45 Graduates Complete Accelerated GED Program

by Alana J. Mauger

Student speaker Jamie Gehman addresses her fellow graduates. Photo by Sandi Yanisko

Student speaker Jamie Gehman addresses her fellow graduates. Photo by Sandi Yanisko

Forty-five students earned their General Education Diplomas (GED) during Montgomery County Community College’s annual graduation ceremony on June 5 at the West Campus in Pottstown.

The graduates were part of the College’s rigorous five-week program that is among the most accelerated in the state. According to GED Program Coordinator/Instructor Raymond Ricketts, 860 students have completed the program since its inception in 2006.

The Montgomery County Workforce Investment Board (WIB) funds the program, which is free to Montgomery County residents. The fee for out-of-county students is $100 and includes the course and GED exam.

John Vestri, vice president of operations and finance for Video Ray in Pottstown, provided the keynote address. He commended graduates for taking ownership of their education, and encouraged them to take advantage of all future educational opportunities that arise.

“Every single chance you have to improve yourself through education, please take advantage of it. It will pay off in some way in the long run,” said Vestri. He added that there is “no such thing as a traditional education,” sharing “we all pursue what works for us; everyone is on some non-traditional path.”

Providing the student address, graduate Jamie Gehman, Lower Pottsgrove, said the program “allowed me to focus on my problem area—math—and pass the GED with flying colors.”

Gehman described how it became more and more difficult to return to school as time passed. However, as her youngest of four children started kindergarten this year, she realized it was time to continue her own education as well.

“It’s never too late to give yourself or your loved ones a brighter future through education,” she shared.

Gehman recently completed her first semester at the College, during which she earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average (GPA). She ultimately hopes to work with children who have learning challenges and brain trauma.

Marisol Lezcano, executive director of the Montgomery County WIB and deputy director of commerce, presented the graduates with their diplomas, and Peggy Schmidt, chair, WIB Youth Council, provided closing remarks.

“I’m sure, as you have gone through this journey, people told you that you couldn’t do it. But your hard work paid off,”  she said, just before asking attendees to join her in reciting the lyrics to “High Hopes.”

To learn more about the College’s GED program or GED testing services, visit mc3.edu/adm-fin-aid/ged.

GED graduates stand with faculty, staff and community supporters. Photo by Sandi Yanisko

GED graduates stand with faculty, staff and community supporters. Photo by Sandi Yanisko

‘The Artists’ Model’ Exhibition Features Work of 10 Artists

by Diane VanDyke

Painting by Wayne Hibschman, “Chuck’s Studio.”

Painting by Wayne Hibschman, “Chuck’s Studio.”

Montgomery County Community College will host “The Artists’ Model,” an exhibition featuring 10 professional artists, from Wednesday, June 25, through Thursday, Aug. 14, at the College’s Fine Arts Center Gallery, Central Campus, 340 DeKalb Pike, Blue Bell.

An opening reception will be held Wednesday, June 25, from 5-7 p.m. with participating artists Marie Bender, Betz Green, Linda and John Gist, Wayne Hibschman, Steve Kennedy, Nancy and Charles Schmidt, Phyllis Purves Smith and Elsa Tarantal. Both the exhibit and reception are free and open to the community—everyone is welcome.

“The Artists’ Model” will showcase the talent of these artists, who meet weekly to paint, draw and sculpt using a live model as inspiration. For more than 30 years, this diverse group of portrait painters, anatomy teachers, a NASA artist, university professors and botanical illustrators have met weekly to inspire and encourage one another as they create their artwork.

“We believe that good art begins with careful observation and a lifetime of continued, dedicated practice in the art of portraying the model,” says Green, about this passionate, loyal group of friends. “Camaraderie is an important factor, as is the encouragement and advice that is freely shared in a congenial atmosphere.

The exhibition features the results of these ongoing sessions and includes a range of mediums—oils, charcoal, silverpoint, watercolor, pencil, pastel and clay. The artists hope to convey to visitors the positive impact of approaching art in a collaborative atmosphere with like-minded artists who value studying from a model.

For more information about the exhibition, contact Montgomery County Community College Galleries Director Holly Cairns at 215-619-7349 or hcairns@mc3.edu. For information and photographs of exhibitions and participating artists, friend us on Facebook/DestinationArts.

Expert Panelists to Share Financial Aid Strategies

by Ben Litman

Is your head filled with financial aid questions? Montgomery County Community College’s Financial Aid Office will host two workshops in July to help high school juniors and seniors and their parents understand the financial aid process. The workshops are free of charge and are open to the public.

