STEM Starter Academy

Louis Ayisi

Pre-engineering student Louis Ayisi is headed to Carnegie Mellon University this fall, and has also been selected to participate in the year-long i-Trek research program with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Louis Ayisi, a pre-engineering student at Mount Wachusett Community College, is one of 15 students selected for the 2015-2016 i-Trek research team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The competitive program is open to undergraduate students from varying schools who are currently pursuing a degree in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) and are interested in gaining research experience.

i-Trek (I Turn Research into Empowerment and Knowledge) provides undergraduates students with support as they conduct a self-defined, community-based research project. Working with MIT mentors and professors, students select a research project, work together as a virtual team during the school year, then return for a two-week data collection trek the following June at a location selected by the team.

Along with defining and executing their research ideas, students are guided through the process of funding, organizing and publicizing their research. At the end of the project, team members lead a STEM-focused outreach initiative for high school students based on their research. Participants gain research skills, grant and fundraising experience, and leadership skills to help make them competitive candidates at a graduate institution.

The team’s project, proposed by Ayisi, will focus on the conversion of waste products into energy and clean water.

Following a semester of college in Ghana, Ayisi moved to the U.S. in March 2014 to continue his studies. The Leominster resident selected MWCC for its strong pre-engineering program and transfer opportunities.

“I was attracted to the Mount’s motto, ‘Start Near…Go Far.’ I said to myself, ‘This is exactly what I want to do,’” Ayisi recalled. “The pre-engineering curriculum was strong and transferable toward a bachelor’s degree at the universities I was interested in.” He was accepted this spring into Carnegie Mellon University, Purdue University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Harvey Mudd College and the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, to name a few.

This fall, the 21-year-old is transferring to Carnegie Mellon on a generous university scholarship to pursue a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. While at CMU, he will simultaneously complete his associate degree at MWCC. He plans to return to the Gardner campus in May for Commencement. After earning his bachelor’s degree, he intends to enroll in graduate school and ultimately work as an engineering consultant and professor.

Ayisi attributes his academic success to the support he received from his faculty and staff mentors at MWCC, including Professors Aliza Miller, Shawn Case and Peter Olszak; Janice Barney, Dean of the School of Business, Science, Technology and Math; Sharmese Gunn of the division of Access & Transition; President Daniel M. Asquino and the college administration; and the MWCC Foundation. He is one of MWCC’s STEM SET scholars, a program funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation; a member of the STEM Starter Academy, a program funded by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education; and the college’s TRIO Visions Program.

Among many academic and civic activities, he is a member of the Honors Program, the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, the National Society of Leadership and Success honor society, the National Student Math League, and Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities. He served as a student ambassador in the admissions office, as president of the Math Club, as a calculus and chemistry tutor in the college’s Academic Support Center, as a math tutor at the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster, and as a volunteer during the United Way Day of Caring.

Ayisi was named to the President’s List for academic achievement during each of his semesters at MWCC, and this spring, was the first recipient of the Roberts Scholar Award, named in memory of long-serving administrator Glenn Roberts. He also was a student speaker at a higher education advocacy event at the Statehouse, and during a state DOE event in Worcester with former Governor Deval Patrick.

“I was motivated and honored to be involved,” Ayisi said. “At the Mount, the people are near and dear, and they can empower you to reach your dreams. Every student should realize the Mount is a well-positioned catapult, ready to send its students wherever they want. Just fix yourself in it, and let the sky be your stepping stone,” he said.

“Louis exemplifies the best sort of student who takes every opportunity to participate and explore, all while challenging himself to excel,” said Dean Barney. “It has been our privilege to work with him at the start of his educational path, and we stand proudly behind him while he continues his journey toward future excellence.”

STEM Starter Summer Academy photo 3 Ifra and Marissa

Mount Wachusett Community College students Ifra Hassan and Marissa Pitisci are among the students participating in the college’s Stem Starter Summer Academy.

Along with typical summertime activities, Adam Leyenaar spent the better part of the season getting a jump start on his college degree.

A 2015 graduate of the Parker Charter School, Leyenaar was one of 16 area students participating in Mount Wachusett Community College’s eight-week STEM Starter Summer Academy. Students received up to two free college courses, textbooks, a substantial stipend, academic support and tutoring.

