Community College Presidents Release Statement in Support of DACA

A Joint Statement in Support of DACA
The 15 Massachusetts Community College Presidents have signed a joint statement in support of DACA

Massachusetts was recently named first in the country in terms of its K-12 education and the number of residents with college degrees. We recognize and affirm that excellent education is critical to the Commonwealth’s and America’s future economic vitality. We are committed to the education of all our children and young adults who pass through our doors.

In many respects, our country has grown to its present strength due to the past influx of immigrants seeking the American Dream. That dream is grounded in our country’s belief that all are endowed with three basic rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The “crime” of the undocumented immigrant today is pursuing the same dream of many in the past – a better life for their families.

Five years ago, in recognition that the infants and children who accompanied their immigrant parents illegally entering our country did not choose to do so, the previous federal administration established Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Those with DACA status attend and graduate from our K-12 schools and benefit from the ability to attend excellent post-secondary education in order to bring the skills and credentials needed in our workforce today. Individuals with DACA status live in our communities, pay taxes, and are ready and willing to continue to positively contribute to our local economies and communities. Ending DACA and subjecting these individuals to deportation not only contradicts our shared values and the inherent principles in our educational missions, but threatens the economic well-being of our region, state, and country.

We remain committed to meeting the needs of every person who walks through our doors looking to learn and achieve, regardless of their immigration status. We stand together to fight for the continued protection of all the young people with and eligible for DACA.

On behalf of the Presidents of the Massachusetts Community Colleges,

James Vander Hooven
President, Mount Wachusett Community College

MWCC to Hold Public Reception for New Bemis Student Center on September 13

The student center will open up to a new outdoor space that will feature wifi and seating.

Mount Wachusett Community College will host an Open House from 3 to 6 p.m. on the Gardner campus in the new Bemis Student Center on Sept. 13. The public, past MWCC staff and faculty, and all community partners are encouraged and invited to attend.

The open house will take place the same day as a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the new Bemis Student Center. MWCC students, faculty and staff; Massachusetts leaders; community representatives will come together on Sept. 13 at 11 a.m. for that ceremony.

The open house celebrates the completion of the 100-day long construction of the 4,500 square foot facility. The space creates a new epicenter of student life and activity in the heart of the Gardner Campus. The college has had student-dedicated spaces in the past but this will surpass them all and truly be student-centered from the outset.

The student center will feature versatile space where students can relax, hang out and socialize.

The goal was to create a versatile space where students can relax, hang out and socialize. The student center will feature a lounge and meeting space, group study area, game room and televisions. In addition to indoor space, the center will open out to a green space with outdoor wifi and seating.

The ribbon cutting ceremony of the new center will be commemorated with a speaking program, unveiling of the naming of the building, and tours of the new facility. During the ceremony, Bemis Associates, Inc. will be recognized for their $500,000 donation through the Bemis Community Investment Fund that helped fund the center.

The Open House is designed to be a time for community members to tour the space and learn more about this student-centered addition to the Gardner campus.

MWCC Launches Fitchburg High Nursing Program

Project Healthcare Fitchburg High School students Kamron Sims, Emily Emireault and Mickira Snowden examine a medical training dummy. Through a partnership with Mount Wachusett Community College, a group of Fitchburg High School students will have the opportunity to earn their Certified Nursing Assistant certification before they graduate high school.

Through a partnership with Mount Wachusett Community College, a group of Fitchburg High School students will have the opportunity to earn their Certified Nursing Assistant certification before they graduate high school.

“The Fitchburg High CNA Program is a unique opportunity for current high school students to earn college credits, while also attaining working credentials to gain employment in a health care field,” said Melissa Bourque-Silva, the Director of the Workforce Diversity Pipeline at Mount Wachusett Community College.

The selective program, set to serve approximately 12 students in the first year, will be taught at Fitchburg High School by a MWCC instructor as part of the student’s normal course load. In addition to over 59 hours of lessons and skills labs on location during the school day at FHS, students enrolled in this program will receive 30 hours of job experience at an off-site clinical location.

A grant covers the entire cost for students, including not only tuition but transportation to clinical experiences, fees, books and the certification test. At the end of a year of the program, students will have earned five college credits, CPR Certification, be eligible to work as a home health aid and eligible to take the CNA certification test.

