Leominster High School

medical-documents-stethoscopeMount Wachusett Community College and the Fitchburg and Leominster public school districts are creating a new Workforce Diversity Pipeline program for students interested in healthcare careers.

MWCC has been awarded a five-year, $2.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health to create the Workforce Diversity Pipeline Program. The program, which also addresses a national initiative to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities, will offer counseling, coaching, field trips, guest speakers, and dual enrollment courses for 120 high school students attending Fitchburg High School, Leominster High School and Leominster Center for Technical Education Innovation.

The goal of the program is to increase the number of underrepresented minority and disadvantaged healthcare providers by creating a high school to college pipeline of students who plan to enter the healthcare field. Health disparities – differences in health outcomes that are closely linked with social, economic, and environmental disadvantage – are often driven by the social conditions in which individuals live, learn, work and play. The workforce pipeline initiative aligns with federal initiatives to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities, known as the HHS Disparities Action Plan.

“We are grateful to our federal legislative delegation for their ongoing support of students in our region,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “We look forward to this new partnership with the Fitchburg and Leominster school districts to prepare students for careers in healthcare, provide access to higher education, and ultimately work to address disparities in healthcare,” he said.

“It’s great that Mount Wachusett Community College is partnering with the Fitchburg and Leominster school districts to create this new opportunity for students interested in healthcare careers,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren. “The Workforce Diversity Pipeline program will provide significant support and guidance to help put young people on a path to college, and I’m very glad the federal government is supporting it with this grant,” she said.

“In order for our students to compete in the 21st century innovation economy, they need to be prepared with the skills of tomorrow,” said Senator Edward J. Markey. “This grant will ensure Mount Wachusett Community College continues to equip low-income and first generation students to compete in the global economy. I congratulate Mount Wachusett Community College for securing this funding and for its commitment to helping students of all backgrounds and abilities achieve their dreams.”

“Healthcare is one of our country’s fastest-growing industries and preparing today’s students to fill those jobs is vitally important to supporting healthy communities and a strong economy,” Congressman Jim McGovern said. “As we add more and more good-paying jobs in this industry, we must ensure that all of our students and graduates have the opportunity to enter this field.  With this grant, Mount Wachusett Community College and Fitchburg and Leominster public school districts will be able to partner on a new Workforce Diversity Pipeline program that will help to achieve that goal,” he said.

“Using federal funds to partner with local institutions to address the needs of the region is a key tool in ensuring all people have the opportunity to pursue higher education,” said Congresswoman Niki Tsongas. “The significant return on these investments will have ongoing reverberations for many years to come, as more students are encouraged and able to complete their college careers and enter the workforce with the skills necessary to succeed,” she said.

“Mount Wachusett received these funds after a rigorous grant process, which speaks to both the quality of their applications and the school in general. They exemplify the growing trend of Third District institutions that are becoming leaders in Massachusetts’ academic world, but also in important industries, such as healthcare, all while pursuing innovative ways to provide academic opportunities to all students. I look forward to seeing the far-reaching benefits take hold,” Tsongas said.

Within five years, two cohorts of ninth graders from the classes of fall 2015 and fall 2016 will graduate from high school prepared to enter MWCC’s Pre-Healthcare Academy. By the end of their second semester at MWCC, students will have completed 15 college credits. By earning dual enrollment college credits, students can complete a healthcare certificate program within the first year or two of college, and an associate degree within three years of entering college. Students are motivated to transfer to a four-year institution to continue with healthcare studies.


Mount Wachusett Community College pre-engineering student Casey Bortle pilots the college’s new drone during a Math Modeling Initiative presentation to 350 area high school seniors.

Mount Wachusett Community College pre-engineering student Casey Bortle pilots the college’s new drone during a Math Modeling Initiative presentation to 350 area high school seniors.

Mount Wachusett Community College lauded the 350 high school students participating in this year’s Math Modeling Initiative and encouraged them to explore the opportunities available through a college education.

As part of the Oct. 29 event, students and teachers from partnering institutions Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School, Fitchburg High School, Leominster High School and Leominster’s Center for Technical Education Innovation witnessed the unveiling of MWCC’s new quadcopter drone.

Through the initiative, MWCC offers the Modeling in Mathematics course to provide essential skills to high school seniors who require developmental math education. The free course emphasizes complex problem solving and the application of math in everyday life and eliminates the need for students to take remedial mathematics upon entering college.

“I want to congratulate you for getting a head start on your mathematics education and thank the faculty and staff who commit to your welfare,” MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino said during his opening remarks. “Our goal is to help you become college-ready so that you can move on to earn your degrees. Math has traditionally been an impediment to students, but by being college-ready, you will be unique.”

Led by MWCC Professor and Math Department Chair Yoav Elinevsky, educators from MWCC’s Access & Transition and Academic Affairs divisions and LHS developed the initiative as a pilot program in 2012. After 116 LHS seniors initially took one of six Modeling in Mathematics sections, MWCC expanded the initiative for the 2014-2015 academic year to include Monty Tech and Fitchburg High.

“Congratulations on being so close to graduating high school and preparing yourself for college and the job market,” Elinevsky said.

To promote the physics department and the importance of mathematics, faculty member Dr. Peter Olszak and students Adam Suzor and Casey Bortle led a demonstration of the quadcopter drone, which hovered for several minutes while displaying a live video feed.

Dean of Students Jason Zelesky, a first-generation college student, emphasized the importance of a college education as an investment in their future. Recruitment Counselor Natasha Robinson, Career/Vocational Education Transition Counselor Shaunti Phillips and Kijah Gordon, academic advisor for STEM programs, discussed the enrollment process, articulation agreements, and the college’s STEM Set Scholarships and STEM Starter Academy.

In addition, chairs from academic departments, including Dan Donovan from computer information systems, John Little from media arts & technology, and Tom Matsuda from art explained their respective programs. Students from the pilot course encouraged their successors to take advantage of the program and continue their educations after graduating high school.

– Cameron Woodcock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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