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STEM Starter Summer Academy gives jump start on college (The Gardner News Aug. 21, 2015)

GARDNER — Along with typical summertime activities, Adam Leyenaar of Ayer spent the better part of the season getting a jump start on his college degree.

A 2015 graduate of the Parker Charter School, Leyenaar was one of 16 area students participa­ting in Mount Wachusett Co­mmunity College’s eight-week STEM Starter Summer Academy. Students received up to two free college courses, textbooks, a substantial stipend, academic support and tutoring.

“I want to be an immunologist, so I need a good backgrou­nd,” said Leyenaar, who plans to earn an associate degree in medical laboratory technology so he can work in the field while pursuing his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Funded through a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, the STEM Sta­r­ter Sumer Academy is open to high school graduates or qualifying MWCC students who place into college-level English and math courses and are enrolling in one of MWCC’s STEM majors in the fall.

Qualifying MWCC STEM ma­jors include allied health, biology, biotechnology, chemistry, computer information systems, fitness leadership and exercise science, medical laboratory technology, natural resources, physics and pre-engineering.

Courses offered during the su­mmer academy included intermediate algebra, introduction to functions and modeling, life science for allied health, anatomy and physiology I, general chemistry II and introduction to psychology. In addition to the coursework, students helped run experiments at Rapoport Lab at Harvard Medical School, visited AbbVie medical labs in Worc­ester, and toured the constructi­on site of MWCC’s new STEM b­u­ilding, which will open in 2016. The students also participated in MWCC’s Summer Leadership Ac­a­demy.

“Our students have had an outstanding summer and are ready to continue their studies this fall with two courses already under their belt,” said Christine Davis, MWCC’s STEM Starter Academy recruiter. Students from more than 10 area towns enrolled in the rigorous program, and tackled classes in an accelerated format that will prepare them for their careers, she said.

Many of the academy students are also recipients of STEM SET scholarships. These awards of up to $3,500 per year are available to qualifying STEM majors through a grant the college received from the National Science Foundation.

Gardner resident Ifra Hassan, enrolled in MWCC’s liberal arts biological studies program with the goal of continuing her studies in medicine and become a doctor. Hassan said she chose the college for its supportive environment.

“I wanted to start my career where I will receive teachers’ support.”

Next year, up to 30 students will be accepted into the Stem Starter Summer Academy. For more information, contact MW­CC’s admission’s office at 978-630-9110 or adm­­issio­ns@mw­c­c.m­

The Gardner News, Friday, Aug. 21