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29 Who Shine 2017 Award Winners: Community College Students

Danielle Palmieri, Pittsfield
Berkshire Community College

Eighteen-year-old Danielle Palmieri started at Berkshire Community College as a high school senior taking dual enrollment classes.  She quickly emerged as a campus leader and student role model, serving in a variety of capacities including elected Student Trustee, mentor to students in the STEM Starter Academy, math tutor, and Supplemental Instruction Leader in psychology. An outstanding student with a GPA of 3.98, Danielle has worked through the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and the Student Government Association to help her community, serving as youth leader for several American Red Cross blood drives.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Danielle chose to recognize Constance West, Senior Special Programs Coordinator, STEM Starter Academy. "Connie West has been instrumental throughout these past two years. It seems like only yesterday that I was sitting in her office with my STEM application in hand. That was the moment I realized this (BCC) is where I belong. Thank you Connie for always believing in me!"

Stephen Fanus, Taunton
Bristol Community College

Stephen Fanus, a non-traditional student in his 50’s, immigrated to Massachusetts from the Caribbean and learned to read and write in Bristol Community College’s Adult Basic Education Program. He will graduate this spring with a second associate degree in Paralegal Studies, having already earned an Associate in Arts in Communication in 2016.

Stephen has been a committed advocate for public higher education, attending Advocacy Days at the State House to help build stronger legislative support for public campuses.  He serves his adopted community by visiting area high schools, encouraging students to continue their education. Stephen will be doing just that himself, transferring to Bridgewater State University to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Stephen chose to recognize Ronald Weisberger, Director, Bristol Community College Holocaust Center, and Adjunct Professor, History. “Dr. Ronald Weisberger has always given me the confidence and inspiration to achieve my goals. As a non-traditional student, Dr. Weisberger always made sure I was connected to valuable college resources, and he has provided me with great advice throughout my time at BCC."

John George Gonsalves, Roxbury
Bunker Hill Community College

John Gonsalves is an Army Veteran who received a National Defense Service Award for his service as a Combat Medic in Operation Desert Storm.  For the next 22 years, he worked as an EMT before arriving at Bunker Hill Community College in 2013 hoping to pursue a new career in Radiological Technology.  He has become one of the most active scholars and leaders on campus, serving as a mentor to other students, as a member of the Student Government Association and as President of the Student Success Club. An honors student, he will continue his studies in BHCC’s Medical Imaging Program.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: John chose to recognize Colleen Yee, Success Coach (Academic Counselor), Advising and Life Map. "When many other people discouraged me from pursuing my dream of becoming a Radiological Technologist because of my learning disability, Colleen was the first person who believed in me and helped me discover that I could be a scholar. Colleen was the first person to tell me, 'Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not smart enough to fulfill your dreams. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you’re not good enough.'"

Scott W. Maciel, Falmouth
Cape Cod Community College

Scott Maciel came to Cape Cod Community College as a non-traditional, 25-year-old student with a business background and a belief that success as an entrepreneur must be coupled with community engagement. At CCCC, Scott has served in a variety of leadership capacities, as the student representative on the Board of Trustees, an active member of the College’s Young Professionals Club, and as an officer serving the Commonwealth’s Student Advisory Council.

Scott is proudest of the role he played to revitalize the College’s Life Fitness Center. “Rallies were held, awareness was spread,” he recalls. “We now have a Wellness Center coordinator, updated workout facilities and group fitness classes, with hopes to build our intramural sports programs. Being involved, building connections, and creating a sense of community early on had a significant impact on my community college experience.”

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Scott chose to recognize Michael Bejtlich, Professor and Program Coordinator, Business Administration. "Michael Bejtlich has shaped and positively influenced an immeasurable number of students with encouragement and support as a teacher, adviser, and friend. His vibrant personality is unforgettable as he brings life with him everywhere he goes. I am grateful and honored to have him here today to share in this experience."

Simon Hwang-Carlos, Montague
Greenfield Community College

Simon Hwang-Carlos “represents the best of who we are at Greenfield Community College,” wrote a campus nominator, noting that Simon has overcome many challenges, including minimal eyesight, to advance in his studies and contribute to his community. He has turned what some identify as a “disability” into extraordinary abilities. Simon is highly regarded by his peers and campus faculty and staff for his talents as a pianist. He has set the Music Department’s standard for dedication to his craft while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. He has been awarded a scholarship to purse a bachelor’s degree in piano performance at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and wants to teach music in Franklin or Hampshire County public schools.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Simon chose to recognize Matthew Shippee, Chair, Music Department. "Matthew Shippee helped me strive toward treating my instrument as an extension of my body. Because of Matthew Shippee’s encouragement and teaching I learned not only about music and how to be a musician but also how to be a person in the world."

