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MWCC Honors Veterans at First Annual Veteran Scholarship Breakfast

Seven people stand in a row
Six student veterans stand with MWCC President James Vander Hooven after being awarded with scholarships last Friday at the First Annual Veteran Scholarship Breakfast. Pictured from left to right are Arthur McDonald, President Vander Hooven, Nick Batutis, Curtis Cook, Nicole Leeper, Richard Griffin, and Cassparina Carlson.

Six student veterans were awarded scholarships last Friday at the First Annual Veteran Scholarship Breakfast.

“Mount Wachusett Community College has a very long history and a deep commitment to serving our veteran students… our veteran students are very involved in the fabric and culture of the college when it comes to clubs, organizations and activities,” said MWCC President James Vander Hooven. “You add a big dimension to the life of the college.”

The event on Friday, May 10 marked the first year that the MWCC Veterans Services department combined its annual breakfast for veterans with an awards ceremony distributing veteran-specific scholarships being distributed by the MWCC Foundation, Inc.Cassparina “Cassie” Carlson, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and scholarship recipient, was the event’s keynote speaker. Carlson, who will be graduating this year, opened up to the audience about her struggle as a returning veteran. When she came back to civilian life, she found that no one quite understood her past experience as a Marine. She soon stopped talking about that part of her life.

It was not until she came to Mount Wachusett Community College that she really connected with other veterans. She found a community of people who just got her. And while she was active on campus in many other ways, it was her veteran family where Carlson would return when she needed to take a breath.

“I knew you were my people. I knew you were my tribe and it took me a very long time to find you guys. I hadn’t had a tribe since I was in the Marine Corps,” said Carlson of an experience a year ago when everything just clicked while she was talking with a group of veteran students. “It was the friendships I made that truly got me through the last two years.”

She was so touched by this connection that it shifted her studies. She now plans to pursue a Master’s Degree in Social Work and work for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The awards and their recipients:

Two people hold handsHarold E. Drake Jr. Veterans Scholarship Fund

Arthur McDonald, U.S. Navy veteran and resident of Gardner

Four people stand in a row.

The Babineau-Johnson Veteran’s Scholarship Fund

Curtis Cook, U.S. Marine Corps veteran and resident of Templeton

Nicole Leeper, U.S. Army veteran and resident of Gardner

Two people shake hands.

Joseph S. Baldyga Veteran’s Fund

Nick Batutis, U.S. Air Force veteran and resident of Athol

Two people shake hands.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Scholarship

Richard Griffin, U.S. Army and resident of Gardner

Two people stand next to each other

Joseph B. Jr. and Mary I. Ruth Scholarship Fund

Cassparina Carlson, U.S. Marine Corps veteran and resident of Gardner

Four people stand in a line. Two hold large pieces of paper that are citations.

Additionally, citations from State Representatives Jonathan Zlotnik and Susannah Whipps were presented by Representative Zlotnik to Nicholas Batutis and Cassparina Carlson in recognition of being named to the PhiTheta Kappa All-Massachusetts Academic Team.