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Giving a Hand Up

 

On April 30, representatives from Holyoke Community College and the Springfield-based nonprofit I Found Light Against All Odds agreed to work closely to increase educational and workforce training opportunities for young women at risk for homelessness. 

HCC President George Timmons and Stefan Davis, CEO, president, and founder of the Springfield-based I Found Light Against All Odds, met at the college to sign a memorandum of understanding outlining the terms of the agreement.  

I Found Light Against All Odds provides support services for young women to help address social and economic issues that can lead to poverty and homelessness. Specifically, by signing this memorandum, HCC and the foundation agree to broaden support services for area women, ages 18-20, to help them obtain safe housing and career opportunities through education and training. 

“This agreement is firmly in line with HCC’s mission and vision to remove barriers to student success, to break cycles of poverty, and provide opportunities for education and training that will allow more young women to be successful, earn a livable wage, and enjoy all that life has to offer,” Timmons said.

According to statistics cited in the memorandum of understanding, Hampden County has a poverty rate of 16.9%, which is higher than the national average of 11.5%. Meanwhile, the poverty rates in Springfield and Holyoke are even higher at 25.5% and 26%, respectively. 

“This agreement is firmly in line with HCC’s mission and vision to remove barriers to student success, to break cycles of poverty, and provide opportunities for education and training that will allow more young women to be successful, earn a livable wage, and enjoy all that life has to offer.”

“At the same time, research shows that many community-college students in Massachusetts experience hunger and/or homelessness, as well as other types of basic needs insecurity that can serve as barriers to degree completion and thereby limit economic sustainability and mobility,” the memorandum states.

Davis thanked Timmons and HCC faculty for the partnership. “We look forward to working with you and your staff to help these young women that are in darkness, searching for light and education. These women have dealt with a lot of trauma throughout their lives and are looking for ways to end the cycle of poverty. This collaboration proves that we care about them and that they have our support.”

Through the agreement, the foundation is looking to connect with HCC’s existing academic support services, such as admissions and financial-aid counseling, as well as career and transfer advising and more. 

“It’s a natural fit between an agency that works to support young women and a college, HCC, which is known for its wraparound support model,” said Jeff Hayden, HCC’s vice president of Business and Community Services.

Before the signing, Davis introduced a video about I Found Light Against All Odds that featured interviews from two of its consumers. One of them was Alisandra Pantoja from Springfield, who attended the April 30 event. 

Pantoja also stood beside Davis as he put pen to paper. She will be taking advantage of all the opportunities outlined in the agreement as a student at HCC starting in September, and plans to major in human services. “I like working with people,” she said.

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HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) is now recruiting students interested in working in the human-services field for a free, two-semester certificate program that starts in September.

This is the second year of the grant-funded human-services certificate program, which started in the fall of 2023 after the college received a $1.28 million award from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services. The grant covers the full cost of tuition, fees, books, and supplies for students who want to earn a certificate in human services and is coupled with a paid internship at participating local social-service agencies.

HCC’s community partners in the grant include Gándara Center, Craig’s Doors, Mental Health Assoc., and Jewish Family Services. The grant and the HCC program are intended to help address a shortage of workers in the human-services industry.

“This program is really meant to accelerate a student’s entry into the workforce,” said Donna Rowe, chair of HCC’s Human Services program. “It’s wonderful that these four agencies have made this agreement with us. They’re looking for workers, and we have students looking to get into the field.”

The two-semester human-services internship program is now looking to fill slots for up to 30 full-time students to start in the fall. HCC celebrated the first cohort of students to complete the program on May 1.

The human-services industry presents a wide variety of career options for people who are interested in providing care to children, seniors, adolescents, the homeless, or individuals dealing with substance abuse or mental-health issues.

Thanks to the grant, the total savings for full-time students is estimated to be $5,384 per semester. During their second-semester internship, students will receive a stipend of $2,500, which will pay $20 per hour for 10 hours per week of on-the-job training and learning.

“There is definitely a big shortage of human-service workers,” said Amy Brandt, HCC’s dean of Health Sciences. “It’s a challenge for agencies who have a variety of workers at different levels. They don’t have a lot of additional resources to develop that talent pool. They really are on shoestring budgets trying to provide services to the community. When you look at this grant, it’s a huge investment that can really help fill their needs.”

The 24-credit human-services certificate students earn can also be stacked, or applied toward an associate degree in human services, which could then lead to a bachelor’s degree in social work at a four-year college or university.

“The program really has the potential to set students up for lifelong learning and career advancement,” Brandt said, “and it’s also helping these social-service agencies meet their needs.”

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Tom Stewart

HOLYOKE — Tom Stewart, director of Athletics and Student Engagement at Holyoke Community College (HCC), is the recipient of the 2024 George E. Killian Award of Excellence, the highest award bestowed each year by the National Junior College Athletic Assoc. (NCJAA).

The award is given to those who demonstrate the ideals of volunteerism, achievement, service, leadership, and excellence. It is named after George Killian, the first executive director of the NJCAA, which he led for nearly 40 years.

“Thank you for all you do to ensure a great student-athlete experience and for your dedication to the NJCAA,” Christopher Parker, NJCAA president and CEO, said in the award letter.

Stewart, a graduate of Westfield State University, has worked in college athletics for more than 35 years, the past 26 at HCC, where he has been director since 1999.

At HCC, he oversees nine intercollegiate sports programs and manages the David Bartley Center for Athletics and Recreation. He serves on the NJCAA board of regents as the representative for Region 21. He chairs the NJCAA Division III men’s golf committee and the NJCAA Division III women’s golf committee while also serving on the NJCAA track and field committee.

During his career, HCC has hosted nine NJCAA cross country championships and a track and field championship. In 2016, he was elected second vice president for the association’s men’s division. In that role, he oversaw the complete budgetary activity of the association. He has previously served as the co-chair of the finance and budget committee.

Stewart and other award winners were recognized on April 17 in Charlotte, N.C. during the 2024 NJCAA annual convention.

Representing 550 schools, the NJCAA is the largest athletic association for two-year colleges in the U.S. Stewart is the first recipient of the George E. Killian Award from any college in New England since it was first presented in 2006.

“That means a lot,” he said. “It’s kind of a culmination of all my work for all these years. And as I’m winding down toward the end of my career, it’s kind of nice to be recognized, even though I’m not big on getting these kinds of awards.”

Stewart started his career in higher education at Westfield State, where he worked for seven years as Student Activities administrator and director of intramurals and coached cross country. He was hired at HCC in 1996 as Student Activities director and became assistant athletic director in 1999 and athletic director in 2007. He now also supervises the Student Engagement department at HCC, which includes Student Activities and the Student Senate.

In October, Stewart was inducted into the Westfield State University Athletics Hall of Fame. As an undergraduate there, he was a four-year member of the cross country and track and field teams. An all-conference runner in 1985 and 1987 in cross country, he won the Westfield State Invitational and was an all-New England runner in steeplechase his sophomore year. Westfield State’s cross country and track teams won conference titles all four years he was on the team.