Jasmine Richelle Errico, Easthampton
Holyoke Community College

Jasmine Richelle Errico was a high school dropout who earned her GED and is now poised to graduate from Holyoke Community College with high honors. A first-generation college student, single mother and woman in recovery, she found her passion as a doula (professional trained in childbirth) while studying at HCC. She now volunteers her time with the Prison Birth Project in Holyoke, the Grace House Recovery Program in Northampton and other organizations, as a doula and an educator.

In the summer of 2015, Jasmine participated in HCC’s Organizing for Community Change Leadership Institute, where she worked with MotherWoman, a nonprofit support network for mothers in Hampshire County, conducting research on how the agency could better reach low-income women and women of color.  Every Wednesday, she teaches childbirth education class at the Hampden County Women’s Correctional Facility in Chicopee. She is also on call to attend births for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women.  Jasmine has been accepted to Mount Holyoke College.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Jasmine chose to recognize Irma Medina, Coordinator, Holyoke Community College Pathways Program. "Without Irma’s constant support and trouble-shooting, my time at HCC would have been much different. She has always been there to advise me, tell me when I'm wrong, tell me when I'm right, let me cry, encourage me to keep going and remind me why I started to begin with."

Christopher James Blunt, East Bridgewater
Massasoit Community College

Christopher Blunt, a Business Administration Transfer student, has a proud legacy of service to his country, his college and his community at large. While on active duty in the United States Marine Corps from 2010-2014, Chris served his country in both Afghanistan and Bahrain and was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal. He brought that same sense of duty to Massasoit Community College where, in addition to maintaining a GPA of 3.96, he served as an elected student representative to the Board of Trustees, a member of the Student Senate, and a peer advisor in the Massasoit Veterans Center. Active in the wider community, Chris is a Post Chaplain at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1046 in Brockton, and as a member of the Masonic Lodge, escorts seniors to church on Sundays.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Christopher chose to recognize Brian Smith, Veterans Services Coordinator, Student Services. "Brian's selfless dedication to serving the veteran population is a true example for others to emulate. His leadership and reputation are above reproach. No person can endure any great undertaking without assistance somewhere along the lines, and Brian has certainly filled that role not only for me, but many others that utilize our office. Being a veteran himself, I view Brian not only as a mentor, but a friend and brother as well. I can confidently say that Brian has made a positive and lasting impact on my education and ultimately my life."

Elizabeth Danielle Halliday, Medfield
MassBay Community College

Elizabeth Halliday, MassBay Community College Nursing major, has helped mobilize her fellow nursing students in a variety of service activities to benefit the college and community. As President of the Nursing Club, she helped rejuvenate and transform it into a true service-oriented group. She led the club in developing a partnership with a local hospital to provide ongoing volunteers, ran Red Cross blood drives and Epilepsy Foundation clothing drives, and participated in many events to benefit families and young children in the MetroWest area. Elizabeth will work for a local hospital upon graduation, but eventually hopes to teach future nurses, helping to fill a critical statewide shortage of qualified nursing instructors.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Elizabeth chose to recognize Joyce Brazee, Assistant Professor, Nursing. "Joyce Brazee is a superwoman. She inspires me everyday to be a better person. I don't know that I could have been the kind of student I am without her. She teaches in a way that makes everything come alive and stick with you. You never feel uncomfortable to ask questions. It's because of her that I realized that I not only want to become a nurse but become a nurse educator, so I can give back to others who may someday want to become nurses."

James Edward Carroll, Arlington
Middlesex Community College

James Carroll arrived at Middlesex Community College having already completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Westfield State University. He graduates this spring with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and a certificate in Computer-Aided Design. 

As president of the STEM Club, he introduced new engineering technologies such as drones and 3D printing to fellow students. James also pioneered the inaugural MCC Science Fair this year. His lab work to grow three-dimensional liver-tissue cells was honored at a National Science Foundation conference in Washington D.C. He enters UMass Lowell’s mechanical engineering program next fall.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: James chose to recognize John Savage, Professor, Chemistry. "Professor Savage has been a great teacher and mentor. I learned a lot in his classes and was fortunate enough to be picked for the Belize fellowship he organizes. During the fellowship our group assessed several reefs by collecting data for the reef check program. It was a life changing experience that has changed my outlook on the world and the environment."

Faith Kurtz, Holden
Mount Wachusett Community College

Faith Kurtz is a Pathways Early College Innovation School graduate, earning both a high school diploma and an associate degree by age 18. At MWCC, Faith established herself as a campus leader, serving as president of the Student Government Association as well as president of three additional student clubs – all while maintaining a 3.98 GPA and logging over 200 hours of community service.  She heads to Worcester Polytechnic Institute to study engineering.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Faith chose to recognize Natalie Mercier, Director, Pathways Early College Innovation School. "Natalie Mercier has helped me through every major step in my college career at MWCC. She has always made herself available when I have questions or need advice. She has been not only an invaluable resource, but also a kind and supportive friend who helped give me the confidence to believe I could succeed."