This is the first time a clinical nursing experience has been offered through Fitchburg High School. The certification will allow students to either enter the workforce with a great entry-level healthcare job or advance to another nursing degree or more effectively work as they attend college. At as young as 16 years old you can start working as a CNA, which is part of why the CNA certification was selected, according to Bourque-Silva.

“This is one step in their education. They can take these classes, then start working, and then continue their education,” she said. “They will get work experience and will be able to work a well-paying job while they put themselves through college.”

The program is being paid for by a national workforce diversity pipeline grant from the Health and Human Services office of Minority Health. The college received the grant in 2015 with $450,000 a year in funding that runs through 2020. This program was designed to meet the goal of the grant to create a pipeline for minority and underrepresented students to get into health care careers.

Those interested can also reach out directly to Bourque-Silva at

Community Leaders Appointed to MWCC Board of Trustees

The newest members of the Mount Wachusett Community College Board of Trustees were sworn in last week. Pictured from left to right are Board Chairman Robert Antonioni, Student Trustee Gina Vilayphone, Trustee Denise Kindschi Gosselin, Trustee Claire Freda, Trustee Dean Tran and MWCC President James Vander Hooven.

Three community leaders joined the Mount Wachusett Board of Trustees last week after being appointed by Governor Charlie Baker.

“I am pleased to welcome these community leaders to the Mount Wachusett Community College Board of Trustees. I know that they will not only work to better the College but provide important insights into their communities and areas of interest,” said MWCC President James Vander Hooven. “They will each be a tremendous asset to the college as we continue our focus on providing students with a quality, affordable education.”

Claire Freda, Denise Kindschi Gosselin, and Dean Tran officially joined the board during a swearing in ceremony on Thursday, Aug. 10. Following the ceremony, Robert Antonioni, who has served on the board since 2015 and is an attorney with Antonioni & Antonioni Law Office, presided over his first meeting as Chairman of the Board of Trustees.

“This is very much a wonderful honor and I look forward to working with my fellow board members, staff and most importantly the students,” said Bob Antonioni during the meeting.

MWCC President James Vander Hooven shakes hands Leominster City Councilor Claire Freda after she was sworn into the College’s Board of Trustees.

Claire Freda is a licensed real estate appraiser and broker who has been involved in local government in Leominster in numerous forms. She has been serving as an at-large councilor since 2010, and was the Ward 3 Councillor from 1994 to 2009. She served on the Leominster school committee from 1987 to 1994. Freda is also involved with government at the state level, serving on the Local Government Advisory Council and Massachusetts Municipal Association since 1994 and has been the Women’s Elected Municipal Officials Chair since 2012. In addition to government involvement, she has been a member of the Leominster Rotary Club for 23 years and president for six.

“I’m excited about being on the board because there are so many pieces that I’m interested in that the college is involved with,” Freda said.

Denise Kindschi Gosselin, Ph.D., is a Professor Emeritus of Criminal Justice at Western New England University. She is also a retired Massachusetts State Police Trooper. Gosselin served as a Detective for the Hampden County and Hampshire County District Attorney’s Offices. She specialized in the investigation of crimes against women and children. Her duties included investigation of all major crime and she participated in surveillance, undercover investigations, narcotics raids, and renditions. Gosselin’s career in law enforcement began after she graduated with a degree in law enforcement the same year her father graduated with his nursing degree.

“Graduating with him just filled my heart,” said Gosselin who explained a number of other members of her family have also graduated from the college. “I see Mount Wachusett as a family place for us and I feel like I owe a lot here. It’s where I started my career. I became the first (MWCC) female campus police officer.”

MWCC President James Vander Hooven shakes hands Fitchburg City Councilor Dean Tran after he was sworn into the College’s Board of Trustees.

Dean Tran is a Senior Manager at Avid Technologies, Inc. where he oversees personnel and projects across three continents and is responsible for over $200 million in annual revenue. Tran is also a member of the Fitchburg City Council. He has been a councilor at-large since 2006 and has held council positions including Vice President and Chairman of the Legislative Affairs Committee and City Property. Tran also serves on the Executive Board for the NVC Boys Scout of America, Board Corporator for the YMCA and Massachusetts Municipal Association. In his spare time, he is a volunteer coach for the Fitchburg Youth Soccer and Youth Baseball.