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HOLYOKE — Representatives from Holyoke Community College (HCC) and the Springfield-based nonprofit I Found Light Against All Odds met on April 30 to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to work together to increase educational and workforce training opportunities for young women at risk for homelessness.

HCC President George Timmons and Stefan Davis, CEO, president, and founder of I Found Light Against All Odds signed the agreement and offered brief remarks.

I Found Light Against All Odds provides support services for young women to help address social and economic issues that can lead to poverty and homelessness. Specifically, by signing this MOU, HCC and the foundation agreed to work together to develop support services for area women, age 18-20, to attain safe housing and career opportunities through education and training.

According to the MOU, Hampden County demonstrates a poverty rate of 16.9%, which is higher than the national average of 11.5%. Meanwhile, the poverty rates in Springfield and Holyoke are even higher at 25.5% and 26%, respectively. At the same time, research shows that many community-college students in Massachusetts experience hunger and/or homelessness, as well as other types of basic-needs insecurity that can serve as barriers to degree completion and thereby limit economic sustainability and mobility.

“From HCC, the foundation is looking to connect with our existing support services on the academic side — so, admissions, financial-aid counseling, career advising, and guidance on transferring from HCC to a four-year institution and just learning what kind of education and training is required for specific career pathways,” said Jeff Hayden, HCC’s vice president of Business and Community Services. “It’s a natural fit between an agency that works to support young women and a college, HCC, which is known for its wraparound support model.”

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HOLYOKE — Success strategist Kurt Faustin will lead a free emotional-intelligence workshop at Holyoke Community College (HCC) on Tuesday, April 23.

The workshop, hosted by HCC’s ALANA Men in Motion program, is free and open to the public. It will run from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in the PeoplesBank conference room (301/303) in the Kittredge Center for Business and Workforce Development on the main HCC campus, 303 Homestead Ave.

“Emotional-intelligence competencies are at the heart of effective relationships, productivity, and overall success,” Faustin notes on his website. “Come learn and practice the EI skills that are the core of achieving personal awareness, connecting with others, managing stress, and conflict resolution.”

ALANA Men in Motion is an HCC student support and mentorship program for African-American, Latino, Asian, and Native American men who attend the college.

Kurt Faustin, founder of the Dropout Academy, a personal- and career-development program, focuses on bridging the gap between mental health and performance with an emphasis on emotional intelligence, goal setting, and stress management. A father, entrepreneur, coach, and success strategist, Faustin is a former writer for the Huffington Post and Forbes who has spoken in front of more than 50,000 people, working with organizations such as Harvard University, Chase Bank, and the United Way. He was appointed by Boston Mayor Michelle Wu to the city’s first-ever Black Men and Boys Commission and selected by Color magazine’s 40 Under 40 Power List.

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HOLYOKE — Fine and performing arts will take center stage on Wednesday, April 10 as Holyoke Community College (HCC) hosts its first-ever Arts in Action event, showcasing the talents of students and faculty from its Visual Art, Music, and Theater departments.

HCC will welcome more than 100 students from area high schools that day to visit the annual HCC student art show in the college art gallery, listen to live musical performances, observe demonstrations in the ceramics studio, and attend a full performance of HCC’s spring theater production of The Great Gatsby in Leslie Phillips Theater.

So far, participating high schools include Easthampton, Holyoke, West Springfield, and Libertas Academy Charter School in Springfield.

“This is going to be a wonderful event because it brings all of us in fine and performing arts together,” said Felice Caivano, chair of the HCC Visual Art department. “We’re excited to have 100-plus high-school art students, possibly prospective students, coming, and for the community to see what we’re doing in each of our departments.”

Most of Arts in Action takes place in the college’s Fine and Performing Arts building. HCC music students will perform in the lobby outside the theater on the second floor. On the third floor, in art studio 325, Visual Art Professor Margie Rothermich will be sitting at the throwing wheel demonstrating pottery making.

The event coincides with the opening of the annual Student Art Exhibition in the Taber Art Gallery inside the HCC Library on the second floor of the adjacent Donahue Building. The show runs through May 1.

Following the ceramics demonstrations and tours of the gallery, students will enter the theater to watch an 11 a.m. dress rehearsal of The Great Gatsby, which starts its three-day run the following night, April 11, at 7:30 p.m. The play, a stage adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, features a live jazz band on stage led by Music Professor Bob Ferrier, a jazz guitarist who is also the musical director for the show.

“Bob Ferrier is a genius,” said Theater Professor Pat Sandoval, director of the play. “We want people to see the great work being done at HCC. We’ve got great departments here with incredibly talented and committed individuals. Just come and see what we do.”

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George Timmons

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) will mark a new chapter on Friday, April 19 with the inauguration of George Timmons as its fifth president.

The investiture ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. in the Leslie Phillips Theater on the second floor of the HCC Fine & Performing Arts building.

Timmons started working at HCC in July. He is the fifth president in the 78-year history of the college and the first African-American man to serve in that position.

The ceremony will start in the theater lobby of HCC’s Fine & Performing Arts building with a procession of faculty, staff, and distinguished guests, including presidents from many other Massachusetts community colleges and four-year colleges and universities in the region.

Also attending and offering brief remarks during the ceremony will be state Sen. John Velis; state Rep. Patricia Duffy; Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia; Patrick Tutwiler, Massachusetts secretary of Education; Robert Awkward, assistant commissioner of Academic Effectiveness at the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education; Carlee Drummer, president of Columbia-Greene Community College; Quintin Bullock, president of the Community College of Allegheny County; and Briana Beaver-Timmons, Timmons’ eldest daughter (accompanied by her two younger siblings).

Barney Garcia, the student representative on the HCC board of trustees, will offer remarks. The event will also feature performances by several HCC students: Ally Carnes will sing the national anthem, William Rodriguez-Otero will give a spoken-word performance, and Chestina Thrower will give a musical performance.

Vanessa Smith, interim chair of the HCC board of trustees, will present the presidential medallion to Timmons, who will then give an address.

A community reception will immediately follow the inauguration ceremony in the HCC Campus Center. Those interested in attending should visit hcc.edu/inauguration24 and follow the link to RSVP.

Before coming to HCC, Timmons served as the provost and vice president of Academic Affairs and Student Affairs at Columbia-Greene Community College in Hudson, N.Y. He holds a Ph.D. in higher education administration from Bowling Green State University, a master’s degree in higher education from Old Dominion University, and a bachelor’s degree in financial management from Norfolk State University. At HCC, he succeeded President Christina Royal, who retired in July 2023.

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HOLYOKE — Attorney Karen Jackson of Jackson Law in Holyoke will lead three one-hour estate-planning workshops at Holyoke Community College, beginning Thursday, April 11 from 6 to 7 p.m. with “Core Estate Planning.”

In this first session, Jackson, an elder-law and estate-planning attorney, will explain the importance of the will, power of attorney, healthcare proxy, and the core estate plan.

