veterans

Membership to the Mount Wachusett Community College Fitness and Wellness Center through the new Veterans Move program includes classes.

The Mount Wachusett Community College Fitness and Wellness Center is now offering a new program called Veterans Move that provides veterans and their spouses full memberships at the cost of $15 per month when obtained on a physician’s referral.
The program came directly from a need in the community, with many physicians seeking an affordable facility in North Central Massachusetts for their patients, said Director of the Fitness & Wellness Center Jared Swerzenski. Before this, many veterans have been making use of the facility in Bedford, which is almost an hour away, he said.
“When I was approached with the opportunity to create this program, I thought it would be a great partnership. Many of these veterans are suffering from significant joint and knee ailments and will be able to use the pool and equipment to help with rehabilitation,” said Swerzenski. “Mount Wachusett Community College has created such a positive environment for veterans with the school’s varied programming and support systems so this program is a natural fit for the MWCC Fitness Center.”
MWCC Fitness and Wellness Center supports veterans in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The facility includes a six-lane, Olympic sized swimming pool, three full-size indoor basketball courts, two regulation racquetball courts and state-of-the-art weight training/cardiovascular equipment. In addition, the center offers more than 90 free group fitness classes a week, which include Zumba, Yoga, Group Active, Group Groove, Group Power, SilverSneakers and much more, all led by certified instructors and trainers.

The check presentation took place at Mount Wachusett Community College’s Gardner campus. Pictured from left to right are • Norman Webb, Former President and current board member, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 907; • Sarah Savoie, MWCC Veteran’s Affairs; MWCC President Dr. Daniel M. Asquino; • James Benton III, President, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 907; • Charles Hodgkinson, Vice-President, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 907; • Carla Zottoli, Executive Director, MWCC Foundation, Inc.

The Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 907 have continued their ongoing support of the Mount Wachusett Community College Foundation’s Veteran’s Memorial Scholarship Fund with a donation of $2,000.

President Daniel M. Asquino, Foundation Executive Director Carla Zottoli, and Sarah Savoie from MWCC Veteran’s Affairs department recently accepted the generous donation from Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 907 President James Benton III. Vice President Charles Hodgkinson, and former president and current board member Norman Webb.

“We are constantly working to best serve our veteran students and scholarships are an important part of the equation,” said President Asquino. “I am grateful to organizations such as Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 907 that help support our Veteran’s Memorial Scholarship.”

The scholarship was established to recognize the important role played by MWCC in ensuring that the sacrifices and service of veterans who served the country will not be forgotten. Director of Veterans Services at MWCC Robert Mayer said that the school has always been supportive of veterans, extending back to work with Vietnam and Vietnam-era veterans over 50 years ago.

“The tradition continues due in no small part to Chapter 907 of the Vietnam Veterans of America,” Mayer said. “Their annual contribution not only helps support our current student veterans, it serves to remind us all of the service to our country performed by veterans of the Vietnam War.”
Scholarship funds are awarded to new or returning full-time students who were honorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces or are currently serving in the Reserves or National Guard.

Congresswoman Niki Tsongas visit to Vet CenterMWCC student veterans, college officals and community leaders had the undivided attention of Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, who stopped by to visit the college’s Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success and our neighboring partner, the Northeast Veteran Training and Rehabilitation Center, owned and operated by Veteran Homestead.

The Congresswoman, who serves on the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee and Natural Resources Committee, said she was impressed with MWCC’s innovation and leadership in these and other areas.

She lauded the partnership between MWCC and the NVTRC, which provides housing and support services to veterans and their families.

“This is a great partenrship because it really does help veterans and their families move on. It provides  the families with access to education, homes and extended support. It’s unique. Community colleges are rooted in the community and are always looking for ways to solve problems. the Mount is certainly an example of that.”

Read more about her visit in the article below, published in the March 9 issue of the Sentinel & Enterprise, or click here to visit the newspaper’s website for more great photos and video clips.

‘Doing right by the veterans’

U.S. Rep. Tsongas impressed with work done at Veteran Homestead in Gardner (Sentinel and Enterprise, March 9, 2016)

By Jordan Tillery

GARDNER – Retired Army Sgt. Jason Wing and his wife, Kristi, welcomed U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas into the living room of their Gardner condo Tuesday morning. Tsongas listened as Wing shared his journey since he was medically discharged after 15 years of service.

“When we exited, we were homeless with no jobs,” he told Tsongas. “I was at a bad point in my life.”