“Mount Wachusett Community College is a beautiful campus that provides an exceptional and affordable education,” said Tran. “I am excited for the opportunity to work with President Vander Hooven, the staff and the Board of Trustees to increase enrollment and bring prosperity to the College.”

Massachusetts Community Colleges Unite Against Hatred

The 15 Massachusetts Community College Presidents have signed a joint statement to unite in their opposition to the violence, bigotry, racism and hate witnessed in Charlottesville, Virginia this past weekend.

The Presidents of the 15 Community Colleges of Massachusetts unite to voice our opposition to the violence, bigotry, racism and hate we witnessed in Charlottesville, Virginia this past weekend.

The students on our campuses across the Commonwealth reflect the rich diversity of our nation. Our philosophy of teaching and learning has, at its core, the promise of inclusive excellence and social justice. We embrace our shared values of global citizenship and prize the richness of cultural wealth in our diverse communities. We respect people from all nations, cultures, background, and experience and welcome them to join our community of scholars and learners, for therein lies the hope and the future strength of our nation and our world.

We reject, in the strongest possible terms, hateful rhetoric, harmful actions, or attempts to diminish the values or identity of our community members, while remaining committed to the fundamental right of free speech. These actions will not gain a foothold on our campuses. We will provide safe and secure environments for our students, faculty and staff. We will continue to embrace the diversity that makes our institutions strong.

Our community colleges are democracy’s colleges. The teaching and learning that happen at our 15 colleges speaks to the immense compassion and potential that enrich our nation. In these times that test our resolve as leaders, we renew our pledge to our communities. You are all welcome and valued; your religion, race, ethnicity, language, citizenship, and gender are honored. We will continue to learn together. Hate has no place at our Massachusetts Community Colleges.

On behalf of the Presidents of the Massachusetts Community Colleges,

James Vander Hooven
President, Mount Wachusett Community College

Gina Vilayphone Sworn in as MWCC Student Trustee

Mount Wachusett Community College student Gina Vilayphone has been sworn in last week to the college’s Board of Trustees.

Mount Wachusett Community College student Gina Vilayphone was sworn in last week to the college’s Board of Trustees, following a spring election by her peers as the board’s student representative.

On Thursday, Aug. 10, the Communications major was sworn in and participated in her first trustee meeting. The Leominster resident, originally from Gardner and having graduated from Gardner High School, is a full voting member representing all students attending Mount Wachusett Community College.

“Gina is a confident and engaged member of our Mount Wachusett community. She will work to bring together our students and represent them on the board. She has a passion for engaging students from all of our locations in Gardner, Devens, Fitchburg, and Leominster. I know she will enthusiastically represent all of them,” said MWCC President James Vander Hooven.

A non-traditional student majoring in Communications, Vilayphone will be entering her second year at Mount Wachusett Community College. She is a mother who is passionate about connecting with others, continuously working for positive change, and strongly believes that everyone can succeed with the right support and acknowledgment.

“I really want the satellite campuses to come together. My wish is for other campuses to get more involved,” said Vilayphone. “I want people to get involved in their community more than anything else.”

Mount Wachusett Community College student Gina Vilayphone was sworn in last week to the college’s Board of Trustees.

She participates in the Visions Program and is an active member of the Student Government Association. She said that she genuinely loves to help others and aspires to impact society and the college in a positive way. Her previous career in the beauty service industry led her to become an internationally published hair and makeup artist. Her work has been featured at New York Fashion Week, and published in Vogue Italia, Lula London, and Huf Magazine. Through her work in the beauty industry, Vilayphone has connected with many individuals and empowered them to build confidence in themselves.

“I’m really looking forward to representing the students and advocating for the students,” said Vilayphone who said she hopes to help connect other students as well.

