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29 Who Shine 2016 Award Winners: Community College Students

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Jose Alfredo Cruz, Pittsfield
Berkshire Community College

A native of Oaxaca, Mexico, Alfredo is the first in his family to go to college. He is President of the Student Government Association, is involved with the Multi- Cultural Student Services Organization, and a volunteer with MassPIRG who has helped with the Affordable Textbooks Campaign. He helped organize numerous events on campus while also succeeding academically and working 40 hours a week. He plans to transfer to a four-year college, study finance and open his own business in the Berkshires.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Jose chose to recognize Eleanore Velez, Multicultural Admissions Counselor and Coordinator of the Multicultural Center. “Eleanore Velez has been a mentor and role model since my very first day at Berkshire Community College. She has inspired me to believe in my dreams despite any adversities. She has given me the confidence to go beyond my own expectations. Her unconditional support has allowed me to believe that with hard work everything is possible.”

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Milagros Sanchez-Gaton, New Bedford
Bristol Community College

A full-time student, mother, role model and community volunteer in New Bedford, Milagros has learned from her own experiences how to be a leader who empowers young women. Milagros is currently developing a comprehensive civic engagement project about domestic violence education and prevention. She is also completing the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts Leadership Institute for Political and Public Impact, which prepares women to impact policy on local, state, and national levels. Milagros plans to continue her studies in social work, focusing on trauma and domestic violence.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Milagros chose to recognize Manuela Rosa, Director of WISE Women Grant “Manuela has always encouraged me to achieve and succeed in my goals. She has advised me on class selection and has assisted me academically. Manuela leads by example, helping others to network and discover resources to build a path to professional success.”

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Sondos Alnamos, Watertown
Bunker Hill Community College

The war in Syria permanently changed the life of Sondos Alnamos, who grew up near Damascus. Hearing news of loved ones who were killed, kidnapped, or lost limbs, Sondos’s dreams of studying architecture and design changed. Rather than design buildings, Sondos now wants to use her artistic and engineering skills to design artificial organs and limbs for those injured in war zones. She plans a career in biomedical engineering. Sondos also makes time to volunteer with numerous community organizations, including the Boston Rescue Mission and Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly. She currently serves as Student Trustee, Co-President of Phi Theta Kappa, and Student Administrator of the Commonwealth Honors Program. She is also a member of the Teaching and Learning Institute, the Arab Students Association, and works as an Orientation Mentor at Bunker Hill. She plans to complete a M.S. and Ph.D. in clinical or tissue engineering.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Sondos chose to recognize JoDe Lavine, Associate Professor and Chair, Business Department. “Dr. JoDe Lavine has been my biomedical engineering professor for the past year. She has been a great professor, inspiring me and my classmates, as well as updating us about engineering internships. Also, she taught me how to understand and be ready for the work field. In addition, Dr. Lavine is my academic advisor who encouraged me throughout the year.”

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Joshua Dykens, West Chatham
Cape Cod Community College

Joshua has served two terms as Student Trustee of Cape Cod Community College. As a strong promoter of linkages between the Four C’s and the community, he has overseen a very successful Business/ Economics Speakers program linking local business professionals with the campus. He also organized partnership projects between the college’s Rotaract Club and Rotary Clubs on the Cape and the country of Haiti, where CCCC students traveled to install a fresh water well for over 20,000 people. He will pursue a Bbchelor’s degree in business in order to pursue his goal of building his own financial investment firm and creating jobs here in the Commonwealth.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Joshua chose to recognize Virender Gautajm, Professor, Economics. “In my college years thus far I have encountered few professors who devote their lives to their students as wholeheartedly ‘VG’ has. From taking several of his courses and having him as a club adviser during my presidency of the Economics Club, I have witnessed first-hand VG’s love for his students. Under his guidance I have grown as a leader, as a public speaker and as a human being. I can say for certain that I would not be the person I am today without Dr. Virender Gautam.”

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Emily Hannah Emmons, Northampton
Greenfield Community College

Emily is a strong student (3.57 GPA) with a passion for computer science. She has served as a peer tutor and role model at GCC, and is working with local elementary schools to develop a program to cultivate girls’ interest in STEM fields. A first generation college student she is described by a faculty mentor as having “the boldness of an explorer” when it comes to learning about technology. After graduating with her Associate in Arts in liberal arts with concentration in computer science in June, Emily will transfer to UMass Amherst to pursue a Bachelor of Science in computer science with a focus in software engineering.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Emily chose to recognize Scott Herstad, Professor, English. “Scott Herstad encouraged us to determine what questions most interest us and to explore them, even if they are difficult. Doing so will help us find the most rewarding path. That was a powerful message when I was returning to school. It’s stuck with me and influenced me ever since.”