Today, the couple live with their children in one of the condos within the Northeast Veteran Training and Rehabilitation Center run by Veteran Homestead. The homes, just a short walk from Mount Wachusett Community College, are dedicated to rehabilitating veterans and reintegrating them into the community.

Tsongas, who represents the 3rd Congressional District, spent the morning speaking with the veterans who live in the community, as well as those who take advantage of the Veterans Student Success Center at Mount Wachusett Community College.

As an advocate for the GI Bill and a member of the Armed Services Committee in Washington, Tsongas came to Gardner to witness the services in action.

“We want to make sure we’re doing right by the veterans and their families,” she said. “It isn’t until you get out that you see what’s working and what isn’t.”

She was impressed by the work being done by the college and its partnership with Veteran Homestead.

When she spoke with some of the inhabitants of the neighborhood, they all thanked the program for helping them improve their situations regardless of whether it was through education or mental and/or physical rehabilitation.

“I can’t say enough good things about the program,” Jason Wing said.

He was able to receive his bachelor’s degree in natural-resource conservation, and works seasonally for the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Wing said he and his wife are actively looking for a new home to “open up” an available slot in the maxed-capacity center.

“It’s not a handout, it’s a hand up,” said Ronda White, chief operating officer of Veteran Homestead.

There are currently 20 families and 17 children living on the site. A large facility on the premises has space for counseling, a room dedicated to physical rehabilitation, a current pool and a pool table — not only used for fun, but also to encourage hand-eye coordination, CEO and President Leslie Lightwood said.

“It’s a symbiotic relationship between Mount Wachusett and Veterans Homestead,” MWCC President Daniel Asquino said. “We owe it to our veterans.”

Bob Mayer, veterans’ services director at the college, said 232 veterans are enrolled at the school, a number that has increased slightly since he began working there nearly two years ago.

In the hallway next to the Veterans Success Center, there’s a world map littered with pushpins marking where students have served.

“The support system here’s great,” said Air Force Senior Airman Nicholas DePaula of Leominster after finding his pin struck in Albuquerque, N.M. “I’ve been in touch with other veterans here. I’m very grateful.”

He plans to graduate in May and continue his education to earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

Matthew Casaubon, who attends MWCC and lives at the Veterans Homestead, plans to graduate and continue working toward becoming a social worker, something Tsongas said veterans need more of.

“I hear it all the time — veterans want to be counseled by other veterans,” she said.

Tsongas said the shortage of mental-health counseling for veterans is the largest issue she has seen during her time in Congress, and stressed the importance of programs like the Veterans Homestead.

Photographs hang on the wall in Lightfoot’s office, an homage to the men and women who have successfully graduated from the program and have since moved on.

“This must be very satisfying,” Tsongas said as she looked at the images.

“Yes, but there is always more work to be done,” Lightfoot replied.

 

MWCClaptopsForVets

Rollstone Bank & Trust is the first major sponsor of the new Laptops for Veterans program. From left, Thomas Berger, MWCC Student Trustee-elect and an Army veteran; Linda Racine, Executive Vice President of RBT; MWCC President Daniel Asquino; and Robert Mayer, MWCC Director of Veteran Services

With a donation of $3,000, Rollstone Bank & Trust became the first major sponsor of the new, student-initiated Laptops for Vets program at Mount Wachusett Community College, which is aimed at helping veteran students succeed in their studies. The Veteran Success Center at MWCC was created five years ago to meet the unique needs of veterans transitioning from soldier to veteran. The laptops that were part of the initial program have become outdated, so student trustee and Army veteran Thomas Berger initiated this fundraising program.Martin F. Connors, Jr., President & CEO of Rollstone Bank & Trust, said, “The Rollstone Charitable Foundation’s mission is to strengthen our communities and enhance the academic lives of area students. The veteran students at MWCC have served our country proudly; there is no one more deserving of our help.”

“We are tremendously grateful to Rollstone Bank & Trust for this generous donation to support our student veterans,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “Rollstone’s gift provides an immediate jump-start to this initiative.”

Berger’s goal is to equip the Veterans Success Center with 25 new laptops. Tax-deductible donations may be made payable to MWCC Foundation with “Laptops for Vets” in the memo line, and mailed to MWCC Foundation, 444 Green Street, Gardner, MA 01440, or contact Jo-Ann Meagher at jmeagher@mwcc.mass.edu. To learn more about Laptops for Vets, visit mwcc.edu/laptopsforvets.