In the second session, “De-mystifying Trusts,” on Thursday, April 18 from 6 to 7 p.m., Jackson will review the different types of trusts and how to decide if one is needed.

In the final course, “Saving Your Home from the Nursing Home Bill,” on Thursday, April 25 from 6 to 7 p.m., Jackson will explain the use of an irrevocable income-only trust to save nursing-home costs. She will also explain MassHealth rules and provide tips and traps to avoid.

Students can choose one or two classes at $39 each or register for the series for $90. To register, call (413) 552-2320 or visit hcc.edu/bce.

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HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) has been awarded a $104,000 state grant to continue training paraeducators to help address workforce needs in Hampden County public schools.

The grant, from the state’s Training Resources and Internships Network (TRAIN), will fund the next two rounds of HCC’s free, seven-week, online paraeducator training program. The first round begins March 25 and the second June 17.

Paraeducators, also called teaching assistants or teaching aides, typically work in classrooms in a variety of capacities, sometimes assisting classroom teachers with instruction or working one-on-one with students who have individual education plans (IEPs) and require additional assistance.

The 140-hour program blends job-readiness and career-exploration components with education and training specific to the knowledge and skills needed to pass the Professional Certification for Teaching Assistants (PCTA) exam, which qualifies individuals to work in federally designated Title 1 school districts, or those with a significant number of low-income households.

In addition to online instruction, the program includes in-person job shadowing and can lead directly to a four-week internship and subsequent employment with one of HCC’s public school system partners in Springfield, Holyoke, West Springfield, and Chicopee.

“I would never use the word guaranteed,” HCC Workforce Training Manager Andrew Baker said, “but I would say there is such a strong demand for this work that if students make it through our program, they’re pretty certain to get a job if they want one.”

HCC has been running the program four times a year since 2021 and expects to receive additional grants to keep it going beyond the March and June sessions.

The grant to HCC was part of a package of $1.5 million in TRAIN grants awarded to 13 community colleges across Massachusetts meant to prepare residents for careers in fields such as education, healthcare, addiction recovery, cybersecurity, and manufacturing. The grants will provide free career training to more than 400 adult learners at community colleges across Massachusetts, with all programs targeting residents who are unemployed or underemployed. The grant to HCC will pay to train 26 individuals.

HCC’s other grant partners include Springfield WORKS, MassHire Holyoke, MassHire Springfield, DTA Works, and United Way Thrive. Individuals who receive state benefits through the Department of Transitional Assistance or Transitional Assistance to Families with Dependent Children may qualify for a ‘learn to earn’ training and internship stipend of $125 per week.

While the primary focus of the paraeducator program is to prepare students to pass the PCTA exam, also important is the job-readiness curriculum, which covers the basics of applying for a job: writing a résumé, preparing a cover letter, gathering references, and practicing for an interview. The program also covers subjects such as how to function effectively in a professional setting, including working with colleagues, communication, respect for diversity, and reliability.

For more information or to apply, visit hcc.edu/para.

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HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) is running a free, five-week hotel training program starting Tuesday, March 19 for anyone interested in jump-starting a career in the hospitality industry.

The hands-on, in-person classes for hotel front-desk workers and hotel-room attendants will take place in HCC’s hotel training lab on the second floor of the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute on Race Street in downtown Holyoke.

The program runs on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 5:30 to 8 p.m., March 19 through April 18. Each of the 10 class sessions runs two and a half hours for a total of 25 hours of class time. A second spring training program will run from May 7 to June 6.

The course will provide students with up-to-date knowledge of the hotel industry, hands-on experience for front-desk and/or room-attendant roles, workplace skills, résumé building, interviewing, job-search assistance, and connections to local employers.

HCC’s hotel lab is set up like a hotel reception area, with front desk and adjoining guest room, and equipped with the most modern technology and software. The hotel lab gives students the ability to learn in a model hotel room and reception lobby, gain knowledge about key-card access systems, and understand point-of-sale technology.

No high-school diploma or GED/HiSET test is required for admission. Offered as part of HCC’s Business & Workforce Development division, the hotel training course is free to qualifying applicants.

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HOLYOKE — As Black History Month draws to a close, Holyoke Community College (HCC) will welcome a panel of notable Black women from Western Mass. to talk about their lives and experiences.

The “Phenomenal Black Women’s Panel” on Wednesday, Feb. 28 runs from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. in Room 224 of the HCC Campus Center. The event is free and open to the public.

Julissa Colón, director of HCC’s El Centro program, will moderate. Panelists include Jada Waters, director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at Middletown, Conn. public schools (and a former HCC staff member); Erika Slocumb, a Black-history scholar and director of interpretation and visitor experience at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford, Conn.; Kandice Jones, a counselor from the Springfield-based Center for Human Development; and Qua’Nae Golston-Thomas, a student activist at Holyoke High School and host of the “Let’s Talk With Qua’Nae” podcast on Holyoke Media.

“With this panel, we are creating an opportunity for our students to see their reflections mirrored, learning from the participants’ insights about what it means to aspire to our dreams and what it takes to live them,” Colón said.

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HOLYOKE The deadline to apply for scholarships from the Holyoke Community College Foundation for the 2024-25 academic year is Sunday, March 3.

Each year, the HCC Foundation awards hundreds of scholarships worth more than $300,000 to incoming, current, and transferring HCC students. Many students receive multiple scholarship awards.

Students must be currently enrolled at HCC or have been accepted for the upcoming academic year to be eligible for scholarships, which are awarded through the HCC Foundation, HCC’s nonprofit fundraising corporation.

Applicants need to fill out a single online form to be automatically matched with the scholarships they are most qualified to receive. There are scholarships for new students, current students, and students transferring to other institutions; scholarships based on financial need; scholarships for students in specific majors; scholarships for residents of certain communities; and scholarships that recognize academic achievement.

To make the process of applying easier, HCC opened a Scholarship Resource Center in January on the first floor of the Donahue Building (Room 158). The center is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Those in need of assistance can drop in any time during office hours to ask questions or to use one of the center’s three computer workstations. They can also schedule appointments to meet with center staffers.

“We’re so excited that we have this beautiful space to help students through the scholarship process,” said Laura Freeman, manager of Stewardship and Donor Relations and Scholarship Resource Center coordinator.

To view scholarship opportunities and begin the application process, visit www.hcc.edu/scholarships.

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Derick Santos

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) recently welcomed Derick Santos as its veterans-benefits and financial-aid counselor. He joined HCC on Jan. 22.

Originally from Lajas, Puerto Rico, Santos holds a bachelor’s degree in computational mathematics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., where he also worked in the Military and Veterans Services department for the university’s online campus. His father is an active-duty serviceman with the Puerto Rican National Guard.

In his new role, Santos is HCC’s school-certifying official and will process all benefits for U.S. veterans and military-affiliated students. He will also counsel prospective and returning students through the financial-aid process and serve as part of the counselor on-call rotation.

