Mount Wachusett Community College President James Vander Hooven, Gardner Public Schools Superintendent Mark Pellegrino, and Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Monday, Feb. 11 establishing a partnership between the college and district for the college’s free Gateway to College and Pathways Early College Innovation School dual enrollment programs.
The agreement will go into effect for the 2019 to 2020 school year. This will be a planning year between the college and the district to determine the exact structure of the dual enrollment programs. Students graduating in May of 2019 from either program will receive their high school diplomas from Ralph C. Mahar Public Schools, which was the previous district partner for both programs. In coming years, student’s high school degree will be from Gardner Public Schools.
This agreement will reinforce to students in the Gardner school system that college is an option. With time, middle school students will know that college classes through dual enrollment, and beyond, are within their reach because of this agreement.
“I view this as being aspirational… it’s going to keep a focus on having college be an opportunity,” said President Vander Hooven. “Over time, I believe you really are going to see significantly higher levels of students going on to college, whether it be at Mount Wachusett Community College or anywhere else in the state. This is a great opportunity for us to work with the schools here.”
The partnership marks a deepening of an already strong relationship between the college and school district, said Pellegrino at the signing Monday, explaining that about 50 percent of Gardner’s high school graduates attend MWCC. The college is a great resource for the district, as well as the students, he said, and this agreement only solidifies that further.
“To offer these programs to students while they are still in high school is a great way for kids to get a head start and it’s also a cost-saving measure for families who can save thousands on college tuition by participating in this program,” said Pellegrino who explained students will benefit from robust dual enrollment options. “It is what the state is looking for. It is what our students are looking for and what our parents are looking for. I think it’s the right thing to do… it’s a great program that is preparing students for their future.”
Both of the programs provide significant college experience as students earn their high school degree. Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke, said he was pleased to see connections between his high school and college alma mater expand.
“This is what we do in the city of Gardner every day, make sure we are able to meet our educational goals, whether it be at the elementary school and high school or at continuing education at the community college level,” said Hawke. “This is going to be a great thing for the City of Gardner and the Gardner Public School System.”
The planning process for the Gateway and Pathways dual enrollment programs will take place in the coming year.