3.0 enroll during their junior year and earn a high school diploma and an associate degree simultaneously. The program focuses on high-achieving students, and recruits a largely low-income, first-generation population that might not attend college without this opportunity. The Pathways school draws on a variety of public and private funds, including district school-choice funds, to remain sustainable.

In partnership with Winchendon Public Schools, high school students can opt into a one-year, full-time dual enrollment program that features career-oriented options, such as health care, information technology, accounting or computer science. Funded by the Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation, this program lets students earn their high school diploma and an academic certificate simultaneously, which can be applied toward an associate degree. The Rennie Center report notes that these are popular choices for students who are eager to complete a two-year degree or a work-based certification and enter the workforce quickly. Students are provided with private foundation scholarships from the Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation to cover the costs associated with coursework.

MWCC has also expanded on its college transition offerings in other ways as well, the report notes. As a solution to remediation, the college administers the Accuplacer math and English placement tests to all juniors in nine partner high schools. In addition, MWCC faculty collaborate with high school faculty to develop rigorous and targeted 12th grade math courses to prepare all students to enter directly into credit-bearing coursework upon graduation. Fitchburg High School, Leominster High School, Leominster High’s Center for Technical Education Innovation and Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical High School participate in this Math Modeling initiative, with a planned expansion to an additional two to three high schools in the 2015-16 school year.

The Rennie Center was launched in 2002 by then-Secretary of Education Paul Reville as a division of the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth (MassINC). In 2005, the Rennie Center became an independent non-profit organization committed to addressing the critical challenges of reforming education in Massachusetts. For more information and to view the report, visit www.renniecenter.org.

 

2014 Gateway and Pathways graduates

2014 Gateway and Pathways graduates

From the age-old wisdom of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to the reflections of teenagers wise beyond years, the May 27 graduation ceremony honoring 48 dual enrollment students at Mount Wachusett Community College offered a blend of insight and inspiration.

Students enrolled in the Gateway to College program and the Pathways Early College Innovation School, offered in partnership with the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District, were lauded for their accomplishments by educators, family members and friends gathered in the college’s Raymond M. LaFontaine Fine Arts Center theatre. As dual enrollment students, the graduates all completed the requirements for their high school diploma while simultaneously earning college credits or an associate degree.

“As I reflect on your accomplishments, one thing comes to mind and that is that you are going to be successful, for a variety of reasons, but one in particular. You have taken a different path to graduation. You decided to be nontraditional, you decided to think outside the box and be creative. All of these skills are going to be beneficial to you,” MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino told the graduates.

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it,” he said, quoting van Goethe. Determining one’s calling, the president continued, can be difficult in the face of many changes, compromises, demands of time and the constant interruptions of living in a fast-paced world. “So dream,” he said. “Set aside some time for deep reflection and insight.”

Mahar Superintendent of Schools Tari N. Thomas praised the graduates for their strength and tenacity, otherwise known as grit.

“Grit is defined as sticking with things over the long term until you master them,” she said. “Research shows when it comes to achievement, grit is determined to be as essential as intellect. Research is now showing our grittiest students, the ones who are working hard with the greatest amount of determination, are the ones realizing the greatest success and even the greatest GPAs. All of you are unique and strong. You’ve demonstrated the grit necessary for high achievement, scholarly success and more. You’re hard working, tenacious and diligent and it will pay off.”

Gateway valedictorian Zoe Greim shared her personal story of adversity and triumph. Diagnosed in high school with Multiple Sclerosis, she viewed the news as a “wake-up call” to take charge of her life and not waste a minute of time. Disenchanted with the high schools she attended, she enrolled in the Gateway to College program at the advice of a guidance counselor and was named to the dean’s list or president’s list during all three semesters at the college. This fall, she will transfer to a university in Florida to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

“We need to see life is too short to sit around and wait for good or bad things to come to us. We need to go out and make things happen. I know we can all do that, since we all made the decision to come here. We need to strive to be the best we can be. If you want something, go get it and don’t let anyone or anything stand in your way,” Greim told her fellow graduates.

Pathways valedictorian Erin Leamy reflected on the diverse paths each student took to reach their graduation day, as well as the common traits they all share.

“We all had something in common that inspired us to leave high school early and get a jump start on college. For some, it was simply time to move on. We no longer felt academically challenged. For others, high school had become stale, and we were looking for a fresh start. I can’t help but wonder how many diverse paths each of our lives will take – how many ways we’ll be challenged, and how each of us will respond to those challenges.”

Joseph Benavidez , who graduated in 2009 from the Gateway program and earned an associate degree in Liberal Arts from MWCC in 2010, was the keynote speaker. After graduating from MWCC, he transferred to Salem State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in communications in 2013 and is now working as a journalist.

“Tonight, you are all warriors after a battle. You’ve earned your high school diploma. Some of you have already received college degrees as well. It took sweat and hardship to get here and that deserves a round of applause.”

Deborah Bibeau, assistant dean of transitions programming at MWCC, praised the partnership between the college and the school district. “As a testament to the long-term collaboration with the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District, this summer we’ll be preparing for the new Pathways students entering the program’s fifth year of operation, and new Gateway students entering the program’s ninth year of operation.”