 

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Veterans Services Director Bob Mayer

Veteran services officials from colleges and universities throughout the country had the opportunity to learn about Mount Wachusett Community College’s Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success during a recent national conference.MWCC Director of Veterans Services Bob Mayer was selected to present on “Student Veterans’ Centers: Designing to Implementation to Upgrading,” during the 2015 NASPA Veterans Conference Feb. 8 – 10 in Louisville, KY.

Mayer, a veteran of the U.S. Army and the Army National Guard, participated on the panel with administrators from the University of Arizona, the University of South Florida, Bowling Green State University, and Keiser University. His remarks focused on the growth of the college’s Veterans Success Center and its partnerships with Veterans Administration and local and state veteran support groups to augment services to students.

The 2015 NASPA Veterans Conference was designed to provide a forum for experienced professionals focusing on institutional policy, programming and other emerging issues in serving military students and veterans.

 

Director of Veterans Services Bob Mayer with student veterans during this fall's orientation.

Director of Veterans Services Bob Mayer with student veterans during this fall’s orientation.

For the sixth consecutive year, Mount Wachusett Community College has been recognized as a top military-friendly school for creating a culture of positive energy and academic support for veterans, active military members and their dependents.

The 2015 Military Friendly Schools list, released by Victory Media, names the top 15 percent of American colleges, universities and trade schools that are doing the most to embrace military students and ensure their success in the classroom and after graduation. Now in its sixth year, the list serves as the primary resource for service members and military families seeking education and captures best practices among schools in supporting military students.

The list features 1,600 institutions and was compiled through research and a data-driven survey of more than 8,000 schools approved for Post-9/11 GI Bill funding. Qualifying campuses will be featured in the G.I. Jobs Guide to Military Friendly Schools, among other Victory Media publications.

“It is our responsibility to foster an environment in which student veterans can thrive, both in the classroom and on campus,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “This award is a testament to our student veterans who courageously serve our country and then make the decision to transition to college life. We also have a wonderful staff in the Center of Excellence for Veteran Affairs and a supportive group of faculty and students.”

“This title we’ve received is not in name only; we’ve earned that status,” said Veterans Services Director Robert Mayer.

A designated Yellow Ribbon School with a long history of supporting veterans, MWCC was cited for the wrap-around support provided through the Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success and the Veterans Group student club, an affiliate of the Student Veterans of America.

Established in 2010 the veterans success center now serves more than 350 students each year, addressing the unique academic, financial, social and physical needs of veterans, military personnel and military families transitioning to college life.

“The college has an excellent support team for veterans, and Bob is very involved in helping us succeed,” said Tom Berger, a business administration major who served in the U.S. Army from 1990 to 1998. “I enjoy being part of this peer group of students and getting involved in the college and local community.”

In August 2013, MWCC became one of the first 250 higher-education institutions to implement President Obama’s “8 Keys to Success” initiative to help boost academic opportunities and improvement employment outcomes for veterans. The eight keys build on the administration’s work to provide veterans and military families with a high-quality, affordable education and highlight specific ways that colleges and universities can support veterans as they pursue their education and employment goals.

In MWCC’s sixth year of recognition as a military-friendly school and service through the Veterans’ Success Center, and second year of implementing the “8 Keys,” its staff is still poised to increase the breadth of services to veterans.

– Cameron Woodcock

VFW scholarship donation to MWCC Foundation

Members of Ovila Case Post 905 Veterans of Foreign Wars recently presented a $1,000 donation to the Mount Wachusett Community College Foundation to support scholarships for student veterans. Pictured, from left, Commander Howard Sands, President Daniel M. Asquino, Service Commander Kenneth Fournier, board member and past commander Don Progen, and MWCC Foundation Executive Director Carla DeFosse.

The Ovila Case Post 905 Veterans of Foreign Wars in Gardner recently donated $1,000 to Mount Wachusett Community College Foundation’s Veterans Memorial Scholarship.

President Daniel M. Asquino and Foundation Executive Director Carla DeFosse accepted the generous donation from VFW Commander Howard Sands, Service Commander Kenneth Fournier and board member and past commander Don Progen, and thanked the post members for their continued support of MWCC and student veterans.

The scholarship was established to recognize the important role played by MWCC in ensuring that the sacrifices and service of veterans who served the country will not be forgotten.