As such, he splits his office hours between the Bunker veterans resource center and study lounge in Donahue 105 (Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday mornings) and the Financial Aid office on the second floor of the Frost Building (Wednesday afternoons, Thursdays, and Fridays). The Bunker is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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HOLYOKE — Prospective students still have one more opportunity to sign up for spring 2024 classes at Holyoke Community College (HCC). Spring Session III classes begin Monday, March 18, and run for seven weeks, concluding by Thursday, May 2.

Students who enroll for Spring Session III have the opportunity to take classes in a wide array of academic areas and can earn as many as four credits per course for a lab science, such as biology or forensic science.

These accelerated spring courses are being offered in person and online in accounting, anthropology, biology, business, communications, culinary arts, economics, English, environmental science, forensic science, general studies, geography, history, human services, law, management, marketing, math, medical assisting, nutrition, and sociology.

To get started, visit hcc.edu/flexible-spring-starts. The HCC Admissions and Advising offices are located on the first floor of the HCC Campus Center and are open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. (4:30 p.m. on Fridays). For more information, contact HCC Admissions at (413) 552-2321 or [email protected], or visit hcc.edu.

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Laurel Carpenter

HOLYOKE — Laurel Carpenter, associate professor of Environmental Science at Holyoke Community College (HCC), has been awarded a national fellowship focusing on STEM education at community colleges.

The fellowship, from the Community College Presidents’ Initiative in STEM (CCPI-STEM), is intended for community-college faculty and administrators pursuing graduate degrees and conducting research related to STEM education and workforce development. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math.

Carpenter is part of a cohort of just seven CCPI-STEM fellows for 2024-25 and the only one from a college in the Northeast.

Fellows are selected from a national pool of applicants, who are evaluated based on their education, STEM experience, leadership potential, community engagement, and research.

“I’m very happy for Laurel,” said Elizabeth Breton, interim dean of HCC’s B-STEM division. “She is a gifted instructor and engages the students in community projects. I think she will use this opportunity to benefit not only herself but the college as well.”

A 2012 graduate of HCC, Carpenter is a wildlife biologist, chair of the HCC Environmental Studies department, co-coordinator of the HCC STEM Scholars program, and a graduate student at UMass Amherst, where she is pursuing a doctorate in education.

“My research, very broadly, is looking at the retention of students in STEM programs at community colleges and studying models of retention because most or the retention models are based on four-year college students and their needs and experiences, as opposed to students at community colleges,” Carpenter said.

CCPI-STEM fellows receive a $5,000 honorarium each year for two years to support their graduate studies. They also participate in professional-development activities and are paired with a professional mentor.

“I think what’s most exciting is that this will allow me to network with other educators who are researching similar topics related to community colleges,” she said.

Carpenter started taking classes at HCC in 2002 as a junior at South Hadley High School, but then transferred to Smith College for her bachelor’s degree. From there, she went to UMass, where she earned a master’s degree in wildlife conservation before returning to Smith for a master’s degree in secondary science education.

For more than 10 years, she worked as a wildlife technician, wildlife biologist, lead educator, and environmental interpreter for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. While she was working, she returned to HCC to complete her associate degree in environmental science.

“I started in 2002 and finished in 2012,” she said. “It’s always kind of funny. How do I put that on my résumé? I came back and finished my HCC degree after I had my master’s degree. There were just some classes that I really wanted to take, like Spanish, site assessment, and aquatic ecology. Before I knew it, I only needed one more class, so I finished.”

CCPI-STEM is based at Prince George’s Community College in Largo, Md.

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HOLYOKE — Feroza Sherzai holds the distinction of being the first Holyoke Community College (HCC) student to apply for a scholarship through the school’s new Scholarship Resource Center.

Sherzai arrived at the center on Jan. 31, just as the open house celebrating its grand opening got underway, and sat down at one of the center’s three computer workstations.

“This is a very good opportunity for students,” said Sherzai, a student in HCC’s academic English as a second language program. “I came here to fill out the application. I had a lot of questions.”

On hand to answer those questions was Laura Freeman, manager of Stewardship and Donor Relations for HCC and coordinator of the center. “She was very good,” Sherzai said. “She was very patient with me.”

The Scholarship Resource Center is the first of its kind among community colleges in Massachusetts. Its purpose is to make it easier for students to apply for scholarships available through the HCC Foundation.

“We’re here 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, to help with all things scholarship-related,” Freeman said. “It’s great to have this very warm, inviting, and inclusive space where students can come and get the assistance they need.”

Scholarship season for the 2024-25 academic year opened on Jan. 29 and continues through March 3. Each year, the HCC Foundation awards hundreds of scholarships worth about $350,000 to more than 300 incoming, current, and transferring HCC students. Students must be currently enrolled at HCC or have been accepted for the upcoming academic year to be eligible.

The center saw a steady stream of students throughout the four-hour open house, which culminated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at noon led by President George Timmons.

“This is such an exciting time for HCC, and we’re excited to continue to provide services that remove barriers to education,” he said. “What a great way to start your academic career and journey than here in this wonderful, new, lovely space. Not only is it functional, but it’s also social.”

Among the other students who came to the open house to apply for a scholarship was first-year student Sunrise Iaim Smith.

“I read that HCC had created a new facility where we can get support in applying and be able to ask questions during the application process,” Smith said. “I figured that’s a nice support to have. It’s not always easy navigating financial aid or understanding expectations when you’re filling out an application. Just having people who know the process there to support you makes it feel a little better, especially since it’s my first time.”

The Scholarship Resource Center is located on the first floor of the Donahue Building. The center is open Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Students in need of assistance can drop in any time during office hours or schedule an appointment to meet with center staff.

Applicants need to fill out only one online form to be automatically matched with the scholarships they are most qualified to receive. There are scholarships for new students, current students, and students transferring to other institutions; scholarships based on financial need; scholarships for students in specific majors; scholarships for residents of certain communities; and scholarships that recognize academic achievement.

For more information or for assistance, email [email protected] or visit the center in Donahue 158. To view scholarship opportunities and begin the application process, visit www.hcc.edu/scholarships.

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Elizabeth Ollson

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) recently welcomed Elizabeth Ollson as its manager of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving.

Ollson is a 2018 graduate of HCC and also holds a bachelor’s degree in women, gender, and sexuality studies from UMass Amherst. She joined HCC’s division of Institutional Advancement in November.

Ollson came to HCC from Boston College, where she was the senior associate director of Annual Giving Programs. Prior to that, she worked at Amherst College as the Amherst Fund coordinator.

“We are thrilled to welcome Beth back to campus,” said Julie Phillips, HCC’s director of Development. “She brings over a decade of experience working on professional higher-education advancement teams and possesses a deep understanding of the importance of alumni engagement and its impact on advancing college initiatives.”

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HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) will hold a Registration Express event for the spring 2024 semester on Saturday, Jan. 6, when prospective students can apply for admission, take the college placement test, meet with an academic adviser, register for classes, and set up financial aid, all in one day.

