Gateway to College

Eden Shaveet graduated from MWCC’s Gateway to College program recently; receiving her high school and Associate’s degrees. Photo Courtesy Sentinel Enterprise)

On Friday, May 19 Eden Shaveet graduated with her high school degree and Associate’s degree after thinking just a few years earlier that she would never return to school.

Shaveet left traditional school at the age of 14 and never thought she was going to get her high school diploma let alone her Associate’s degree that she earned through the program. Shaveet reclaimed her education at the Gateways program and exceed all expectations, achieving recognition on the President’s List for maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPA throughout her entire college career and becoming an integral part of campus life as a Student Leader in Civic Engagement. She will be attending Elms College in the fall to pursue her baccalaureate degree.

During her speech, Shaveet highlighted the need for continued support for programs like Gateway to College:

“Hi. My name is Eden Shaveet. I’m 19 years old. I’m a Gateway student, I work at the college, and I love what I do.
That’s how I usually introduce myself to people. But today I thought I would introduce myself in a way I haven’t yet done before.

So Hi. My name is Eden Shaveet. I’m 19 years old. And I have attended 9 different schools throughout my lifetime. By the age of 12, I had been subjected daily to verbal and physical harassment by my peers to the point that I no longer wanted to attend school. At 13 I was shoved into a locker. At 14 I left school. By 15 I was purchasing and using substances I acquired from people in parking lots. At 16, I had adopted self-harm as my only means to cope. And at 17 I had lost all hope in myself.

Not as happy as the first intro, right?

But that’s the reality. And it’s a similar reality to those experienced by a lot of people, many of whom you may have never expected it from. And that makes us uncomfortable, right? So we don’t talk about it. And that creates a silence that often goes unacknowledged.

But it’s from that discomfort and from that silence that we are able to recognize the flaws in our perceptions that ultimately lead to the flaws in what we consider to be normal, appropriate, fair, and acceptable in our society.

Given my background as a former dropout and my current work in local public schools, I consider myself to be an advocate for education. And through this work, drawing from both personal experience and observation, something has made itself glaringly evident: As it currently stands, the education system in this country as a whole, inherently places certain populations of students at a significant disadvantage.

Eden Shaveet listens to her story being told by MWCC’s Commencement Speaker Attorney General Maura Healey at the college’s Commencement.

Populations such as students from low-income households, students who are first generation, students who dropped out or are at risk of dropping out, students who are disengaged from their communities, students who are bullied – all of these students are being underserved by a system intended to educate them equally and fairly, and it is the job of programs like Gateway to College, Talent Search, Upward Bound, and Gear Up to even the playing field and provide opportunity to these students that may not have been granted to them otherwise. Yet there are still people who believe that these programs lack meaning and value. There are still people who refuse to see any purpose in providing support to students in this capacity. In my everyday life, I have encountered people who have challenged me to defend the significance of the programs I have been a part of and worked for, with no intent to listen, and every intent to refute. Someone once even challenged me to defend Gateway to College as an alternative route to education, because they believed that as a student, I should have just been able to “stick it out” in my previous circumstances and to stop seeking assistance that wasn’t necessary. Well from a student’s perspective, I can tell you with the utmost amount of certainty that in the absence of such outreach programs I would not be where I am today and the fact that we have to fight to keep these programs functioning in our schools and communities is absurd.

According to a recent Gateway to College National Network study, the average GPA of students before they entered the Gateway program was a 1.62 on a 4.0 scale. By the end of their first term in the Gateway program, 83% of these same students earned a higher GPA than they had earned in high school, with over an entire grade-point improvement.

It is by unfortunate design that students of particular circumstances slip through the cracks in our education system, but it is contrary to such designs that programs like Gateway to College catch us before we fall, despite the barriers put in our way.

It’s no secret that barriers to opportunity emerge very early in life and that these barriers are highly indicative of a person’s likelihood to attain future success. Sometimes these barriers emerge in early childhood and sometimes they emerge even before a person exists, like a circumstance they were born into that they had no control over such as a lack of resources in an area they grew up in, that other areas or school systems did have access to. In our culture of desiring the “American Dream,” we’ve adopted this idea that if you want something badly enough, you can just work as hard as everyone else, and get it, right? But here’s the unpopular reality: Sometimes wanting it isn’t enough. Some people will never attain their aspirations due to the sheer fact that they lacked the support systems and opportunities that other people had readily available to them. The work of programs like Gateway to College and other outreach initiatives provide the resources we might not have otherwise received, and we are better off for it. We have to invest in our kids, invest in education, and support programs like Gateway to College, and so long as I’m around, so help me God, there will always be an advocate.

I’m eternally grateful to Gateway to College, and to Mount Wachusett for being a platform to offer this program to students like me who had nowhere else to turn. Thank you for opening your doors to me two years ago when any other school would have slammed them in my face.