Aiman Masalawala, Revere
North Shore Community College

Aiman Masalawala is a 41-year-old mother who came to the U.S. from India ten years ago.  Her desire to obtain a college degree to become a teacher was driven by heart-breaking circumstances. For seven years, Aiman attended school daily with her special needs daughter, serving as her personal aide. When her daughter passed away in 2012, Aiman decided to pursue her own college education, inspired to turn personal loss into a way to help others.

Aiman enrolled at NSCC and maintained a 3.83 GPA while also working as a teacher’s aide with special needs children in the Revere Public Schools. She is the recipient of the Foster Furcolo Scholarship at UMass Boston.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Aiman chose to recognize Laurie Ann Carlson, Associate Professor, English. "I consider Dr. Laurie Carlson my mentor and friend. Laurie was always there for me, willing to help. Her kind words and positive comments helped me excel not only in her class, but others as well. She has shown me that kindness and success can go in hand and hand."

Klinbert A. Garcia, Methuen
Northern Essex Community College

Twenty-year-old Klinbert Garcia was born in the Dominican Republic and learned English by watching cartoons.  He has consistently made the Dean’s List at Northern Essex Community College while also serving as the elected student representative to the College’s Board of Trustees, math tutor and supplemental instructor in statistics. Interning with the Lawrence Family Resource Center, he helped at-risk high school students who were struggling with issues such as mental illness, teen parenthood, and homelessness find ways to complete a high school degree despite their challenges. 

Klinberg transfers to UMass Boston to earn a Business Management degree. A budding entrepreneur, he wants to start his own company selling recycled clothing to developing countries.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Klinbert chose to recognize Amy Patricia Callahan, Professor and Program coordinator, Journalism/Communication. "Professor Callahan's influence equals the influence of the sun's UV rays for life here on Earth. It all started with the experience of taking Professor Callahan's Intro to Communication class, where my inner critical thinking was drawn out through the passion and experience Professor Callahan brought to class every day."

Kimberly Ann May, Leominster
Quinsigamond Community College

Kimberly May began her college education in the fall of 2010 at Quinsigamond Community College as a part-time adult student.  A mother of two young adults, she decided it was her turn to earn a college degree. As a child she’d had difficulties with reading comprehension; as a college student, she persevered and became an honors student. She was elected President of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society at QCC and doubled the society’s membership during her tenure. The winner of numerous campus awards, she also made time to volunteer at local non-profits, including a veterans’ shelter and Community Harvest Garden in North Grafton. She will enter Northeastern University in the fall.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Kimberly chose to recognize Bonnie A. Coleman, Advisor to the Alpha Zeta Theta Chapter, Enrollment and Student Services. "Bonnie has played an integral role in the success of all those that have come under her leadership. Her ability to empower members by showing us that we can accomplish any task cannot be overstated, and her example inspires all of us to be of service to fellow human beings."

Boston Aisosa Okundaye, Hyde Park
Roxbury Community College

Boston Okundaye began his studies in Business Administration at Roxbury Community College just two months after arriving in the U.S. from Nigeria. Within two years, he was elected President of the Student Government Association and began work to strengthen communication between students and campus leaders.  Boston also provided leadership and collaboration with other student organizations service projects including the campus clothing and holiday food drives, and Roxbury Clean Up Days. He organized fundraising efforts to purchase and deliver bottled water to families in Flint, Michigan. Closer to home, he interned at the YMCA of Greater Boston’s Child and Adult Care Food Program. He plans to transfer to a four-year university.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Boston chose to recognize Elizabeth Clark, Student Activities Coordinator. “Mrs. Elizabeth Clark has always been a great mentor with her words of wisdom and encouragement. The wisdom and knowledge she has imparted upon me has been a great asset throughout my life and I have been able to grow because of her support. She has greatly contributed in building me to the individual that I am today, and has made a mentor out of me to others.”

Kristiana A. Tadeo, Chicopee
Springfield Technical Community College

Kristiana Tadeo followed a family tradition at Springfield Technical Community College; both her parents graduated with science degrees from STCC. As a Supplemental Instruction Leader, she helped classmates master their course material; as Campus Activities board chair, she planned events to strengthen student connections to the campus.  As an honors student, this Biology major proudly represented the college at the Northeast Regional Honors Conference in Pittsburgh, presenting on her research topic, “Bridging the Divide on Transgenderism.” Kristiana has been accepted to Simmons College, where she will study biochemistry and public health.

Faculty/Staff Mentor: Kristiana chose to recognize Richard D. Greco, Professor, Biological Sciences. “Professor Richard Greco has been an inspiration to me. I have taken five science classes with him and have had the opportunity to serve as a Supplemental Instruction Leader helping classmates with course material. He taught me that I can do whatever I put my mind to, including pursuing my education to become a doctor specializing in research.”