HCC’s Saturday Registration Express event will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the first floor of the Campus Center on the main campus at 303 Homestead Ave. and virtually over Zoom.

The spring 2024 semester begins Tuesday, Jan 16. HCC also has Flex Start dates on Feb. 5 (Spring Start II) and March 18 (Spring Start III). Full-term spring classes run for 14 weeks. Spring Start II classes run for 12 weeks. Spring Start I and III classes run for seven weeks.

Registration Express will also be an opportunity for prospective students to learn about the state’s new programs for free community college.

“We’re excited about this year’s Registration Express,” said Mark Hudgik, HCC director of Admissions. “ With the Commonwealth’s investment in students through MassReconnect and the MASS Grant Plus expansion, it’s more affordable than ever to get a start on a college education or to pick up where you left off. Eligible Massachusetts residents can enroll half-time or more and know that the state will make sure their bill is covered.”

Those who can’t make it in person on Jan. 6 can still participate on those days virtually over Zoom through a link that can be accessed from the Registration Express page on the HCC website, hcc.edu/regexpress.

Also, during the first three weeks of January, the HCC Admissions and Advising offices on the first floor of the Campus Center will be open for extended hours, according to the following schedule: Jan. 2-4, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Jan. 5, 8:30 to 4:30 p.m.; Jan. 8-9, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Jan. 11, 8 a.m to 6 p.m.; Jan. 12, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Jan. 16-18, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Friday, Jan. 19, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. College offices will be closed on Jan. 10.

For more information, contact HCC Admissions at (413) 552-2321 or [email protected], visit HCC online at hcc.edu, or take the next step at hcc.edu/sign-up-for-classes.

 

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) and its partners have been awarded a state grant worth nearly $1.46 million to create a CNA (certified nursing assistant) to LPN (licensed practical nurse) training program to help area hospitals meet their workforce needs.

Earlier this month, the Healey-Driscoll administration announced a total of $3.9 million in Senator Kenneth J. Donnelly Workforce Success Grants for six initiatives representing employers and collaborative organizations across the Commonwealth.

The lion’s share of that money — $1,457,143 — will go to an HCC-led training program to assist 86 unemployed or underemployed individuals transition from jobs as nursing aides to positions as licensed practical nurses.

The grants, funded through the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund and distributed by the Commonwealth Corporation, aim to increase sustainable wage career pathways for Massachusetts residents facing employment barriers and improve the competitiveness of Massachusetts businesses by enhancing worker skills and productivity.

HCC’s partners in the grant include Baystate Medical Center, Baystate Wing Hospital, MassHire Hampden County, Springfield Works, and the National Fund for Workforce Solutions.

“We are delighted about the Commonwealth Corporation’s award to HCC and our many partners in this unique and innovative career pathway in nursing,” HCC President George Timmons said. “Healthcare is one of the largest industry sectors in our region, and it continues to grow. We hope that this pathway for licensed practical nurses will help create more family sustainable incomes for nursing assistants looking to advance in this exciting and rewarding career.”

The multi-stage program will first train individuals as nursing aides, then help them obtain jobs at area hospitals while they continue their training in HCC’s LPN program, all the while providing them with wrap-around support services. HCC already has an existing framework for CNA training through its Jump Start program, which is designed for individuals receiving public assistance.

“Every individual in Massachusetts should have access to quality job training, and our employers should have access to the skilled talent they need to do business,” Gov. Maura Healey said. “Our workforce is our greatest competitive strength. The latest round of Workforce Success Grants is another example of our administration’s commitment to expanding opportunities and expanding our lead.”

The six grant-funded initiatives aim to train and hire 384 individuals over three years. The Springfield-based Entrepreneurial & Business Collaborative also received a grant worth $630,998 to prepare 90 individuals for jobs in the hospitality industry. The group is partnering with Northampton Brewery, Granny’s Baking Table, River Valley Market, Tandem Bagel Co., and Puerto Rico Bakery II.

Other grant recipients include the Training and Upgrading Fund in Quincy ($717,220), African Bridge Network in Boston ($498,655), Cambridge College Inc. in Boston ($436,062), and Cape Cod Regional Technical High School District in Harwich ($225,425).

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Members of the Holyoke Community College (HCC) community helped spread some holiday cheer earlier this month as they delivered piles of wrapped and donated gifts to representatives from three local charities at the closing reception for the college’s 22nd annual Giving Tree campaign.

This year, the HCC community fulfilled the holiday wishes of more than 300 clients from Homework House, WestMass ElderCare, and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

“These gifts are very, very meaningful for our kids,” said Virginia Dillon, executive director of Homework House, a free academic support program for Holyoke children. “It’s a happy time of year at Homework House. There’s an air of excitement, but we also know that it can be fraught for the families who oftentimes have to make a choice between warm coats and clothing and gifts, or putting food on the table and buying presents. For our kids, this means that families will have something underneath their trees again this year, and we are ever so grateful for your continued generosity.”

Each year during the campaign, Giving Trees are set up in designated areas around campus. Participants choose tags from one of the nonprofit agencies based on the age of the recipient and their wish for a gift. The purchased gifts are then wrapped and stacked on tables for the closing celebration, when HCC faculty, staff, and students join with representatives from the agencies to distribute the gifts and share food and stories.

HCC held its 2023 Giving Tree closing reception on Dec. 12 in the PeoplesBank Conference Center in the Kittredge Center for Business and Workforce Development.

“We have been part of this great tradition for many years now, and our participants couldn’t be happier and more thankful for everything you do for us,” said Nancy Allen-Scannell, executive director of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. “We are located in Holyoke, and we serve families, young parents, who are struggling with their day-to-day lives. And now we have the great privilege of bringing presents to them, so they have something to put under their trees, because no parent ever wants to feel like they can’t provide for their kids.”

This year’s Giving Tree campaign was the first for new HCC President George Timmons.

“This warms my heart,” he said. “It is just another example of how we live out our values by being kind to our community during a difficult time of year for many people. Being able to give a little holiday joy and happiness this holiday season is really important to me and makes me very proud to be the leader of this great institution.”

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Ready to pick up pickleball as a new hobby or improve your game while outdoor courts are closed for the winter? Holyoke Community College (HCC) is running a series of pickleball classes in January and February for beginners, intermediates, and tournament-level players in the college’s indoor athletics facility.

The group classes will be led by pickleball coach and racquet sports instructor Kelly Canniff, who has 25 years of experience educating children, adolescents, and adults.

Sessions run on both Tuesday and Thursday mornings on the pickleball courts inside the David M. Bartley Center for Athletics & Recreation on the main HCC campus, 303 Homestead Ave. Each class runs 90 minutes. The cost for each three-week, three-session series is $90.

• Pickleball 101: Tuesdays, Jan. 16-30, or Thursdays, Jan. 18 to Feb. 1. Classes start at 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. These classes are geared toward beginners or those who have played a few times, and covers topics such as serving, developing a forehand, scoring, basic rules, positioning, and strategy.