I’m thankful for everyone who works in the division of Access and Transition, but especially to my resource specialist Sharmese Gunn for being my second mom whether I liked it or not.

Eden Shaveet stands with MWCC’s 2017 Commencement speaker Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey following commencement.

Because of you I am finally a high school graduate, a college graduate with my associate’s degree, and an accepted student on her way to a four year degree and beyond – a feat that could not have happened in the absence of these programs. None of this would have been possible without the tireless and often thankless work you have all dedicated your lives to. Thank you for giving me a chance, for seeing something in me that I couldn’t see in myself, for always encouraging me to embrace my story rather than hide it, and to always question “the norm.”
If there is anything I have taken away from all of you, it is this sentiment that I will now pass on to any student in the audience who is unhappy with where they are in school, or feels like they’re seen as nothing more than a number: Do not be afraid to be the only voice willing to question common practice. Because in many cases, the practices we have accepted as common and “the norm” are in fact the obstacles they claim to be averting. Do not be afraid to stand up, even if you are standing alone. You are more than what this system has predetermined you to be. Take that, and run with it.

And run with this:

In a system where over 1 million students will drop out of high school next year, where over 3.2 million students will be the victim of bullying while in school, where 1 out of every 4 students will exhibit the symptoms of mental illness as the result of chronic stress, and where 32% of traditional high school graduates in 2011 chose to not pursue higher education, but 73% of Gateway to College graduates did, allow my story, and the story of every Gateway to College graduate in this theater, across this State, throughout this country, past, present, and future be a testament to the idea that maybe, the problem is not with the student.

Thank you all so much, and congratulations to the class of 2017.”

Members of the 2017 Classes of the Pathways Early College Innovation School and the Gateway to College program graduated Friday night with their high school diplomas as well as college credits or degrees.

Over 60 students celebrated earning their high school diploma along with college credits or degrees through Mount Wachusett Community College’s dual enrollment programs Friday night.

This year’s graduates of the Pathways Early College Innovation School and the Gateway to College program were recognized during the May 19 graduation ceremony at MWCC. The programs are offered in partnership with the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District, the Athol Early College Experience and the Robinson Broadhurst Foundation, Inc. Career Tech Scholarship Program. They 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.

Gateway to College Valedictorian Eden Shaveet left traditional school at the age of 14 and never thought she was going to get her high school diploma let alone her Associate’s degree that she earned through the program. During her speech, Shaveet highlighted the need for continued support for programs like Gateway to College.

“In the absence of such programs, I would not be where I am today and the fact that we have to fight for these programs is absurd,” said Shaveet. “Programs like Gateway to College catch us before we fall to barriers in our way… I am eternally grateful to Gateway to College and Mount Wachusett for providing these opportunities where otherwise none would exist.”

Shaveet reclaimed her education at the Gateways program and exceed all expectations, achieving recognition on the President’s List for maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPA throughout her entire college career and becoming an integral part of campus life as a Student Leader in Civic Engagement. She will be attending Elms College in the fall to pursue her baccalaureate degree.

Pathways Early College Innovation School Valedictorian Faith Kurtz is graduating with a 3.98 GPA. She has been accepted to attend WPI this fall to study Electrical Engineering.

“My professors here have been kind, reasonable and understanding people who have my best interests in mind and many have gone above and beyond,” said Kurtz.

In addition to her academic achievements, Kurtz threw herself into the community and logged over 200 volunteer hours in her first six months; embracing the motto that you won’t start succeeding until you start doing. She hopes to continue giving back to her community through engineering after finishing her studies at WPI.

“Every student here deserves the success they have because they have earned it … You can’t fake what you have done,” said Kurtz. “To everyone in the audience – thank you for supporting these outstanding individuals and I would ask you to continue supporting them in whatever their next endeavor is.”

Keynote speaker MWCC President James Vander Hooven encouraged the students to listen and contemplate their interactions with others because there is no telling what words will prove influential.

“Write these things down and learn strategies by incorporating them into your life,” said President Vander Hooven.

In closing, the president added his own words of advice and encouragement to the graduates.

“Don’t over complicate your lives. Simplify. Simplify. Simplify. Congratulations to each and every one of you. We are so proud of you,” said President Vander Hooven.

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.