Gina is one of eight Mount Wachusett Community College students that were elected by their peers to student government leadership positions in April. Those representatives are:

Sophomore Representatives:
Olivia Rose Howes, Phillipston
Ashley McHugh, New Ipswich, NH
Samantha Shippell-Stiles, Westminster

Freshman Representative:
GiaBao Truong, Fitchburg

At Large Representatives:
Taylor Rameau, Westminster
Gabriel Roberts, Athol
Sarah Urbina, Sterling

Message from MWCC President Vander Hooven Concerning the Events in Charlottesville, Virginia

MWCC President James Vander Hooven.

Students, Faculty and Staff of Mount Wachusett Community College,

Over the past few days, our country has witnessed the result of hate. To say that it has been disturbing would be an understatement. As the events of Charlottesville unfolded, I immediately started thinking, “I should put a statement together that clearly and unequivocally demonstrates that we, at Mount Wachusett Community College, stand firmly against hate in any form.” So, what took me so long?

In all honesty, I’ve struggled first in how to address what has been so contrary to my core values to my own children. Some of you may know that I have three children, ages nine, seven, and four. I always assumed that I would teach my children about evil and hate by referencing some distant generation. I never assumed I would reference today’s news reports. Or I assumed that I would be referencing people exterior to our own country. Yes, this is naïve thinking, I get that, steeped in my own privilege and life experiences. I have never said to someone else, “I know how you feel” because, especially in situations like this, I do not. I have never been on the bruising end of any –isms. That is my definition of privilege. I have struggled coming up with a way to address this with my own children and that makes me sick to my stomach.

The word “community” is in our name. It is the only truly important word in our name. Within our walls and at all of our campuses, we stand for community. We stand for caring for and about each other. We stand for discussing ideas that build upon the very foundation of our country. The ideals that our predecessors, veterans, and current heroes fight for. Freedom means we don’t always like another’s perspective or opinion. But we stand for treating each other with respect, especially as each of our students pursue their academic and social goals.

Please forgive my delay. We all seem to come to grips with these events in different ways. I plan to continue a dialogue with my own children and will initiate a dialogue with the College community as well. To that end, I invite the College community to join me in a roundtable discussion on Friday, August 18th from 12-1 in the Multipurpose Room at the Gardner Campus. I look forward to a respectful discussion focused on how we can continue to demonstrate MWCC’s role in fulfilling the most important word in our name.


Jim Vander Hooven

Summer UP Supporters Visit Gardner Jackson Park Site

Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke, MWCC President James Vander Hooven and members of the Gardner Women’s Circle of Giving visited the Summer UP Jackson Park site last week.

Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke and members of the Gardner Women’s Circle of Giving visited the Summer UP Jackson Park site last week along with Mount Wachusett Community College President James Vander Hooven.

Both the City of Gardner and the Women’s Circle were instrumental in helping to fund Summer UP. The program, coordinated by Mount Wachusett Community College, operates five sites where meals and activities were provided to elementary and middle school students throughout the summer. At the Jackson Park site in Gardner, approximately 75 students made use of the program daily.

The Women’s Circle contributed to Summer UP this year with a donation of $6,100. At Jackson Park on Wednesday, Women’s Circle members Deb Hubbard, Tina Sbrega, and Darlene Morrilly presented MWCC President James Vander Hooven with the donation.

The Women’s Circle contributed to Summer UP this year with a donation of $6,100. At Jackson Park on Wednesday, Women’s Circle members Deb Hubbard, Tina Sbrega, and Darlene Morrilly presented MWCC President James Vander Hooven with the donation.

The Summer UP locations are safe spaces for elementary and middle school students from Leominster, Fitchburg and Gardner to spend their summer hours. With five different locations, many of the participants can even walk to the locations that provide activities and meals for free. Summer UP has locations in Fitchburg at Park Hill Park and Lowe Park, in Gardner at Jackson Park and Olde English Village, and in Leominster at Allencrest Apartments.

Gardner Mural Painted by MWCC Students Unveiled

A group of Mount Wachusett Community College students and alumni, faculty and staff gathers in front of the recently completed mural at the West Street Parking Lot in Gardner along with city officials. Pictured from left to right are MWCC Art Professor Tom Matsuda, MWCC Dean for the School of Liberal Arts Laurie Occhipinti, Corinne Goodrich, Assistant Director for the Gardner Department of Community Development & Planning Joshua Cormier, Allyson Bois, Kayla Rameau, Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke, Sahar Ghavimi, Ben Mikles, Camilo Amarles, WMCC Vice President of External Affairs, Communications and K-12 Partnerships Lea Ann Scales, Jon Chevrette, MWCC President James Vander Hooven, and Renee Tambling. Not pictured: Artist Mike Littlewood.

