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HOLYOKE — Springfield entrepreneur Mychal Connolly will be honored with a distinguished service award on June 4, as Holyoke Community College holds its 75th anniversary commencement exercises at the MassMutual Center.  

The ceremony begins at 10 a.m.  

HCC will confer associate degrees and certificates to more than 600 graduates from the class of 2022. Alumni from the classes of 2020 and 2021, who were not able to celebrate their graduations in person because of the COVID-19 pandemic, will also be recognized as HCC marks its 75th year as the oldest community college in Massachusetts.  

Sheila Gould, associate professor of Education and recipient of the 2022 Elaine Marieb Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence, will lead the procession of faculty, staff, and graduates into the MassMutual arena and give the keynote address.  

Biology major Yannelis Cruz ’22 of Springfield will give a speech to her classmates as student orator. Carolyn Sicbaldi ’22 of South Hadley will present the class gift. Liberal arts major Deanna Bach ’22 of Longmeadow and music major Elena Ciampa ’22 of Florence will both give musical performances of original songs.   

Connolly is an HCC alum from the class of 2004 and owner of Stand Out Truck, a digital mobile billboard company. In addition, Connolly has served as an alumni mentor for the HCC Alumni Champions Mentorship Network. In 2021, he established an annual scholarship through the HCC Foundation for business and marketing majors. He has also worked as a volunteer for HCC’s annual “Together HCC — Drive to Change Lives” fundraising campaigns.  

Gould, a Holyoke native and graduate of Holyoke High School who now lives in Chicopee, is coordinator of HCC’s Early Childhood Education program, co-host of HCC’s Itsy Bitsy Zoomcast, and one of the co-founders of HCC’s new Itsy Bitsy Child Watch program. This spring, she received the 2022 Marieb Award, which recognizes a full-time member of the faculty for outstanding classroom teaching. Award recipients serve for one year, receive a small stipend for professional development, lead the procession at Commencement, and also give the keynote graduation speech.  

HCC will also stream Saturday’s Commencement ceremony over the Internet. The live stream will be available both on Facebook and through a link on the main page of the college website, www.hcc.edu, where other details about this year’s Commencement can also be found. 

Daily News

SPRINGFIELDLydia Martinez-Alvarez, recently retired assistant superintendent for Springfield Public Schools, will serve as the featured speaker at Springfield Technical Community College’s 2022 commencement on June 2 at 6:30 p.m. at the MassMutual Center. 

The ceremony, which was held virtually over the past two years due to the pandemic, will take place in person for the first time since 2019. 

Martinez-Alvarez made history when she became Springfield’s first Latina assistant superintendent in 2012 and has become a role model in the community. Many of STCC’s graduates might see a little bit of themselves in Martinez-Alvarez when she steps up to the podium at the MassMutual Center. STCC is a federally designated Hispanic Serving Institution, with about 30% of the students identifying as Hispanic. 

Martinez-Alvarez served in the school system for 28 years before announcing her retirement earlier this year. She began her teaching career as a substitute and worked her way up in roles throughout the district. She served as assistant principal at the Springfield High School of Science and Technology in 2003 and a year later was named principal at Chestnut Accelerated Middle School. 

A product of the public schools, Martinez-Alvarez has strong roots in the Springfield community. Shortly after her retirement announcement in January, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno highlighted her achievements during his proclamation of Jan. 31 as “Lydia Martinez-Alvarez Day.”  She is a strong advocate of education. 

Born and raised in Springfield, Martinez-Alvarez served as “Madrina” of the 2016 Springfield Puerto Rican Parade. 

Martinez-Alvarez was recognized as a 2019 “Woman of Impact” by BusinessWest for her professional accomplishments and contributions to the greater Springfield community. The award was established to honor women in Western Massachusetts whose contributions have positively influenced the community. 

Martinez-Alvarez serves on the Board of Trustees for Westfield State University. She is a graduate of the Westfield State Class of ’86. 

She holds a bachelor of Science in Business Management and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies from Westfield State, a Master of Arts in Teaching from Elms College, and is a doctoral candidate at American International College. 

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University (WNE)  announce that on May 21,professional mixed martial artist (MMA) Nick Newell will give the keynote address at the 2022 Undergraduate Commencement ceremony. On May 22, Sheila Barcohana Hollender, a leading authority on women’s issues, environmental health, and sustainability, will provide the keynote address at the 2022 Graduate Commencement ceremony. 