Scholarship funds are awarded to new or returning full-time students who were honorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces or are currently serving in the Reserves or National Guard.

MWCC’s Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success has become a vibrant hub on campus. Earlier this year, Massachusetts Secretary of Education Matthew Malone, center, and representatives from the Massachusetts Department of Veteran Services, were among the visitors.

Mount Wachusett Community College has received its third national recognition this fall as a top military-friendly school.

This month, Military Advanced Education awarded MWCC the designation of a top military-friendly college in its 2014 Guide to Military-Friendly Colleges & Universities. In November, MWCC was named to Military Times Best for Vets: Colleges 2014 rankings, with special recognition as one of the country’s top community colleges for veterans. In September, MWCC was named to the 2014 Military Friendly Schools list by Victory Media for the fifth consecutive year.

The national publications provide service men and women a gauge by which to judge whether a school or degree program will truly benefit them.

MAE’s 2014 Guide to Military-Friendly Colleges & Universities provides potential students with information about institutions that go out of their way to give back to our men and women in uniform. The publication was recently released in print and is also available online at www.mae-kmi.com.

Attributes considered in evaluating institutions for inclusion in the guide include the flexibility of online learning options, extent of transfer credits accepted by degree level, on-campus ROTC, Servicemember Opportunity Colleges (SOC) participation, on-campus active duty/veteran assistance, the support provided to the families of service members, faculty trained in veteran reintegration issues, and full-time counselors trained in veteran-specific mental health concerns.

A designated Yellow Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs with a long history of supporting veterans, MWCC is recognized for the wrap-around support it provides through the Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success, as well as for its vibrant Veterans Group student organization, which is a chapter of the Student Veterans of America.

Established in 2010, the center has helped MWCC create a culture of positive energy and enthusiasm for its military students. The center was among the first 15 in the county selected by the U.S. Department of Education to serve as national models. Support services address the unique academic, financial, social and physical needs to veterans transitioning to college life.

MWCC has again earned a top spot among veteran-friendly colleges by Military Times.

Mount Wachusett Community College has earned national recognition for its support for veterans from several military-focused organizations over the past several years. On Veterans Day, Military Times again named MWCC to its Best for Vets: Colleges 2014 rankings.

Best for Vets provides service men and women a gauge by which to judge whether a school or degree program will truly benefit them. The rankings factored in service member enrollment, percentage of tuition covered by the GI Bill, and availability of specific programs to help service members. The organization placed a new emphasis on academic rigor this year when conducting and scoring the fourth annual Best for Vets: Colleges survey, a 150-question analysis of a school’s complete offerings for veterans.

MWCC was ranked fourth nationally for two-year schools. The full rankings include 120 four-year, two-year, online and nontraditional schools. The top schools in each category are being showcased in the November issue of Military Times EDGE magazine, the premier publication for military transition, and affiliated Gannet Company publications and websites, including USA Today and the newsweeklies Military Times, Army Times, Navy Times. Air Force Times and Marine Corps Times.

“Mount Wachusett Community College has a long history of serving veterans, and we’re delighted to be recognized for our commitment to those who courageously serve our country,” said President Daniel M. Asquino. “In recent years, we have enhanced our services through our Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success, which is helping veteran students and their dependents transition to college life and receive ongoing support.”

The Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success, initially established in 2010 through a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education, has helped MWCC create a culture of positive energy and enthusiasm for its military students, said Director Kristine Larkin. The center was among the first 15 in the county selected to serve as national models and has become a staple in the lives of student veterans at MWCC and a hub of activity on campus. Support services address the unique academic, financial, social and physical needs to veterans transitioning to college life.

Collaborating with nonprofit community partners and building strong relationships with student veterans are contributing to the center’s success in serving students, Larkin said. Community partners include the Montachusett Veteran Outreach Center, the Northeast Veteran Training & Rehabilitation Center operated by Veteran Homestead, Inc., the Massachusetts Department of Veterans Services’ SAVE program, and local posts of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.

MWCC is a designated Yellow Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. In addition, the college developed a First year Experience course designed specifically for veterans and many of the students are active in the veterans club on campus, which is affiliated with Student Veterans of America.

A Veterans Appreciation Breakfast for students, faculty and staff members who have served in the military or are currently serving, will take place Thursday, Nov. 7 from 8 to 10 a.m. in the North Cafe. MWCC is sponsoring the event to thank members of the college community who have served the country.