A mural depicting local landmarks and welcoming visitors to the city was unveiled recently after a summer of hard work by a group of Mount Wachusett Community College Art Students.

“Thank you to the students and everyone else that has been involved with this,” said MWCC President James Vander Hooven at the unveiling on August 9. “It’s really remarkable and beautiful work.”

The mural spanning the entire back wall of the downtown West Street Parking Lot was completed over the summer by a group of nine MWCC students and alumni. The project displays different Gardner landmarks including Dunn Pond, City Hall, and the famous Gardner Chair. Also included in the project was the painting of electric boxes at traffic lights throughout the city. The project followed another mural completed two years ago by MWCC students at Jackson Park in Gardner.

“This is beautifying Gardner. Public art is beautiful and it brightens up otherwise not so beautiful areas,” said Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke who explained this would not be the last project between MWCC’s art department and students and the city. “You can see people are already enjoying this… it is great work. Thank you all. And thank you Mr. President for allowing us to collaborate once again.”

The project was also a growth experience for the students and alumni who participated. In addition to the artistic expression that takes place in public art, there is a huge amount of work that goes into logistics, said Kayla Romeau who coordinated the project with MWCC Alumnus Ben Mikels.

“It was exciting to be out there being able to do our artwork but it is great to know that the community is this accepting of it,” she said explaining that neighbors would come check on the work and commend the artists on the effort.

MWCC Art Professor Tom Matsuda commended the students on all their hard work.

“I was so impressed by the efforts they put in this summer. They were texting each other. I was on the text list and there was text after text… it was so amazing to see the effort they put into this,” said Matsuda. “This was all made possible by our students. It is so great to see all the artwork around the city of Gardner and see that artwork bloom.”

The project was a follow up to the mural created at Jackson Park. Like that project, this was a collaboration between the city and college, with the artists not only getting the exposure of completing a public piece of art but receiving a $200 stipend for their efforts.

Allyson Bois stands in front of her section of wall.
Ben Mikles stands in front of his section of wall. Mikles said that he could never have completed his portion of the mural or helped coordinate the entire mural without the support of his wife and his newborn baby.
Camilo Amarles stands in front of his portion of the mural.
Jon Chevrette sits on his portion of the mural.
Kayla Rameau stands in front of her section of the mural.
Renee Tambling assisted with many sections of the mural.
Sahar Ghavimi stands in front of her portion of the mural.

MWCC Physical Therapist Assistant Graduates Pass Licensure Exam

Students in Mount Wachusett Community College’s Physical Therapist Assistant Associate’s Degree Program practice therapy exercises.

In a testament to the hard work of students and Mount Wachusett Community College’s ongoing effort to maintain high standards and practical relevance for its Physical Therapist Assistant Associate’s Degree Program, 100 percent of recent graduates who took their licensure exam in July passed.

“The PTA faculty expect excellence and the students deliver,” said Margaret Jaillet, Assistant Dean for MWCC’s School of Health Professions, Public Service Programs and Social Sciences. “MWCC has long-standing, dedicated PTA faculty who have maintained clinical practice. It is my belief that this provides the faculty an opportunity to present curriculum with clinical relevance to today’s healthcare.”

Eleven of the thirteen PTA students who graduated in May took their licensure exam on July 6th. They all passed. The remaining two PTA graduates will be able to take their test in October. While exciting, this was not a surprise to Jaillet, who explained the program has always had excellent pass rates.

“The first time pass rate is always over 90 percent and the two year ultimate pass rate has been 100 percent for the last two graduating classes. The national average at other institutions hovers around 85 percent for both categories,” said Jaillet.

Physical therapist assistants carry out treatment procedures that assist with the rehabilitation of injured, ill, or debilitated people. The selective program prepares students to work in the healthcare field under the direct supervision of a physical therapist in a variety of settings. Those interested in the program can learn more at