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Pathways and Gateway Dual-Enrollment Students Graduate from High School

A student holds her diploma on stage with other people standing at the back of the stage.
Pathways to Early College student Lilac Keenan holds her diploma during the Pathways to Early College and Gateway to College graduation. A total of 55 students received their high school diploma between the two Mount Wachusett Community College programs on Friday, May 18.

Fifty five students celebrated earning their high school diploma along with college credits or degrees through Mount Wachusett Community College’s dual enrollment programs Friday night.

This year’s graduates of the Pathways Early College Innovation School and the Gateway to College program were recognized during the May 18 graduation ceremony at MWCC. The programs are offered in partnership with the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District and the Robinson Broadhurst Foundation, Inc. Career Tech Scholarship Program. They allow students to use school choice funding to earn their high school diploma while simultaneously earning college credits, an academic certificate, or an associate degree.

The graduation did not feature a guest speaker, but instead had four student speakers, the two valedictorians from each program as well as a student keynote speaker from each program who was picked through an application process.

Student Speaker Thomas Sutherland is a Robinson Broadhurst student from Murdock. He has completed his History & Political Science degree with a perfect 4.0. During the Evening of Excellence, Thomas was recognized as a President’s Key recipient, Curriculum Award Winner for History and Political Science, and 2nd place winner for the Capstone Research Contest. He has been awarded a President’s scholarship and will be attending Franklin Pierce University to study History and Secondary Education. His goal is to one day be a high school history teacher.

“This opportunity that I accepted two-years ago was the best decision I have ever made. It has allowed me to jump-start my education and get a head-start on the many years of schooling I have left… After graduation, we all begin the next chapter of our lives and step into another unknown. No matter where you come from, the amount of wealth you have, or how liked you were in the past, you can always achieve your dreams if you put your mind to it,” said Thomas. “I encourage all of you to believe in yourselves, strive to succeed as you have here at Mount Wachusett, and accomplish your dreams.”

Student speaker Leah Swain entered the Gateway to College program in the Fall 2016 semester. She served as an at-large representative to the Student Government Association, is member of the National Society of Leadership and Success and is a recipient of the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship, based on her high academic achievement on the MCAS exam.

Leah spoke of how her fifth grade teacher told her she should stop trying as she would end up flunking out of school anyhow. This haunted Leah and she feared it would come true when she was out of school for six months of her freshman year following a concussion. Gateway to College became the avenue for Leah to avoid that outcome and things were going well until another concussion set her back. But Leah persevered and is now graduating with an overall high school GPA of 3.17 and 32 earned college credits to apply to an Associate’s degree. Leah plans to complete an associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education at Mount Wachusett Community College, then transfer to a four-year institution.

“I didn’t stop trying, and I would like to tell that teacher, who made me doubt myself every day for the past eight years, that I made it, and I created my own story and my own truth. High school may have taken me an extra year and was not easy, but class of 2018, none of us who are here today chose the traditional or easy route,” said Leah. “Always remember it is not about how you get there or how long it takes you, but only that you do get there, so good luck and thank you.”

Gateway to College Valedictorian Morgan Blavackas is graduating this year with her high school diploma and an Associate’s degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences. Her cumulative GPA is a 3.78.

Morgan had dropped out of school due to medical and personal issues that culminated in the inability to leave the house. Though she tried many different avenues to continue in school, nothing worked. It wasn’t until she was sitting in a driver’s education class and talking with her friends, who were now seniors while she still had years left, about how they were going to be graduating soon. She then tapped into her love of learning and the flexibility that the Gateway to College program offers.

“Each of us are here now has taken a hold of our own paths because no one else can fight for us, no one else can want to be here. That is one of the main characteristics of Gateway is the responsibility. Where you are in charge of your success, you are not forced to be here and not even asked to raise your hand to simply use the bathroom,” said Morgan.

Harnessing the skills that she learned in her time in the Gateway to College program, Morgan is now a part of the leadership team at Great Wolf Lodge. As a student, she led a United Way Youth Venture project to reality with MWCC set to adopt a student carpooling policy and develop eight designated carpooling parking spaces.