• Pickleball Intermediate Level: Tuesdays, Feb. 6-20, or Thursdays, Feb. 8-22. Classes start at 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. This series is designed for players who have taken beginner classes or already have some familiarity and experience with the game and want to advance their play by improving their groundstrokes, overhead shots, volleys, and serves, while adding direction, control, and accuracy.

• Pickleball Tournament Ready Prep: Tuesdays, Feb. 27 to March 12, or Thursdays, Feb. 29 to March 14. Classes start at 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. These classes are designed for players who want to prepare for tournament-level play, with practice that will help them improve shot variety and accuracy and develop better strategies for playing doubles.

To register, visit hcc.edu/health-and-fitness.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) has been awarded a $600,000 grant from the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation to expand its Itsy Bitsy Child Watch program to serve more student-parents.

Itsy Bitsy Child Watch is a free center on HCC’s main campus for parents in need of short-term childcare while they attend class, study, or meet with tutors and advisers. It opened as a pilot program for the fall 2022 semester with a $100,000 state allocation. At the time, HCC was only the second community college in Massachusetts, and the only one in Western Mass., to offer a free campus child-watch service. The center is open to HCC student-parents with children 3 months to 12 years old.

Since its launch, the program has proven to be popular and transformational for many HCC students. Without it, “I could not come to school,” said biology major Alondra Serrano, one of the first HCC student-parents to sign up for the Itsy Bitsy Child Watch program last year for her daughter, Anna, now 3.

“Our first semester, we had 19 students enrolled,” said Kimm Quinlan, director of HCC’s Early Childhood Initiatives, which includes Itsy Bitsy Child Watch. “Now we have more than 40. After just one year, it has become clear that there is a demonstrable need and demand for expansion.”

The $600,000 grant will enable HCC to relocate the center to a larger, fully renovated new space; hire additional staff; and extend its hours of operation to accommodate more children, especially during public school vacations, which do not always align with the college calendar.

“HCC remains at the forefront of pioneering innovative pathways to enhance educational accessibility for every student,” said Paul Belsito, executive director of the Davis Foundation. “At HCC, the concept of community is a verb in action, and the success of the Itsy Bitsy Child Watch is a testament to this commitment. Here at the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation, we are honored to be able to contribute to the growth of this vibrant and impactful program, which not only offers the highest-quality childcare support to student-parent,s but also positions HCC as a proactive leader in early education and care as well as higher education.”

Sometime in 2024, the Itsy Bitsy Child Watch center, now located on the first floor of the Marieb Science Building, will move to a renovated space on the second floor of the Frost Building, closer to other student service and support programs, such as the Thrive Student Resource Center and Food Pantry; Homestead Market, which accepts SNAP benefits; CHD Mental Health Services; Financial Aid; and the new Elaine Marieb Adult Learner Success Center (also scheduled to open in 2024).

“This investment will enable our early-childhood team to provide high-quality early-learning experiences for more children,” HCC President George Timmons said. “The remodeled space will provide the youngest members of our campus community with ample opportunities to explore, play, and learn. Dozens more HCC student-parents will be able to attend classes and access campus-based student resources without having to worry about child care.”

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Students enrolled in chemistry, biology, engineering, mathematics, physics, or other STEM fields at Holyoke Community College (HCC) can apply now for a National Science Foundation scholarship of up to $10,000 a year for tuition and fees.

Through HCC, the National Science Foundation Scholarship offers, on average, $6,500 per year to qualified full-time students and prorated amounts for part-time students. Both new and returning HCC students are encouraged to apply.

The application deadline for the spring 2024 semester is Jan. 7, 2024. Students will be notified by Jan. 12.

Students chosen for the NSF scholarship become members of HCC’s STEM Scholars 2.0 Program, also known as SCoRE (STEM Cohorts for Research & Engagement).

STEM Scholars are expected to maintain enrollment in a STEM program, be in good academic standing, complete an associate degree at HCC, and/or transfer to an accredited STEM degree program at a four-year institution. The scholarships are renewable every year students continue to meet the eligibility criteria.

Beside the financial awards, STEM Scholars become part of a learning community that fosters a sense of belonging and academic success, and includes mentoring, research, honors experiences, community service, and internships.

STEM disciplines include biological sciences, physical sciences, math, computer and information services, geosciences, and engineering, among others.

Eligibility guidelines for the National Science Foundation Scholarship in STEM can be viewed at hcc.edu/stem-scholarship.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke attorney Gina Barry, a 1994 graduate of Holyoke Community College (HCC) and an estate-planning specialist, will return to her alma mater on Friday, Dec. 8 to give an informal talk titled “Inspired Giving” over a complimentary lunch at the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute, 164 Race St., Holyoke.

Barry chairs the Estate Planning and Elder Law department at Bacon Wilson, P.C. and is a 2015 recipient of HCC’s Distinguished Alumni Award. Her presentation will run from noon to 1:30 p.m. during a three-course gourmet lunch prepared and served by HCC’s culinary-arts students.

In her talk, Barry will provide helpful tips for integrating tax-savvy charitable-giving strategies into long-term estate plans.

“As a proud HCC alumna, it is my pleasure to bring together both fellow alumni and friends of HCC for this festive occasion,” Barry said. “I am also pleased to be able to share my expertise in estate planning.”

This is a community event, open to the public. There is no fee for lunch, but seating is limited, and reservations are required. To RSVP, visit hcc.edu/barry or contact John Sieracki, HCC leadership gift officer, at (413) 687-0322 or [email protected].

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Robert Gilbert Jr. has banged his last gavel as chair of the Holyoke Community College (HCC) board of trustees.

After serving as a trustee for 12 years, including the last eight as chair, the retired chairman of Dowd Insurance Agencies of Holyoke retired after presiding over his last board meeting on Nov. 28.

“This is a bittersweet moment for me,” he said. “Serving on this board has been an incredible journey, one filled with challenges, triumphs, and, above all, a shared commitment to the betterment of this institution. I’m filled with gratitude for the privilege of working alongside such dedicated individuals and the collective passion for education and unwavering commitment to the success of our students, which has been the driving force behind every decision we’ve made.”

Gilbert was first appointed to the board in April 2011 by Gov. Deval Patrick, serving in various capacities, including chair of the audit committee and member of the finance committee. In October 2015, Gov. Charlie Baker named him board chair, succeeding Helen Caulton-Harris, commissioner of the Springfield Department of Health and Human Services.

In his eight years as chair, Gilbert served alongside three HCC presidents: William Messner, who retired in 2016, Christina Royal, who retired in July, and George Timmons, HCC’s fifth and current president.

“The relationship between the chair and the president is vital to the success of any institution, and so I have considered myself fortunate to have spent so many of my hours with you, Bob,” Timmons said. “HCC is an exceptional place because of your leadership and commitment to the college. I want to thank you personally for your support of me in this transition, your wisdom, and, most importantly, your passion for Holyoke Community College.”