 

The Gateway to College graduates were:

 

Ashburnham

Mia DeFalco

Dustin Estelle

 

Athol

Leah Breen

Legacy Brooks

Kimberly Favreau

Sasha McCraney-Montalvo

 

Baldwinville

Joelle Austin

Melinda Martin

Dylan Tambolleo

 

Barre

Julianna Ladd

 

Clinton

Victoria DaSilva

Serena Ferri-Lima

Angela Nicoli

 

Devens

Owen Kennedy

 

Fitchburg

Benjamin Almeida

Michael Hidalgo

Julia Mangiacotti

 

Gardner

Victoria Duprey

Nicholas Kapp

Taylor Putnam

Maurisa Weld

Hubbardston

Breanna Maysonet

Eden Shaveet

Zachariah Tancrell

 

Leominster

Daniella Caetano

Sharie Melendez

Alexandria Ridlon

Zachary Riley

Scott Russo

Jareth Skelton

Andrew Wegiel

 

Lunenburg

Rachel Wyman

 

Pepperell

Sydney Hudson

 

Petersham

Sarah Haynes

Richard Tripoli

 

Phillipston

Nicholas Allard

 

Templeton

Brendon Boulanger

 

Townsend

Jonathan Blouin

 

Westminster

Rebecca Schlier

 

Winchendon

Mary Grace Daly

Sydney Jaber

Sabrina Martin

 

The Pathways Early College Innovation School graduates were:

 

Ashburnham

Cassandra Cardillo

Rachel Vargeletis

 

Ashby

Aaron Kenney

 

Athol

Cameron Raymond

 

Athol Early College Experience

Zachary Bergquist

Natasha Ledoux

Lindsey Lee

 

Barre

Gabrielle Walker

 

Clinton

Jason Tovar

 

Fitchburg

Nathan Pierce

 

Gardner

Michael Sadowski

 

Holden

Faith Kurtz

 

Hubbardston

Alison Germagian

 

Leominster

Olivia Gianakis

 

Methuen

Alicia Schiller

 

Orange

Maris Clement

Benjamin Gilmore

Rachel Lundgren

Templeton

Zoe Hammond

 

Winchendon

Natalie Chretien

Jay Pereira (Robinson Broadhurst)

Gateway to College students at Mount Wachusett Community College take classes at the college through which they earn their high school diploma as well as college credit. MWCC’s Gateway to College program was recently recognized for exceeding all four of the Gateway to College National Network’s performance benchmarks: grade point average, one-year persistence, two-year persistence and graduation rate.

Mount Wachusett Community College has been recognized with a 2017 Gateway Program Excellence Award from the Gateway to College National Network.

The award honors MWCC for exceeding all four of the Gateway to College National Network’s performance benchmarks: grade point average, one-year persistence, two-year persistence and graduation rate.

“We all enjoy our education. That is why we are here. We all want to be here,” said Gateway to College Junior Morgan Blavackas who explained that the program helps students accelerate their education. “Even if you’re behind you can get ahead two-fold here.”

MWCC’s Gateway to College program is a free, full-immersion dual enrollment program for Massachusetts students ages 16 to 21 who have dropped out of high school, are at risk of dropping out or have experienced a setback in high school. The program provides motivated students a fresh chance to achieve academic success while getting a jumpstart on college.

Established in 2005 as the first Gateway site in New England, MWCC’s Gateway program is offered in partnership with the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District. Students simultaneously earn their high school diploma as well as college credits toward an academic degree or certificate. All classes take place on MWCC’s campuses.

“This award recognizes not only the hard work of MWCC’S Gateway to College team, but all of the Gateway to College students who put in time and effort to be successful and exceed these important benchmarks. We are truly honored to have been selected for this award,” said Fagan Forhan, MWCC’s Assistant Dean K-12 Partnerships and Civic Engagement.

The Gateway to College National Network has programs operating at 40 colleges in 21 states as a strategy to address the needs of off-track and out-of-school youth.

MWCC is currently enrolling Gateway to College students for the Fall 2017 academic year. For more information about the program or to register for an information session, call 978-630-9248 or visit mwcc.edu/gateway.

Gateway photo

Sharmese Gunn, left, MWCC Gateway to College Senior Resource Specialist, and Lea Ann Scales, right, Vice President of External Affairs, Community Relations and K-12 Partnerships, accept the Gateway Program Excellence Award from Emily Froimson, President of the Gateway to College National Network.

Mount Wachusett Community College has been recognized with a 2016 Gateway Program Excellence Award from the Gateway to College National Network.

The award honors MWCC for exceeding all four of the Gateway to College National Network’s performance benchmarks: grade point average, one-year persistence, two-year persistence and graduation rate. The award was presented June 28 during Gateway’s College Peer Learning Conference at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

“The Gateway to College program opens doors and provides a true second chance for students to achieve academic success,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “We are proud to partner with the Gateway national network in this transformative work, and are delighted to be recognized with this year’s program excellence award.”