Workshops will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 9 in Advanced Technology Center room 101 at the College’s Central Campus, 340 DeKalb Pike, Blue Bell, and on Wednesday, July 16 in the South Hall Community Room at the West Campus, 101 College Drive, Pottstown.

Both workshops will feature an expert panel discussion by representatives from a variety of local colleges and universities. Attendees will learn about the different types of financial aid available, how parents and students can meet the cost of attending college, how to interpret award letters, and much more. Workshops will include ample time for Q & A.

Register online at mc3.edu/adm-fin-aid/paying.

PayingCollege_Combined_HIRES

Montgomery Earns National Climate Leadership Award from Second Nature

BLOG Second Nature Award

by Alana J. Mauger

Montgomery County Community College is among six institutions in the country to receive the 2014 Climate Leadership Award from Second Nature—a national non-profit organization that works to create a healthy just, and sustainable society by transforming higher education.

For the past five years, Climate Leadership Awards have been presented annually to signatory institutions of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) that demonstrate innovative and advanced leadership in education for sustainability and climate mitigation and adaptation.

Montgomery County Community College is a two-time recipient of the award, having also been recognized as a Climate Leader in 2011.

“The commitment, enthusiasm, and leadership of this year’s Climate Leadership Awards winners are undoubtedly leading the way for higher education to address the urgency of climate crisis. These institutions’ innovative approaches and exemplary actions in the pursuit of sustainability, both on campus and in the community, are tremendously exciting, and further strengthen the progress made by the ACUPCC network,” said David Hales, president of Second Nature.

For the 2014 award, institutions were evaluated on a variety of criteria for climate leadership on campus, including student preparedness, climate innovation and creation of opportunities.

In the area of student preparedness, the College’s core curriculum shapes students’ experiences through 13 learning competencies, one of which is civic responsibility. To meet this competency, several faculty developed sustainability-focused courses in the disciplines of Economics, Geology and Geography, while others incorporate sustainability-themed projects into their existing courses, including Public Relations, Ceramics, and Composition, among others.

Students also benefit from community partners–including Wissahickon Growing Greener, Schuylkill River National and State Heritage Area and Greater Valley Forge Transportation Management Association (GVF)—that help guide sustainability efforts as members of the College’s President’s Climate Commitment Advisory Council. The College’s student-led Environmental Club also forged a partnership with Pennypack Farm and Education Center, where students volunteer monthly while learning about community supported agriculture.”

In the area of climate innovation, the College piloted a four-tier Green Office Initiative in 2013 that encourages departments to adopt sustainable practices and purchase greener supplies in partnership with Office Depot. The six pilot offices reported an average 12 percent decrease in spending while moving to more sustainable supplies and practices. The initiative was brought to scale this spring and has earned awards from the Philadelphia Area Collegiate Cooperative (PACC) and Office Depot.

Montgomery also forged a partnership with Sustainable Waste Solutions to make the Culinary Arts Institute its first landfill-free facility. One hundred percent of the Institute’s trash, cooking grease and food trimmings is recycled or converted into organic agricultural compost or biofuel. To learn about this initiative, watch the College’s “Cooking Green Cuisine” video, produced by Alana J. Mauger and Matt Porter.


Transportation is another key area in which Montgomery excels in climate innovation. To compliment a 20-passenger transportation shuttle—introduced in 2010 to make the 30-mile trip between campuses several times daily—the College also partners with Zimride to facilitate a safe ridesharing program for students, faculty and staff. Combined, the two initiatives reduced vehicle use by almost one million miles and carbon emissions by an estimated 54,644 metric tons. This spring, the College implemented a new compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle that will further reduce carbon emissions by a projected 11 metric tons.

To support its transportation programs, the College opened a green lot in 2012, allowing drivers of electric, hybrid and high-efficiency vehicles, carpoolers, and shuttle riders to access prime parking at the Central Campus. Electric vehicle charging stations are also available at both Central and West campuses. Collectively, the College’s transportation initiatives earned Platinum-Level Sustainability Award from GVF for three consecutive years.

For the final award criteria, creating opportunities, Montgomery partnered with Siemens Inc. to implement a self-funded energy conservation project that will result in more than $6,000,000 (19 percent) in energy savings over 15 years. The project incorporates renewable energy sources from wind turbines at the West Campus and solar panels at the Central Campus, as well as other energy/cost-saving initiatives like transitioning to natural gas, retrofitting lighting, and upgrading HVAC and building automation systems.

To educate and influence the community at large, the College documents all of its work on the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) award-winning “Think Green” blog. The College also invites the community to participate in its annual Earth Week and Campus Sustainability Day activities. To learn more about the College’s sustainability efforts, visit mc3green.wordpress.com.