Making a surprise appearance at Gilbert’s last meeting was Royal, who praised him for his stewardship of the college.

“I don’t think, in my entire time knowing you, that you have not had your HCC pin on,” she said. “You have been such an advocate. I think everybody knows you as someone who has dedicated your whole career to supporting and lifting up this community. I am deeply grateful for your leadership and presence in the board chair role, and, beyond this, I look forward to just calling you ‘friend.’”

Until Gov. Maura Healey names a successor, HCC trustee Vanessa Smith will serve as interim chair.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) will host a cannabis career and resource fair today, Nov. 9, at the HCC Kittredge Center for Business and Workforce Development, where individuals interested in working in the cannabis industry can learn about training programs and talk with employers about jobs.

The fair will run from 4 to 7 p.m. in the PeoplesBank Conference Room on the third floor of the Kittredge Center. It is sponsored by the Cannabis Education Center, a partnership between HCC and Elevate Northeast, and Mass CultivatED, a social-equity ‘jail-to-jobs’ program for the cannabis industry.

The fair is free and open to anyone looking for a job in the cannabis industry, which in Massachusetts is close to surpassing $5 billion in sales since cannabis was legalized in the state in 2016. Among the cannabis companies sending representatives to the fair are INSA, Curaleaf, EZ Hire, GTI, 6 Brick’s, and DMC Cannabis.

To register for the fair, visit hcc.edu/canna-fair.

“Whether you’re a job seeker looking to break or an employer seeking talented individuals, this event is the perfect opportunity to discover a wide range of career options and resources in the cannabis industry,” said Jeffrey Hayden, HCC’s vice president of Business and Community Services.

The Cannabis Education Center will run its next two-day, 12-hour Cannabis Core training program on Dec. 2-3, followed by another session on Feb. 3-4, 2024. To register, visit hcc.edu/cannabis-core.

The Cannabis Education Center is a partnership between HCC and Elevate Northeast and based out of HCC’s Kittredge Center for Business and Workforce Development. Elevate Northeast is a Massachusetts-based, women-founded 501(c)(3) nonprofit, created to support the Northeast’s cannabis industry through workforce training, education, and advocacy. More information on these and other cannabis-industry programs can be found at cannabiseducationcenter.org or by calling (413) 552-2320.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Last week, the United Way of Pioneer Valley and Holyoke Community College (HCC) celebrated the opening of the Holyoke Community Cupboard, a downtown food pantry that will allow residents to pick up free frozen and refrigerated foods in addition to the usual dry goods and shelf-stable items.

The Holyoke Community Cupboard is located on the basement level of the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute, 164 Race St., the scene of a Nov. 2 ribbon-cutting and grand-opening event.

“This is a really special occasion,” HCC President George Timmons said. “It’s important, and we want to do our part to try to be good community partners and help the city of Holyoke meet this need, and so we want to do that by providing healthy choices and healthy food and making it easy to access.”

The new food pantry, part of the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts’ network, will serve Holyoke residents as well as those from neighboring towns. It is open Thursdays from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m.

“We’re incredibly thankful for the collaboration,” said Megan Moynihan, CEO of the United Way of Pioneer Valley. “Thank you so much for opening your arms to the United Way. We saw that there was a gap in services and that it was very important to get a food pantry into Holyoke. Capacity-wise, we couldn’t do it alone.”

Among those present and taking part in the ribbon cutting were state Rep. Patricia Duffy; Andrew Morehouse, executive director of the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts; and Jordan Hart, executive director of the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce.

“Over my 10 years of working here, it’s been really great to see the evolution and how much HCC has really invested in downtown Holyoke,” Hart said. “Economic development in downtown is so important to all the businesses in the community, so HCC’s presence down here with the culinary institute and the Picknelly Center [at 206 Maple St.] is really important. Congratulations to the United Way and HCC for your continued involvement in downtown Holyoke.”

This is the third pantry operated by UWPV after the agency opened sites in Springfield and Chicopee.

“We hope to use this collaboration as a means of finding innovative solutions to food security and to collectively support other initiatives,” said Lee Drewitz, UWPV’s director of Program Operations. “This includes offering food demonstrations using food-pantry staples and educating the community about the emergency food pantry system.”

HCC also operates a food pantry on campus as part of its Thrive Student Resource Center, which was founded in 2015 with assistance from the United Way of Pioneer Valley.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Amanda Sbriscia, vice president of Institutional Advancement at Holyoke Community College (HCC), has been selected for a fellowship for aspiring college presidents by the AGB Institute for Leadership & Governance in Higher Education.

Now entering its fifth year, 27 college administrators from institutions around the country began their fellowships with an in-person symposium in Washington, D.C. in September. To date, 18 past participants have become presidents or chancellors of higher-education institutions, and many other participants have successfully progressed on the pathway to the presidency with commendations and new positions.

“Those who are preparing to serve in leadership roles are faced with unprecedented challenges on a global scale,” said Nancy Zimpher, co-founder and director of the AGB Institute. “Our aim has always been to ensure these up-and-coming leaders are ready to immediately step into their roles and guide their universities with confidence.”

The program consists of two symposia, four online workshops, attendance at the AGB National Conference on Trusteeship, and a shadowing experience with a sitting president. The institute features more than 30 higher-education expert presenters, including current and former presidents, trustees, search consultants, and other sector professionals.

“It is an honor to be part of this fellowship program and to have the opportunity to learn from such an impressive faculty of college and university presidents,” said Sbriscia, who also serves as executive director of the HCC Foundation. “I hope to come away further inspired to lead in ways that support HCC’s long-term success and that contribute to higher education being a model for positive social change.”

Sbriscia, 39, holds a bachelor’s degree in communication from Cedar Crest College, a master’s degree in higher education from Drexel University, and a doctorate in education in educational leadership from Gwynedd Mercy University. Before being hired at HCC as vice president of Institutional Advancement in 2017, she served as senior director of Advancement at Bay Path University, following her role there as director of Annual Giving and Alumni Relations. Before Bay Path, she worked in fund development for the Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts and as director of Annual Giving for Anna Maria College in Paxton.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) welcomed Rachel Rushing as director of the college’s Taber Art Gallery.

Originally from Louisiana, Rushing is an interdisciplinary artist with a special interest in photography. She comes to HCC by way of Dallas, where she worked with the Nasher Sculpture Center to develop the Visitor Experiences program and manage special projects, such as the 2022 exhibition of CARNE y ARENA, a virtual-reality exhibition written and directed by Academy Award-winning Mexican filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu that integrates viewers into the true accounts of refugees in their journey across the southern U.S. border.

Rushing also founded and co-directed Sunset Art Studios, a social-practice art gallery, residency, and studio in Dallas.