MWCC’s Gateway to College program is a free, full-immersion dual enrollment program for Massachusetts students ages 16 to 21 who have dropped out of high school, are at risk of dropping out, or have experienced a setback in high school. The program, also available to home schooled students, provides motivated students a fresh chance to achieve academic success while getting a jumpstart on college. Established in 2005 as the first Gateway site in New England, MWCC’s Gateway program is offered in partnership with the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District. Students simultaneously earn their high school diploma as well as college credits toward an academic degree or certificate. All classes take place on MWCC’s campuses.

“Thanks to the hard work of MWCC’S Gateway to College team, our students exceeded all four national benchmarks,” said Lea Ann Scales, vice president of external affairs, communications and K-12 partnerships. “More importantly, this award recognizes the success our students and graduates are achieving.”

More than 40 communities across the country have implemented the Gateway to College model as a strategy to address the needs of many off-track and out-of-school youth.

“Mount Wachusett’s program, based on a strong partnership and shared vision with your school districts as well as exceptional program and college leadership – is poised to build on its successes and can serve as an example for the rest of our network,” stated Gateway to College National Network President Emily Froimson. “You have not simply made a difference for students in Gardner Massachusetts; the work that your school district and college partnership has accomplished is a model for how we solve these persistent problems as a nation.”

“A theme of the conference, establishing relationships with students, rings true with the students we serve at MWCC, which has made this award possible,” said Sharmese Gunn, senior resource specialist.

MWCC is currently enrolling Gateway to College students for the academic year that begins Sept. 6. Applicants must attend a two-day information session to be considered for the program. Upcoming information sessions will take place on July 20 and 22, Aug. 3 and 5 and Aug. 10 and 12. For more information about the program or to register for an information session, call 978-630-9248 or visit mwcc.edu/gateway.

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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.

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A dozen current and recent graduates of MWCC’s Gateway to College program recently shared their experiences with 27 incoming Gateway students. Pictured from left, Katriona Bell, Mariah Courtemanche, Mary Grace Daly, Angela Nicoli, Jasmine Welch, Anders Bigelbach, Alysia Ladd, Mya Shepard, Manny Corbeil, Kayla Pollack, Jason Alvarado-Gomes and Arturo Aponte-Cruz.

With the new academic semester about to begin, Mount Wachusett Community College is welcoming its largest spring cohort of Gateway to College students to campus.

The free dual-enrollment program, offered in partnership with the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District, is open to Massachusetts residents ages 16 to 21 who have dropped out of high school, are at risk of dropping out, or experienced a setback due to health or personal reasons. Home schooled students are also eligible to enroll in the program, which allows students to simultaneously earn a high school diploma and college credits toward an academic degree or certificate.

“I’m excited to be surrounded by people who have priorities,” said Kali Stetson, 16, of Orange, one of 27 new Gateway students from throughout central and north central Massachusetts who will begin classes on January 20.

During the week of January 11, the cohort attended a three-day orientation which included a “Been there, done that!” panel presentation with 12 current Gateway students and recent graduates; information sessions on technology, student support services and resources, and campus clubs and activities; campus and library tours; a viewing of the film “Homeless to Harvard: the Liz Murray Story,” and an indoor ropes course at Cottage Hill Academy in Baldwinville.

A national program that began in 2000 in Portland, OR, Gateway to College is now offered at 43 colleges in 23 states. MWCC’s Gateway to College program, now in its 10th year, was the first program established in New England and now serves nearly 100 students each year.

The program provides students with full access to campus resources and a dedicated resource specialist for academic advising counseling, tutoring and instructional support. School choice funding covers the cost of tuition and fees. Students also receive free textbooks during their first semester and are eligible to continue receiving free textbooks if they earn a grade point average of 3.0 or above.

“Students come here for a variety of reasons,” said MWCC Senior Resource Specialist Sharmese Gunn. “Some come for the environment – it’s a different environment than high school and allows them more flexibility with their time and schedules. Others come in due to medical issues, or they have been home schooled and this is their first formal classroom experience. Some students want to have that academic rigor. They enroll as a cohort and we create a community within the college for them. They take some courses together when they are starting out, then continue on with a major of their choice.”

“I really was inspired to further my education and the Gateway program provides a great opportunity,” said current student Manny Corbeil, 19, of Baldwinville. After he graduates this spring with an associate degree in liberal arts & sciences and academic certificates in business administration and small business management, he plans to transfer to a four-year college or university to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

“I like everything about Gateway and the college experience,” said Mariah Courtemanche of Orange, who plans to become a certified nurse assistant and then continue her education to become a registered nurse. The flexibility of a college schedule allows her better balance family time with her two-year-old daughter and a part-time job, she said. “I can work and spend time with my daughter.”

This spring, MWCC will begin hosting information sessions for students interested in enrolling in the Gateway to College program for the fall 2016 semester. For more information, visit mwcc.edu/gateway or call 978-630-9248.

 

 

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.”