As a charter signatory of the ACUPCC, Montgomery pledged to neutralize its net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The ACUPCC network is made up of more than 680 colleges and universities, representing nearly 6.6 million students. To date, ACUPCC institutions have achieved a 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions since the initiative began in 2007. To learn more, visit presidentsclimatecommitment.org.

Students Graduate High School Through ‘Gateway to College’ Program

Eight students recently graduated from high school through Montgomery County Community College’s Gateway to College program. Pictured are (first row, from left) College President Dr. Karen A. Stout; Gateway Director Keima Sheriff; graduates Ne’Cole Casalena, Erika Knappenberger, Meghan Benson and Rachel Voltz; Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Dr. Kathrine Swanson; (second row, from left) Resource Specialist Lori Davidson; graduates Justin Leamy, Carlas Rich and James Hanible; and Resource Specialist Esau Collins. Photo by Sandi Yanisko

Eight students recently graduated from high school through Montgomery County Community College’s Gateway to College program. Pictured are (first row, from left) College President Dr. Karen A. Stout; Gateway Director Keima Sheriff; graduates Ne’Cole Casalena, Erika Knappenberger, Meghan Benson and Rachel Voltz; Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Dr. Kathrine Swanson; (second row, from left) Resource Specialist Lori Davidson; graduates Justin Leamy, Carlas Rich and James Hanible; and Resource Specialist Esau Collins. Photos by Sandi Yanisko

by Alana J. Mauger

Eight students from Montgomery County Community College’s Gateway to College Program earned their high school diplomas this spring after completing the requirements necessary to graduate from their respective school districts.

Gateway to College is a national network designed for young adults ages 16-21 who are at risk for not completing high school. One of only 43 Gateway to College programs in the country, Montgomery partners locally with 16 area school districts and the Montgomery County Workforce Investment Board (WIB) to help increase high school—and ultimately college—graduation rates.

Spring 2014 graduates include Meghan Benson, Wissahickon; Ne’Cole Casalena, Phoenixville; James Hanible, Pottsgrove; Erika Knappenberger, Souderton; Justin Leamy, Pottsgrove; Jose Ortiz Rivera, Hatboro-Horsham; Carlas Rich, Phoenixville; and Rachel Voltz, Upper Merion. All of the graduates plan to pursue post-secondary education, and at least six will attend Montgomery in the fall.

Ne’Cole Casalena, Phoenixville High School, was selected as valedictorian.

Ne’Cole Casalena, Phoenixville High School, was selected as valedictorian.

One of those graduates, Ne’Cole Casalena, Phoenixville High School, described her journey in rhyming lyrics, speaking as class valedictorian.

“And I want to thank everyone but me, cause without you, I don’t know where I would be. Where I am, as a person, they are life lessons, not a burden…If I could, I wouldn’t change a thing, cause out of 18 years, this was the best spring,” she recited.

In only its first year at Montgomery, the Gateway to College program has grown from 21 students in the fall to 52 this spring. At full capacity, the program will serve up to 150 students annually.

“My Gateway students are some of the most resilient and capable young people I have had the pleasure of supporting on their academic journey,” shared Keima Sheriff, who is MCCC’s Gateway to College program director. “Many are faced with incredibly difficult life circumstances, yet they consistently attend school, participate in a rigorous learning environment and meet the expectations of the program. My students prove that if given the opportunity to excel, they can and will rise to the occasion.”

Fifteen of Montgomery’s students were recognized as Gateway Achievers by the Gateway to College National Network. Students include: Jose Ortiz Rivera from Hatboro-Horsham; Gustavo Ascencion from Norristown; Ne’Cole Casalena and Laura Krueger from Phoenixville; Brianna Gagliardi, Marcus Gordon and Anthony Romano from Pottsgrove; James Hanible from Upper Merion; Christopher Anderson, Shane Bowman, Jelani Crosby and William Dobnak from Upper Moreland; Shaquilla Anderson from WIB; and Meghan Benson and Emahnie Holmes from Wissahickon.

Fifteen of Montgomery's students were recognized as Gateway Achievers by the Gateway to College National Network.

Fifteen of Montgomery’s students were recognized as Gateway Achievers by the Gateway to College National Network.

The College also recognized spring Gateway students for their achievements.

William Dobnak, Upper Moreland, and Laura Krueger, Phoenixville, were recognized as Foundation (first term) Students of the Semester. They also earned the highest GPA among the College’s Gateway students along with Jelani Crosby, Upper Moreland.

