Mount Wachusett Community College student Cassparina “Cassie” Carlson has been named one of the Bay State’s 29 Who Shine in recognition of her strong academic performance and commitment to her fellow college students and community as shown through her ongoing volunteerism.
“Cassie is a standout student who goes out of her way to support those around her. She is always finding new ways to get involved and engage with other students and her community,” said MWCC President James Vander Hooven.”I know this drive to help others will serve her well in the future as she studies to become a social worker.”
Carlson, a Gardner resident, returned to school at MWCC in her 30’s and was set on keeping her head down, getting her degree and transferring. A quiet time of studying wasn’t in the cards for her, however, as helping people comes naturally to the United States Marine Corps veteran. What started as tutoring a classmate quickly grew into involvement with the greater school community as well as embracing her veteran status that she had not been as strongly connected to prior to studying at MWCC.
“I was talking with the other veterans and I realized we had a bond,” said Carlson who herself served for four years in the United States Marine Corps where she was a diesel mechanic and obtained the rank of E-5 Sargent. “There were several students that just needed that peer support that you can’t get from just anybody… I realized that if I could do something to help them that I wanted to.”
Carlson helped restart the college’s Human Services Club, which raised $400 last year for Wreaths Across America and also sent about a dozen volunteers, organized by Carlson, to help lay the wreaths. She is also a member of the Veteran’s and Allies Club on campus where she has been an active member for several years and currently serves as the secretary.
Carlson was recently nominated to the Phi Theta Kappa All-Star Academic Team, is a work-study student in the Student Life Office where she helps plan campus activities and orientations, and has an internship with the college’s Human Services department. As if her on-campus achievements were not enough, Cassie also volunteers in her local community as the president of the Gardner High School Booster Club and she is raising five children.
She said that her mentor Kathy Matson, MWCC’s Student Life Programming Assistant, has been vital to her success and was always pushing her to get more involved.
“She’s the one who got me into student life and excessively active on campus,” said Carlson. “She’s been a huge part of getting me connected with other students and helping them get involved on campus.”
Carlson is studying Human Services with the intention of transferring to a four-year institution to pursue a degree in social work. Her long-term goal is to obtain a Masters in Social Work and begin a career at the Veterans Administration as a social worker.
Carlson was honored at a ceremony at the State House on May 3 recognizing all 29 outstanding graduating students from each of the state’s 29 public colleges and universities, as well as each award recipients’ faculty or staff mentor. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker distributed the awards to the students at the State House ceremony.