“I want to be an immunologist, so I need a good background,” said Leyenaar, who plans to earn an associate degree in medical laboratory technology so he can work in the field while pursuing his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Funded through a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, the STEM Starter Summer Academy is open to high school graduates or qualifying MWCC students who place into college-level English and math courses and are enrolling in one of MWCC’s STEM majors in the fall.

Qualifying MWCC STEM majors include allied health, biology, biotechnology, chemistry, computer information systems, fitness leadership and exercise science, medical laboratory technology, natural resources, physics and pre-engineering.

STEM Starter Summer Academy photo 2 Adam and Joe

Students Adam Leyenaar and Joe Vasilak solve a math problem in a recent spacial reasoning workshop.

Courses offered during the summer academy included intermediate algebra, introduction to functions and modeling, life science for allied health, anatomy and physiology I, general chemistry II and introduction to psychology. In addition to the coursework, students helped run experiments at Rapoport Lab at Harvard Medical School, visited AbbVie medical labs in Worcester, and toured the construction site of MWCC’s new STEM building, which will open in 2016. The students also participated in MWCC’s Summer Leadership Academy.

“Our students have had an outstanding summer and are ready to continue their studies this fall with two courses already under their belt,” said Christine Davis, MWCC’s STEM Starter Academy recruiter. Students from more than 10 area towns enrolled in the rigorous program, and tackled classes in an accelerated format that will prepare them for their careers, she said.

Many of the academy students are also recipients of STEM SET scholarships. These awards of up to $3,500 per year are available to qualifying STEM majors through a grant the college received from the National Science Foundation.

Ifra Hassan enrolled in MWCC’s liberal arts biological studies program with the goal of continuing her studies in medicine and become a doctor. Hassan said she chose the college for its supportive environment. “I wanted to start my career where I will receive teachers’ support,” she said.

Next year, up to 30 students will be accepted into the Stem Starter Summer Academy. For more information, contact MWCC’s admission’s office at 978-630-9110 or admissions@mwcc.mass.edu.

 

Johnson Dang

Johnson Dang of Ayer creates a strand of his own DNA during MWCC’s STEM Awareness Day.

Aspiring scientists, engineers and mathematicians interested in high tech careers discovered a host of options during Mount Wachusett Community College’s second annual STEM Awareness Day on March 6.

The event featured a variety of hands-on demonstrations ranging from trying out equipment used in 3D printing to creating a necklace containing one’s own DNA, as well information on various academic careers, financial aid and transfer options. It also showcased MWCC’s upcoming STEM Starter Academy and STEM SET scholarship program.

The college is currently recruiting students for its STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Starter Summer Academy. Participating students will receive two free college courses, textbooks, up to $1,750 in stipends, academic support and tutoring, and will attend industry field trips and MWCC’s Summer Leadership Academy.

“We are excited to once again offer the STEM Starter Academy to local learners pursuing a degree in STEM fields,” said Veronica Guay, Assistant Dean of the School of Business, Science, Technology and Mathematics. “Summer participants will enter the fall semester with seven college credits, money in their pockets and be well on their way to obtaining their degree.”

Funded by a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education and the Department of Economic and Workforce Development, the program aims to inform, engage, recruit, retain and graduate significantly more students and enhance their success in STEM pathway programs that lead to job placements or transfer to higher level STEM academic programs.

The summer program will run July 7 through Aug. 20 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., as well as August 25 and 26, at the Gardner campus.

Funded through a $150,000 grant, the summer academy is open to recent high school graduates and adult learners who place into English Composition and Intermediate Algebra or higher, and enroll in one of MWCC’s STEM programs in the fall 2015 semester.

Qualifying STEM majors include biology, biotechnology, chemistry, clinical laboratory science, computer information systems fitness leadership and exercise science, natural resources, general studies allied health, physics or pre-engineering.

In addition, STEM majors at MWCC may qualify for an annual $3,300 STEM SET scholarship, available through a grant the college received from the National Science Foundation.

For more information about the STEM Starter Academy at MWCC, visit http://mwcc.edu/takeiton or contact the admissions office at 978-630-9110 or admissions@mwcc.mass.edu.