Marcus Gordon, Pottsgrove, and Rachel Voltz, Upper Merion, were recognized as Transitioned (second term) Students of the Semester.

Perfect Attendance went to Shane Bowman, Upper Moreland; Anthony Romano, Pottsgrove; and Thomas Rosa, of Plymouth Meeting. Rosa was also recognized as Most Courageous, along with Paige Trump, Pottsgrove. Romano was recognized for Change of Heart, along with Jose Ortiz Rivera, Hatboro-Horsham.

Brianna Gagliardi, Pottsgrove, and Julian Richardson, WIB, earned Most Improved, while Amber Keyes, Norristown, and Faith Owens, Pottsgrove, earned Rising Star awards.

Additional awards included Perseverance, given to Nicole Snyder, Upper Moreland, and Dejah McMillan, Pottsgrove; and Most Determined, given to Gustavo Ascencion, Norristown, and Keara Hyden, Phoenixville.

Students begin the Gateway to College program with a Foundation semester, during which they take classes in reading, writing, math, and college skills as part of small learning communities. After successfully completing the Foundation term, participants transition into one of the College’s academic programs, earning college credits while completing high school requirements. Throughout the program, students are advised and mentored by Gateway Resource Specialists Lori Davidson and Esau Collins. They also actively engage in college and community service.

Partnering school districts include Boyertown, Cheltenham, Daniel Boone, Hatboro-Horsham, Norristown, Perkiomen Valley, Phoenixville, Pottsgrove, Pottstown, Souderton, Spring Ford, Upper Dublin, Upper Merion, Upper Moreland, Upper Perkiomen, Wissahickon and the Montgomery County Workforce Investment Board.

Watch the full graduation and awards ceremony below! Video produced by Matt Porter

Alumni Present ‘The History of Montco: A Documentary’

by Ben Litman and Diane VanDyke

Montgomery County Community College alumni Joseph Sapienza and Sean King. Photo by Sandi Yanisko

Montgomery County Community College alumni Joseph Sapienza and Sean King. Photo by Sandi Yanisko

As part of its yearlong celebration of its 50th Anniversary, Montgomery County Community College invites the community to the premier public screening of “The History of Montco: A Documentary,” on Friday, June 27, at 6 p.m. in the Science Center Theater, 340 DeKalb Pike, Blue Bell. The screening is free of charge—everyone is welcome. Light refreshments will be served. To RSVP, call 215-641-6324 or email dyerkey@mc3.edu by June 18.

The documentary is directed and produced by MCCC alumni Joseph Sapienza, Philadelphia, and Sean King, North Wales, who began the project a few years ago while they were students at the College.

“The documentary really began as a one or two minute news package on the construction of College Hall,” King says. “After looking through some photos, we decided to expand the project to cover more of the history of Montco. From there, it snowballed into a feature length documentary.”

See the documentary’s listing on IMDb

The video starts in Conshohocken, where the College opened its doors in early October 1966—almost two years after it was officially established on Dec. 8, 1964. Through interviews of current and former faculty, staff and administrators, King and Sapienza captured the spirit and tenacity of an ever-evolving, growing educational institution that has become the alma mater of more than 55,000 alumni.

After years of preparation, hard work, research, and the desire to make their idea a reality, they completed an entertaining, informative movie that is a testament to their accomplishments and to the story about the college.

“It was a long process. We started pre-production in July of 2011 and the film didn’t go into editing until the summer of 2013,” Sapienza says, recalling the many hours of research, interviews, recording and editing.

The movie is about two hours long. During the intermission, Sapienza and King will be available to answer questions about the process of creating the Montco documentary.

Listen to College President Dr. Karen A. Stout interview Sapaienza and King on “Montgomery County Community College On The Air”

Sapienza began his studies at Montgomery County Community College in the winter of 2010 in the Film and Video program. In fall 2012, he then transferred to the Film and Television program at Drexel University and earned his bachelor’s degree in May 2014. With films, one of his favorite subjects is documentaries, especially documentaries involving history. For his senior project at Drexel, Spaienza directed a history documentary about the coal town Centralia and its ongoing underground mine fire. Following graduation, he started an internship with NFL Films.

King studied Communication at Montgomery County Community College, focusing on Journalism. While he was at the College, he was involved in numerous campus activities, including the Communication Arts Production Group and Montco Radio. After graduating in 2012, he started studying History and Political Science at Arcadia University, focusing on contemporary American history and politics. When he completes his bachelor’s degree, King plans to pursue a job in government.

For more information about Montgomery County Community College’s 50th Anniversary, visit mc3.edu/50.

History on Montco Poster