Morgan plans to explore further opportunities for advancement in her workplace and to pursue the 3 + 1 transfer program in Business Management, a partnership between Mount Wachusett Community College and Fitchburg State University. She is also an award recipient of the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship, based on her high achievement on the MCAS exam.

Kaitlyn Fales, the Pathways Early College Innovation School Valedictorian, is a Townsend resident and former Nashoba Valley Tech student. She has completed her Business Administration Transfer Associate’s Degree with a perfect 4.0 and was a winner of the Business Administration Curriculum Award at the Evening of Excellence. She is also a President’s Key recipient.

Kaitlyn is also president of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and Secretary of Alpha Beta Gama Business Honors Society. She will be attending Bryant University to study Business and Actuary Science this fall. She is also an award recipient of the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship, based on her high academic achievement on the MCAS exam.

But Kaitlyn’s successful journey through Pathways started with a lack of confidence. This grew out of her relationship with her mother that crippled her confidence, with her mother eventually deciding to completely remove herself from Kaitlyn’s life for five years now following a divorce from Kaitlyn’s father.

“Looking back now, I can easily say that I am a completely different person than I was when I first walked through the doors. I stepped outside of my comfort zone, made friends, joined clubs, and became a true leader on campus. Without even noticing, I began to gain confidence, and I was able to tell myself that I was worth it, even if my mother did not believe it. I can stand here today and tell you all that I believe in myself again,” said Kaitlyn who explained that everyone in the program has tackled their own challenges and grown in their own ways. The challenges you have overcome, whether academic or personal, have shaped you into who you are now: a scholar, a leader, an innovator.”

The graduates from the two programs were:


A group of students in graduation apparel is lined up for a photo.Gateway to College

Sarah Augeri Gardner

Kathryn Avery Petersham

Cassandra Bates Barre

Morgan Blavackas†❖ South Barre

Ryan Bombard Lancaster

Dawson Brady Lunenburg

Scarlet Bridges Gardner

Dylan Cernoia Gardner

Nolan Chalas Gardner

Ashley Denio Lancaster

Victor DeOliveira❖ Leominster

Kellianne Dodge Ashburnham

Richard Egan Ashburnham

Daniel Ferreira†❖ Leominster

Joseph Fries Barre

Elizabeth Gilbert Gardner

Parker Houghton Rutland

Madison Hurlburt Orange

Jeffrey Jasukonis Templeton

Kirsten Ladeau Orange

Dana Linnan Gardner

Mckayla O’Malley Gardner

Emily Paglia Lunenburg

Alexis Patchen North Brookfield

Taylor Rameau❖ Westminster

Dylan Romanowski Winchendon

Josue Salcedo†❖ Fitchburg

Anysmarie SantiagoΔ†❖Leominster

Tricia Sicard† Lunenburg

Brionni Spinazzola Fitchburg

Leah Swain† Lunenburg

Laryssa Truesdale Gardner

Laura Urdaneta❖ Clinton

Aileen Valerio Fitchburg

Matthew Vieira Gardner

A group of students dressed in graduation cap and gowns is lined up for a photo.

Pathways to Early College

Elysha Bedard†❖ Orange

Javin Blanchard †❖ Orange

Connor Clinkscale❖ Winchendon

Gillian Cormier †❖ Townsend

Michael Duffy❖ Fitchburg

Abigail Elbourn❖ Gardner

Kaitlyn Fales*Δ❖ Townsend

Olivia HowesΔ❖ Phillipston

Lilac Keenan❖ Leominster

Sean Mooney❖ North Brookfield

Alison Ralls*Δ❖ Dunstable

Jeremy Ralls*Δ❖ Dunstable

Isabel SalvatoreΔ❖ Lunenburg

Kathryn Schatia†❖ Townsend

Samantha Shippell Stiles Δ❖Westminster

Thomas Sutherland*❖ Winchendon

Sarah Urbina❖ Sterling

Ella Walsh*❖ Princeton

Oliver White❖ Lunenburg

Hannah Zanni†❖ Leominster


❖MWCC Associate’s Degree ‡Robinson Broadhurst

*MWCC President’s List (12+ Semester Hours, 4.0 GPA) †MWCC Dean’s List (12+ Semester Hours, 3.30 – 3.99 GPA) ΔPhi Theta Kappa