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Yonatan Benyamin Rubenstein, Longmeadow
Holyoke Community College

Yoni serves as a mentor for students in two HCC programs: HCC’s Gateway to College program, through which he first entered HCC as a dual enrollment student, and STEM Starter Academy. Yoni will graduate this spring with high honors and a 3.95 GPA. Off campus, he has been a community volunteer for Rachel’s Table, a nonprofit in Springfield that helps feed the hungry, and works as a software engineer for Image Insight Inc., a company that creates software that turns smartphone cameras into radiation detectors. Last April, Yoni presented an independent research project (“2.5 D Maze Generation and Navigation) at the Undergraduate Research Conference at UMass. Yoni will transfer to Commonwealth Honors College at UMass Amherst, where he plans to study mathematics and computer science.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Yonatan chose to recognize Patricia Sullivan, Professor, English. “I had English 101 with Prof. Sullivan, and that was an amazing class. She helped me grow as both a writer and as a person– a lot. The environment she fostered made me feel like it was okay to speak up, let other people ready my essays and interact.”

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Olivia Jean Hughes, Halifax
Massasoit Community College

A liberal arts transfer student with a 3.9 GPA, Olivia was unanimously selected by her peers to lead the Student Senate as President. In addition, she serves as a Presidential Student Ambassador and a member of the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society. She has successfully coordinated two American Red Cross blood drives on the Brockton campus and, this year, took the lead in planning and organizing a Student Senate Leadership Conference. Last spring Olivia joined with a faculty member on a project called Drug Story Theater, a play about recovery from substance abuse that is performed in local schools. Olivia plans to continue her education and eventually earn a M.Ed. in higher education administration, with the goal of one day becoming a college president. She writes, “College is your building block in life, and I want to be that person that makes it happen for other students.”

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Olivia chose to recognize Kathleen Reid, Director of Student Life. “Kathleen Reid is a staff member that has been highly influential in my college career. She has helped me build myself into a strong professional leader who can walk into any situation and feel prepared. Just like herself.”

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Abraham Guerrero, Southborough
MassBay Community College

Abraham’s pursuit of higher education and community service go hand in hand. In addition to his studies at MassBay, Abraham worked for 1 1/2 years full time at the New England Center for Children, a school in Southborough for children with severe autism. Today he serves both as deacon and assistant director for the teen and young adults in the church he attends, and assists in programming the congregation’s Vacation Bible School. He currently works for a local middle school’s afterschool program, and dreams of building a high performing school for disadvantaged or low income students. Abraham will continue his studies as an economics major at Boston University.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Abraham chose to recognize Jeanie Tietjen, Associate Professor, Writing & Literature; Honors Coordinator & PTK Chapter Advisor. “Professor Tietjen is amazing and does all she can for her students. I know for a fact that she stays up at all hours of the night to ensure her students are getting the support they need to succeed. If there is anyone in this world worthy of influencing your life, it’s someone like her, who works so hard for others.”

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Paulina Llorente Gonzalez, Concord
Middlesex Community College

Originally from Mexico, Paulina now makes her home in Concord and hopes to make a difference in the field of special education. At Middlesex she has served as an advocate for students in the Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Program (ICE), a dual-enrollment opportunity for high school students with intellectual disabilities. Paulina has served as a peer mentor and is an active member of the ICE Program’s Partnership Leadership Team. She has testified at the state house in support of inclusive higher education for all, and has created the ICE Program Peers Club at MCC. Off campus, Paulina has served as a volunteer at The Integrated Preschool in Concord, working closely with children who require one-on-one attention. She has been accepted to participate in the college’s 2016 international fellowship to China.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Paulina chose to recognize Dawn Gross, Program Coordinator, Disability Support Services. “Dawn Gross is my mentor, role model and friend. She listens to me, gives me good advice, supports, encourages and inspires me to do better. She teaches me academic, personal and professional skills by making me part of events that are related to my career. Over all, she has an amazing heart!”

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Bella Ballin, Worcester
Mount Wachusett Community College

Through personal experience, Bella Ballin learned that opportunities to advance her education were not to be passed up. Within a year of being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 15, she enrolled at MWCC as a dual enrollment student. The Pathways Early College Innovation School allowed her to simultaneously earn her high school diploma and an associate degree. Bella is a member of the Commonwealth Honors Program at MWCC, a 2015 recipient of the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s prestigious Christian A. Herter Memorial Scholarship, and an emerging campus leader. She has been named to the President’s List every semester for maintaining a perfect 4.0 grade point average, and this year was named to Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. Bella helps peers as a math and chemistry tutor at MWCC’s Academic Support Center, serves as president of the student Math Club and takes part in service learning projects to help elementary school students.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Bella chose to recognize Natalie J. Mercier, Academic Counselor, Pathways Early College Innovation School, MWCC Division of Access & Transition. “I can come to Natalie at any time with anything. No matter how much work it is for her, she’ll help me in any way she can. Out of everyone I’ve met at the Mount, she’s the one I rely on the most. I know I can always count on her.”

