Gateway to College Network Celebrates 20 Years
Gateway to College National Network celebrated 20 years working with at risk youth and vulnerable populations at their National Peer Learning conference which was held virtually in July. MWCC Gateway to College alumni Eden Shaveet, Jasson Alvardo-Gomez, Sidney Myers, and Abraham Bravo joined Gateway to College Resource Specialist Sharmese Gunn in representing community college students and the MWCC program.
Class of 2017 Alumni Eden Shaveet joined the “Alumni Addresses and Program Recognition” panel to share her journey from high school drop out to Gateway to College, which she called her “last resort” to Tufts University School of Medicine where she is pursuing her Masters in Health Analytics while working at UMass Medical School in the Division of Commonwealth Medicine as a Project Coordinator.
“What finally did make the difference for me was not a complex intervention strategy developed by someone with no comparable lived experience in state systems, or the latest and greatest strategy for engaging challenging youth, it was one caring adult who invested her time in me and saw a future that I didn’t see for myself.” explained Shaveet of her experience. “It was Sharmese Gunn (MWCC Gateway to College Resource Specialist). The Gateway program, by virtue of its model and Sharmese by virtue of her continued mentorship of me, trained me to expect more for and from myself.”
“My time at Gateway was really a turning point for me that not only quite literally saved my life, but really put me on this path to pursue advocacy in some way with young people, acknowledging that they are their own impacted and affected social class.” Shaveet continued.
The “Student Voices in Community College and Higher Education” panel discussion explored how Gateway to College not only impacts students, but how these students impacted their institutions and higher education.
Alvardo-Gomez discussed his experience as a Board of Trustee member during the selection process for MWCC’s new president, and again as the Student Member of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education during the search for a new president for Bridgewater State University. Alvardo-Gomez, who graduated from MWCC in 2017, has since started a non-profit “Fundacion Amor Y Paz Inc.”
Abraham Bravo, who graduated with the MWCC Class of 2020 and made the Presidents List during the final COVID-19 interrupted semester, shared his experiences as a member of the Student Advisory Council for the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, and a MWCC Board of Trustees member. Bravo is now pursuing his bachelor’s degree at Andrews College in Michigan.
Myers reflected upon his experiences as Student Government Association President and changes to bylaws in student government to make it inclusive to more students. Myers, who graduated with the class of 2020, is in the pre-medical program at Fitchburg State University. During his time at MWCC, he served as the president of the SGA and the Phi Theta Kappa National Honors Society and participated in the Commonwealth Honors program.
“As the Gateway to College National Network celebrated its 20th year during our first virtual Peer Learning Conference in late July, we were thrilled to listen and learn from student and staff experts from the very first Gateway to College program to launch in Massachusetts, MWCC’s Gateway to College program,” remarked Stephanie Davolos, Director of Gateway to College, New England Achieving the Dream, Inc. “The Mount continues to deeply impact young people from across North Central Massachusetts as it enters its fifteenth year of serving disconnected high school students in a rigorous, high support fulltime early college program. We highlighted the work of Resource Specialist Sharmese Gunn, as her special sauce of high expectations and engaging students in leadership opportunities both on campus and across the state has resulted in students serving in leadership and college governance roles on campus and on the Board of Higher Education. GtC at MWCC alumni shared powerful stories, reminding us all of what is possible when we set our expectations for ourselves and our students at the highest level. It was an honor to be able to share MWCC student experiences with our national partners and to inspire other communities to take on the task of making educational equity a norm in every community in our country.”
Capping off the conference were the presentation of the national Program Excellence Awards, recognizing the Gateway to College Programs that have exceeded four national performance benchmarks: grade point average, one year persistence, two year persistence, and graduation within three years. For the fifth consecutive year, the Mount Wachusett Community College’s Gateway to Program Director Sara Vettese, along with student resource specialists Sharmese Gunn and David Thibeault-Munoz were presented with the Program Excellence Award.
“We are thrilled to again be recognized with the Program Excellence Award,” states Fagan Forhan, MWCC Assistant Dean of K-12 Partnerships and Civic Engagement. “This award highlights the efforts of our resource specialists Sharmese Gunn and David Thibeault-Munoz and Director Sara Vettese. Their dedication and guidance, and the Gateway to College program change lives.”
MWCC is currently enrolling students interested in starting Gateway to College in January 2021. Information sessions are being held monthly, visit mwcc.edu/gateway for dates and registration information.