 

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, andCVTE Transition Counselor and student advisor Shaunti Phillips.

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, andCVTE Transition Counselor and student advisor Shaunti Phillips.

For the third consecutive year, Murdock High School seniors in the Robinson-Broadhurst Career Tech Scholarship program are earning academic certificates at Mount Wachusett Community College while simultaneously finishing their diplomas.

Through a generous grant from the Winchendon-based Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation, Amber Dignan and Melanie Cranfill are pursing MWCC certificates in allied health, and Andrew Phelps is working toward a certificate in computer information systems. Participants also earn certificates in automotive technology and accounting.

Created as a pathway to higher education, the one-year, dual-enrollment program provides full scholarships for Murdock High School students to earn workplace credentials and first-year credits toward corresponding associate-degree programs at MWCC.

“I chose to participate in this program because I wanted a change in my learning environment and wanted to get a head start in college,” said Cranfill.

“The program is an amazing opportunity to further my education at virtually no cost,” said Phelps. “I have learned that programs like this are wonderful things to try and work hard for because not everyone gets to have a year of college for free.”

Overseeing the program are Assistant Dean of Transitions Programming Deb Bibeau, MWCC Foundation Director Carla Zottoli, CVTE Transition Counselor and student advisor Shaunti Phillips, and Murdock High School guidance counselors Anne Marie Borsky and Rachel Weinhold.

The Murdock guidance counselors credit the Robinson-Broadhurst program with providing an opportunity to enhance offerings at the high school and give students a jumpstart on their college and career plans.

All five members of last year’s cohort earned a certificate in allied health. Three of these students are now enrolled in the Department of Higher Education’s STEM Starter Academy at MWCC.

“Being in the Robinson-Broadhurst dual-enrollment program and the STEM Starter Academy was seriously a life-changing experience,” said Dakota Wood, a 2014 graduate who is now pursuing a degree in health care. “I was exposed to what college was like while I could still participate in senior events. Plus, I graduated high school with a free year of college under my belt.”

CJ Husselbee, a first-generation college student and an initial participant in the Robinson-Broadhurst program, earned an associate degree in Business Administration from MWCC and transferred this fall to the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst.

“Before this, I didn’t know if I could afford college. The Robinson-Broadhurst program was really the difference between me going to college and not going.”

A 2014 study by the American Institutes for Research explored the correlation between access to early college and advancement in secondary and higher education. These students are five-percent more likely to graduate high school, 20-percent more likely to earn their college degrees simultaneously, 21-percent more likely to enroll in a two-year school and four-percent more likely to enroll in a four-year school.

- Cameron Woodcock

STEM Starter Academy event April 2014

High school students extract DNA from strawberries during a STEM Starter Academy demonstration.

Approximately 250 students from several North Worcester County high schools sampled college life and STEM careers during Mount Wachusett Community College’s STEM Starter Academy event on April 4. The event, coordinated by the divisions of Academic Affairs and Access, Transition & Development, featured a variety of science and health sciences demonstrations, hands-on experiments, and information about financial aid and college readiness, and served as a prelude to MWCC’s STEM Starter Summer Academy.

Mount Wachusett is currently recruiting 30 students to participate in its STEM Starter Summer Academy, which will run July 7 through Aug. 21 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Gardner campus. Participating students will receive two free college courses, textbooks, a $1,750 stipend, academic support, tutoring, and community service and industry tours.

Funded through a $300,000 grant from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, the summer academy is open to students who graduate from high school in 2014 or earlier; place into English Composition and Intermediate Algebra or higher; and enroll in one of MWCC’s STEM starter qualifying majors in the fall 2014 semester.

Qualifying STEM majors include biology, biotechnology, chemistry, clinical laboratory science, computer information systems, dental hygiene, fitness leadership and exercise science, natural resources, nursing, physical therapist assistant, physics or pre-engineering.

Courses offered during the summer academy include intermediate algebra, statistics, introduction to functions and modeling, life science for allied health, introduction to biotechnology, and introduction to psychology.

For more information about the STEM Starter Summer Academy and other STEM programs at MWCC, contact the admissions office at 978-630-9110 or admissions@mwcc.mass.edu.