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Osarumwense S. Agbonsalo, Lynn
North Shore Community College

Osarumwense Agbonsalo is a recent Nigerian immigrant and natural born leader who exudes integrity, charisma and enthusiasm for all he undertakes. While he waited to get his green card he was ineligible for financial aid, so he worked three jobs to save money for college. Osarumwense enrolled at NSCC in the TRIO program in health science to become a nurse. He has progressed from taking pre-college courses to maintaining a 3.79 GPA in challenging coursework. He takes time to tutor other students, leads fundraisers for TRIO, and represents the college on student panels to share his experiences. He will continue his undergraduate studies at the University of Southern Maine.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Osarumwense chose to recognize Ina Resnikoff, Academic Counselor, TRIO/Student Support Services. “My academic counselor Ina Resnikoff is a great motivator and tremendous mentor, not just to me but to everyone she works with. She always gives me the motivation to do a difficult task. She has helped me ever since I started at NSCC. I call her my American mom!”

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Carlos B. Rivera, Methuen
Northern Essex Community College

After struggling through Lawrence High School, Carlos turned a corner academically at Northern Essex and discovered a talent for helping others. In the past year and a half, he has become one of the college’s most sought-after tutors, starting as an embedded tutor in the math lab and now serving as a supplemental instructor in algebra and trigonometry. He has devoted time during the summer months to tutoring students at Lawrence schools, and assisted with the college’s Summer Bridge Program for at-risk high school graduates transitioning to college. Carlos also is a student assistant in the College Success Center, helping students—primarily Latino students—with math, algebra and biology. Carlos also finds the time to volunteer in the community—with Cor Unum in Lawrence and Open Heart Ministry in Haverhill—and at the college running the clock at college basketball games. He will continue his studies at UMass Lowell, where he will major in biology and psychology. He hopes to attend medical school and become a neurosurgeon.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Carlos chose to recognize Maureen Saliba, Assistant Athletic Director. “Maureen has always been someone I’ve looked up to. She maintains a calm and happy vibe that enhances my ability to handle stressful situations. She has also introduced me to opportunities and people on campus that helped me grow as a student and person. For Maureen, I am grateful. ”

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Kayla Paige Paterson, Blackstone
Quinsigamond Community College

In her second semester at QCC, Kayla began working as a tutor in the Writing Center. Tutoring changed Kayla’s life; she switched her major from general studies to elementary education. She has also been active in her community, leading efforts to fundraise for the Worcester Public Library’s bookmobile. Her work was so impactful that it became the focal point of QCC’s “Day on the Hill”, where representatives from Worcester’s 15 colleges and universities travel to the state house to demonstrate their community impact. Kayla also led QCC’s chapter of the Phi Theta Honor Society in numerous fundraising initiatives and community projects. Kayla will transfer to Worcester State University to earn a Bachelor of Science in elementary education with a minor in English. Kayla’s dream is to work as a fourth grade teacher in Worcester.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Kayla chose to recognize Bonnie A. Coleman, Advisor to the Alpha Zeta Theta Chapter, Enrollment and Student Services. “Bonnie Coleman has guided me, motivated me and inspired me countless times in the amount of time I have known her. She has pushed me to be the best version of myself, and has given me several opportunities to flourish. I can’t thank her enough for all that she does.”

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Fatima Rose Shields, Cambridge
Roxbury Community College

Fatima Shields is president of RCC’s Student Government Association and is integrally involved in planning extracurricular activities for the college’s commuter students. She received the Robert F. Kennedy Scholarship for dedication to civic involvement, leadership, extracurricular activities and academic excellence and a Boston Young Leaders Award from the Boston GLOW (Girls Leadership Organized Women) Organization for her plan to ignite change in the local community. Fatima volunteered for Project Reach tutoring Madison Park students, and was a keynote speaker at the Walk for Trayvon Martin in Boston. She is currently involved with the ExecConnect Business Fellowship through which she landed an internship with Care 2 Communities, a global healthcare non-profit in Newton, Mass. She will intern at the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps this summer and attend a four-year university in the fall.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Fatima chose to recognize Omesa Spencer, Administrative Assistant, Corporate & Community Education. “Omesa is one of the most joyful people that I’ve ever met. She’s played an integral role in my personal and professional growth. She’s been so supportive during my time at RCC. She was my work-study supervisor– she got to know me on a personal level and supported all of my goals. She was integral to my development as a person, she’s taught me so much.”

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Yazmilie Gomez, Chicopee
Springfield Technical Community College

Yazmilie Gomez was born in Puerto Rico and first learned to speak English at her elementary school in Chicopee. Encouraged by her mother and grandmother to pursue an early interest in nursing, Yazmilie took all the science courses she could in high school, before entering the nursing program at STCC. Yazmilie serves as Vice President of the Diversity in Nursing Group, volunteering her time with organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club, Help Our Kids, and March of Dimes. Following graduation from STCC with an associate degree in nursing, she plans to continue her education at Elms College to earn a BSN and then plans to apply to Baystate Medical Center’s Midwifery Education Program.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Yazmilie chose to recognize Anne Mistivar, Professor, Nursing. “Anne Mistivar inspired me on my journey as a nursing student. As my clinical professor, class advisor, and faculty advisor to the Diversity in Nursing Group, she was there when I administered my first injection, and when planning community volunteer projects. She taught me the importance of culturally competent nursing and transformed my understanding of patient care.”