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Choosing the Mount by Darlene Rossi

Darlene Rossi will be graduating on May 23 from MWCC with an Associate’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with an Allied Health concentration and a Practical Nursing Certificate. What follows is a message from her to the class of 2019.

Hello Mount Wachusett Community College Class of 2019! And to all the families, friends and faculty as well. And we do have a lot to celebrate and be grateful for. I would like to share a little of my personal experience at “The Mount”, as we affectionately call it, and as I do that, hopefully communicate some thoughts that express our collective cultivation as well.

And a careful and attentive cultivation it was. As we are gathered on the grounds of the historic Heywood farm, I am reminded of the quote from Thomas Edison, the famous American inventor who lived during the time of this farm’s heyday at the turn of the last century, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Isn’t that true? Heywood Farm was a place that was no stranger to hard work. In my mind, I see The Mount as carrying on many of those same activities as the people who once tilled this ground, while producing a new kind of crop. Here are some of my gleanings.

Mount Wachusett Community College has provided me with an educational “soil” rich in nutrients allowing for my scholastic and professional growth. Some of the elements that led to my standing here today are: Support – Support from my professors who were so patient with this “non-traditional” student and her academic rustiness due do a 30 year hiatus from institutionalized education. I also received immeasurable support from my beloved advisors in the Visions Program. It is hard to quantify what a key role that department played in my collegiate journey, and whether or not I would be here today without them. Todd, Joyce and Margaret knew me and my unique-and ever changing!-situation, and it was such a blessing to be able to reach out to these kind and knowledgeable professionals to receive wise counsel and aid that served to stake and ground my decisions and path for the greatest possible yield.

Class of 2019, I’m sure most of you received similar support from many of the available resources on campus such as the Gateways or Pathways programs, Veterans Services, Food Assistance, Student Services, Tutoring, Child Care Cost Assistance or Career Planning and Placement services, to name a few. I am grateful for all the assets that I have had available to me along the way, that others had the foresight and generosity to provide. To me, this is what farmers do. They know their “crops” and do what they can to make sure they bear fruit.

Additionally, I received inspiration here, which is like sunshine to the soul. It starts the moment the campus comes in view. It is SO beautiful! The stone walls are silent witnesses to the kind of work, hard work, that generations before me did, that I am benefitting from in ways I can’t even comprehend.

I am also inspired by the sacrifice and benevolence inherent in these very grounds. Did you know that in 1937 the Heywood family gave this 250+ acre property to the City of Gardner?! And, the city of Gardner itself is named after Colonel Thomas Gardner, who in 1775 gave of his life for our freedom at the Battle of Bunker Hill. I find all this motivates me to cultivate and exercise those qualities in the short term and also work to increase my future capacity to give and to serve, as these luminaries did.

I was inspired by the highly credentialled professors I had the privilege of learning from and their desire to nurture the next generation with their experience and expertise. And I am also inspired by the student body here. Its diversity is energizing and the conditions under which many are working to improve their situation for themselves, their families and their communities is impressive. They are the ones that recognize the opportunity here, even if dressed in overalls.

Equally important to the support and inspiration, was the logistical leverage offered here, with most classes having evening and online options. This component was critical for me, as I imagine it is for most non-traditional students, who are usually juggling family and work responsibilities as well. As I am transitioning to a more traditional university, I am realizing how important that factor was, and I am not sure I would be here without that either.

Much like that barn ramp outside, Mount Wachusett Community College provided the gradient this student needed in her pursuit of higher education, as I know is has done for all of us here, and many others. I am humbled and encouraged by the many factors and forces at work on my behalf, most of whom I will never know nor be able to thank personally. Most of whom never knew me, yet sowed seeds in times past that would bear fruit for future generations. Once such person was former Massachusetts Governor Foster Furcolo, who in 1958 had the aspiration to bring the community college system to Massachusetts, against much opposition. His idea seemed to fall on stony ground at first, but he plowed on and over time his vision came to fruition.

One of the goals Governor Furculo had for the community colleges was to provide “lifetime learning opportunities for students of all ages”. I was told by Jason Zelesky, Dean of Students that in last year’s graduating class from the Mount, the ages spanned from 15 to 83 years. At 54 years old, I am also the beneficiary of Governor Furcolo’s foresight and resolve.

We see this same pioneering and visionary spirit still enforce here today as evidenced by the new Dr. Daniel M. Asquino Science Center and the development of the Mount’s STEM program in addition to the College being a leader in the Green Movement with such innovations that allow it to generate nearly all of its energy needs on-site, and be near carbon neutral.

It has been said that “you reap what you sow.” I think Colonel Gardner, The Heywoods and Governor Furculo and would be proud of what this day represents, what happens on these hallowed grounds now, the harvest that their efforts and sacrifices have produced.

As I think on my experience at The Mount, the fertile soil it provided and all that it means to me, and so many others, I am reminded of a quote from Bill Gates, where he said “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” What a wonderful business to be in, Mount Wachusett Community College, and you all do it so well. The Class of 2019 is grateful for the opportunities and aides The Mount has provided us, and all the support we received along the way from our family and friends. It was hard work, harder than I thought when asked that question by Visions Program Director Gaurav Khanna in my first orientation class almost 5 years ago. But the seeds of my, our, success were initially sown centuries ago and faithfully tended through the decades to produce the crop represented in this room.

Thomas Edison, well acquainted with hard work himself said, “If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves”. I am astounded by all this moment means. Thank you Mount Wachusett Community College for all that you are, and all that you have done for us and our community. The Class of 2019 is here today, the fruit of your attentive and astounding labors, growing into leaders in our respective fields. We are empowered, equipped, determined and excited to bring all your hard work forward and to sow seeds of kindness, sacrifice and innovation today to help cultivate a bountiful harvest for the next generation, and to provide the fertile soil for empowering tomorrow’s leaders.

Thank you