University President Dr. Robert E. Johnson will present both Newell and Hollender the Western New England University President’s Medallion at the ceremonies, which will be held at 2 p.m. in the Caprio Alumni Healthful Living Center on the University Campus. Established in 2002, the President’s Medallion Award is bestowed upon those who have distinguished themselves in a particular field or in service to an important cause that has benefited society locally, regionally, nationally or internationally. The President’s Medallion also recognizes men and women in a variety of fields who are role models worthy of emulation by all, particularly by our students at Western New England University. 

From an early age, Newell accepted the fact that he was born without a left hand and part of his left arm. What he did not accept was a life with limits. He tried many sports growing up, including soccer, baseball, and basketball, and was successful in all of them. But what truly interested Newell was the martial arts. His foray into combat sports was high school wrestling, competing in the 103-pound weight class, where he lost his first 17 bouts. He finished his freshman campaign 2-22. At that point, most people would have quit. 

Newell isn’t most people, though, and his sophomore year record was 24-12. In his senior year, he made All-State, and he wrestled for four years at Western New England University, winning matches in six different weight classes and being named team captain twice. 

He earned a bachelor of Arts in Communication at WNE in 2008 and worked as a master control operator for the History Channel while training day in and day out for his goal of fighting in mixed martial arts. Newell made his debut in 2009 and eventually left his day job to become a professional MMA fighter. After starting his career 11-0, he has amassed a Now a professional MMA fighter, he has a 16-4 career MMA record, with 10 of his wins occurring in the first round. He’s also the owner and head coach of Fighting Arts Academy (FAA) in Milford, CT. 

Newell’s story is now the subject of a movie, Notorious Nick, released by Lionsgate in 2021, which details his hard-fought journey and achievements as a one-handed fighter. 

To say Sheila Barcohana Hollender has forged an influential path in the women’s environmental health movement would be an understatement. Following a career as a partner in a New York law firm, she cofounded Seventh Generation, which sells eco-friendly cleaning, paper, and personal care products, with her husband, Jeffrey Hollender. She worked as the director of Giving for Seventh Generation, as well as serving as the company’s women’s environmental health advocate, and helped to innovate and launch its feminine care line of products. Unilever acquired Seventh Generation in 2016. 

Along with her husband and daughter, Hollender also cofounded Hollender Sustainable Brands (originally Sustain Natural), a company that developed and marketed Sustain Condoms, the first U.S. brand of condoms certified to be fair-trade, free of chemicals of concern, and sustainably produced. Not only did Sustain integrate social and environmental sustainability into each aspect of the business, but the company also partnered with non-profit organizations to increase awareness of safe sex and women’s reproductive health. Sustain donated 10% of its profits to women’s healthcare organizations. The company was acquired by Grove Collaborative in 2019. 

Hollender’s focus on the empowerment of women and girls worldwide has led her to work with organizations that provide women and girls with feminine care products, as well as educate them on the use of condoms to limit their exposure to HIV and STDs and to allow them to make their own decisions related to family planning. She feels that these topics are the most basic tools of empowerment. 

She serves on the board of the Stephen Petronio Dance Company. She previously served on the boards of the Breast Cancer Fund and Sustainable Health Enterprises, and the Board of Advisors of Healthy Child Healthy World. 

Daily News

AMHERST — U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern, who represents the 2nd District of Massachusetts, will be the featured speaker at the UMass Amherst undergraduate commencement ceremony on May 13 at McGuirk Alumni Stadium.  

 The congressman will address an anticipated crowd of about 20,000 family members, friends and other guests as approximately 7,000 undergraduates receive their bachelor’s degrees at the Commonwealth’s flagship campus. 

 “Congressman McGovern has been a champion for human rights, an influential legislator in the fight to end food insecurity in America, and a tireless advocate for the people of Massachusetts,” said UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy. “He played an important role in securing direct funding for UMass and our students through three COVID-19 relief bills during the pandemic. We are honored to have him as our featured speaker.” 

Among the congressman’s many accomplishments are his successful efforts to increase Pell Grant funding for low-income students, creating a program to provide nutritious meals in schools for millions of the world’s poorest children, and passing laws that target global human rights abusers with sanctions. 

The graduation ceremony for the undergraduate Class of 2022 is the 152nd UMass Amherst Commencement. Approximately 7,000 graduates are expected to receive their degrees at McGuirk Alumni Stadium on the UMass Amherst campus. The ceremony will be held rain or shine beginning at 4:30 p.m. and is scheduled to conclude at approximately 6:30 p.m. The ceremony is free and tickets are not required.  

Stadium gates open at 2 p.m. Guests should plan to arrive on campus by that time and will be directed to free campus parking and to shuttle buses that will take them from parking lots to the stadium. Services are available for guests with limited mobility and other disabilities.