Mount Wachusett Community College has received a $30,000 grant from the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts that will fund planning the future of early college education in the region.
As a result of the grant, a large regional summit will take place, and involve the area business community, K-12 education institutions, higher education institutions, economic development and civic learning organizations. These groups will be tasked with helping to refine the proposed plan for early college, offer expertise and direction, and better define what early college means here in North Central Massachusetts.
“It’s really going to provide us the opportunity to think through where the region is headed economically, for our employers, and making sure we are doing a thoughtful – and holistic – job of building something that is going to help propel students forward, with specific supports for students who may not traditionally be drawn to these kinds of experiences, including first-generation college and low-income students,” said Fagan Forhan, MWCC’s Assistant Dean of K-12 Partnerships and Civic Engagement who will be organizing the summit.
The summit is a part of MWCC’s early college designation that was crafted in conjunction with Fitchburg State University, Fitchburg High School, Sizer School, Leominster High School and Gardner High School. As a part of this designation, students at Fitchburg High School, Gardner High School, Leominster High School and Sizer School will begin career exploration in 9th grade, and delve more deeply into career options in 10th grade. As juniors, they will select one of four career pathways, participate in early college courses as juniors and seniors, and graduate high school with at least 12 college credits already completed, with some students also gaining credentialing such as Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). The grant also provides the funding for college faculty and high school faculty to work together on areas of curricular alignment and professional development.
This planning work will help ensure that the pathways students can pursue are aligned with workforce needs and economic growth projections. This will allow students to more easily obtain a job, network, and grow professionally in their selected field while continuing to pursue additional degrees and certifications through MWCC and Fitchburg State University.