Gateway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This year’s graduates include:

Pathways Early College Innovation School

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

Gateway to College

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

Brother and sister Thomas and Claudia Elbourn of Gardner were valedictorians from the Pathways Early College Innovation School in 2012 and 2013. Mount Wachusett Community College is accepting applications for 20 new students to enroll in the innovative dual enrollment program this fall.

Motivated teens interested in paring two years of time and expenses off their college education should check out the Pathways Early College Innovation School at Mount Wachusett Community College. Praised by state education officials, parents and participating students, the two-year, dual enrollment program allows high school juniors to simultaneously earn their high school diploma and a transferable associate degree in the academic program of their choice.One of the first two innovation schools created in Massachusetts in 2010 under Governor Deval Patrick’s education reform bill and the state’s first early college innovation school, Pathways provides high school juniors and home schooled students the opportunity to accelerate the pace of their academic careers using school choice funds to cover tuition and fees.

Twenty new students will be accepted into the Pathways innovation school for the semester beginning Sept. 4. To be eligible, 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.

The Pathways innovation school is a partnership between MWCC and the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District. Students are enrolled in college courses and integrated into campus life, and receive personalized advising from MWCC’s Division of Access & Transition throughout their studies. More than 30 students have graduated to date and 19 are on target to graduate in 2014.

“Pathways students are motivated and mature,” said Natalie Mercier, director and principal of the innovation school. “They chose to leave the traditional high school environment so that they can step into a college education and complete a two-year degree before they even officially graduate from high school. These students are not just passing classes at MWCC they are thriving,” she said.

Massachusetts Secretary of Education Matthew Malone, former Secretary Paul Reville, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Mitchell D. Chester and Higher Education Commissioner Richard Freeland have been among the officials to visit the Pathways school and praise it as an innovative, successful model.

Many members of the first graduating class, including 2012 valedictorian Thomas Elbourn of Gardner, are entering their senior year this fall at a four-year institution.

“After being home schooled, I expected the transition to a public college to be difficult,” Elbourn said. “Instead, it was so natural-feeling, and I felt the program was too good to be true. This program allowed me to propel my undergraduate education by two years.” After graduating from Assumption College with a bachelor’s degree in psychology this coming spring, he plans to begin pursuing his master’s degree.

His sister, Claudia, was this year’s Pathways valedictorian and is transferring to Gordon College in the fall to pursue a degree in English.

“This was the most wonderful two years of my life because I built the foundation of people that I know, that I love, and that I can turn to as role models for my future self,” she said.

The siblings said they enjoyed the caliber of education and guidance they received, though agree the rigorous program may not be an ideal pace for everyone.

“It was perfect for them – they loved everything about it,” said their mother, Joanie Elbourn. “They loved the professors, they loved the courses. I can’t say enough about it.”

An information session for prospective applicants will take place Tuesday, July 23 from 6 to 7 p.m. in room W11 at MWCC’s Gardner campus, 444 Green Street. Appointments and information also may be arranged by contacting Pathways Director/Principal Natalie Mercier atnmercier@mwcc.mass.edu or 978-630-9248.

Gateways and Pathways Graduating Class 2013

Information sessions for the Pathways Early College Innovation School and the Gateway to College program will take place this summer at MWCC’s Gardner campus.

School choice funding covers the cost of tuition and fees of both programs.Twenty new students will be accepted into the two-year, year-round Pathways school this fall. One of the first two innovation schools created in Massachusetts as part of Governor Deval Patrick’s education reform bill and the first early college innovation school, Pathways 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. Upcoming information sessions about the Pathways school will take place on June 11, 18 and 25 and July 9 from 6 to 7 p.m.

The 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 in the field of their choice. Approximately 100 students from throughout the area are enrolled in the Gateway program each year. The majority of the graduates continue their education at MWCC or at another college or university.

Gateway applicants must attend a three-day session to be considered for the program. Upcoming Gateway information sessions will take place on June 18, 19 and 20; July 9, 10 and 11; Aug 6, 7 and 8; August 20, 21 and 22.

To register for an upcoming information session in either program, contact MWCC’s Division of Access & Transition at 978-630-9248.