“‘Hit the ground running’ is an overused phrase, but it absolutely describes the energy Rachel’s brought to the position,” said Kim Hicks, dean of Social Sciences, Arts & Humanities. “In the brief time she’s been at HCC, she’s made connections with faculty, students, and the Holyoke Public Library, one of our most reliable community partners. She’s mounted her first exhibit and has been working with the Grants Office on an application to the Holyoke Cultural Council. Rachel has been making things happen.”

Rushing becomes only the second director since the gallery opened in 1998, succeeding founding director Amy Johnquest, who retired last spring.

“I’m really excited,” Rushing said. “Gallery work and working with artists is something I’ve always been really passionate about. I think galleries on college campuses are really important ways to connect students with the bigger art world.”

Her first show as Taber director was an exhibition of photographs by John Leni Marcy titled “The City on Paper: Representations of HolyoRícan Life,” which was curated and captioned by HCC students enrolled in Latinx Studies classes.

“I was thrilled to bring this project to HCC as my first exhibition as the Taber Art Gallery director,” Rushing said. “It combines many of my goals as gallery director, particularly cross-departmental collaboration, community connection, and inclusion through multilingual content. I’m looking forward to the Taber becoming an active space for students and the broader Pioneer Valley community through contemporary art and programming that expands the imagination and invites connection and creative exchange.”

The Taber Art Gallery, located off the lobby of the HCC Library on the second floor of the HCC Donahue Building, is free and open to the public Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., during regular school sessions.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Tech Foundry, a regional leader in IT workforce development and training, in partnership with Holyoke Community College (HCC), will celebrate the grand opening of Tech Foundry’s new Tech Hub on Wednesday, Oct. 25, beginning at 10 a.m. on the first floor of HCC’s Picknelly Adult and Family Education Center, located at 206 Maple St., Holyoke.

The following day, Thursday, Oct. 26, Tech Hub will officially open to the general public, offering free services and classes that include digital skills training workshops, walk-in IT support and troubleshooting, internet-connectivity consultations, and computer distribution (free in limited quantities).

Tech Hub, a program of the Springfield-based nonprofit Tech Foundry, was started in 2023 as part of a statewide initiative of the Western Massachusetts Alliance for Digital Equity, which received a $5.1 million grant earlier this year from the Massachusetts Broadband Institute. Along with HCC, other key partners and supporters of the Tech Hub project include the Accelerate the Future Foundation, Comcast, Google, Bulkley Richardson, and the Massachusetts Broadband Institute.

“Tech Hub’s mission is to empower Massachusetts residents through access to the skills and technology needed to thrive in the digital world,” said Michelle Wilson, deputy director of Tech Foundry.

The Oct. 25 celebration will include a tour of the Tech Hub facility, a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and remarks from attendees, including Tech Foundry CEO Tricia Canavan; HCC President George Timmons; Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia; state Rep. Pat Duffy; Frank Robinson, vice president for Community Relations and Public Health at BayState Health and chair of the Western Massachusetts Alliance for Digital Equity; and Dan Glanville, vice president of Government Affairs and Community Impact for Comcast’s Western New England Region.

“We understand the important role that the Internet plays in helping build a future of unlimited possibilities for everyone in the community,” Glanville said. “We are proud to partner with organizations like Tech Foundry that are making it easier for people across Western Massachusetts to adopt the internet and succeed in an increasingly digital world.”

Starting Oct. 26, Tech Hub will be open noon to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, with classes held from noon to 1 p.m. and 5 to 6 p.m. On Mondays and Fridays, Tech Hub Manager Shannon Mumblo and Tech Hub fellows will take their IT services into the community around Western Mass.

“We’re starting by doing outreach in Springfield and Holyoke, and we have also been making partnerships with different organizations in Amherst and South Hadley,” Mumblo said. “We will take our workshops on the road and go to the places and spaces where they are needed.”

To learn more, sign up for classes, and access Tech Hub help-desk support, visit techhubmass.net.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) Criminal Justice Professor Nicole Hendricks was honored on Oct. 6 with an Inspiration Award from the African American Female Professor Award Assoc. (AAFPAA).

Each year, the association celebrates a handful of Black female professors at its annual awards banquet, which this year was held at the Griswold Theater on the campus of American International College in Springfield. Hendricks, a 17-year faculty member at HCC, was one of four Black female professors recognized.

“It was a great honor to receive this award,” Hendricks said. “The ceremony itself was a great celebration of the incredible women who are working in education and a wonderful moment to bring attention to the fact that so few college faculty are Black women — less than 2%.”

That statistic was also emphasized by Traci Talbert, AAFPAA’s president and founder, who said professors like Hendricks are making strides to improve diversity and inclusion at their own institutions.

“Just their presence alone helps to engage with the students and help them identify and relate,” Talbert said. “They are also working in affinity groups and doing other things on college campuses as well as in the community to ensure that these experiences continue to enhance and build equity.”

Hendricks has served as chair of the Criminal Justice Department at HCC and teaches a variety of courses in that area, including criminology and women’s studies. She also teaches interdisciplinary courses as part of HCC’s Learning Communities program. For example, in “Reimagining Incarceration,” she and her teaching partner, Economics Professor Mary Orisich, explore mass incarceration through the lens of feminist social-justice theory, gender and sexuality studies, critical race theory, and political economy.

Hendricks’ efforts to reimagine incarceration extend well beyond the classroom. Together, she and Orisich founded Western Mass CORE (Community, Opportunity, Resources, Education), a prison-education program based at HCC that seeks to facilitate pathways to college for people impacted by the criminal legal system.

“Her strong commitment to education as a vehicle for social justice and societal change is evident in her work inside and outside the classroom,” said Kim Hicks, HCC’s dean of Arts and Humanities, who introduced Hendricks at the banquet and nominated her for the award.

In accepting the Inspiration Award, Hendricks said she also accepts the responsibility that goes along with it. “It signifies, to me, a dedication to continuing to live my purpose, fostering a political consciousness that places equity and racial justice at the center, and does so in community with others.”

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) will run a series of pickleball clinics this fall for beginners and other players who want to improve their game all the way up to tournament-level play.

The group classes will be led by pickleball coach and racquet sports instructor Kelly Canniff, who has 25 years of experience educating children, adolescents, and adults.

Starting Oct. 3, the sessions run on select Tuesday and Thursday mornings on the indoor pickleball courts at the Bartley Center for Athletics and Recreation on the main HCC campus, 303 Homestead Ave. The cost for each 90-minute session is $90.

“We try to offer something for all abilities, all ages, and all levels, whether you’re a beginner or more advanced player,” said Tom Stewart, HCC’s director of Athletics.

“Pickleball 101” will run Oct. 3 and Oct. 5, with sessions at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. These sessions are geared toward people who have played a few times and cover topics such as serving, developing a forehand, scoring, basic rules, positioning, and strategy.

“Pickleball Intermediate Level” will run Oct. 24 at 8 a.m. and Oct. 26 at 10 a.m. and is designed for players who have taken beginner classes or already have some familiarity and experience with the game and want to advance their play by improving their groundstrokes, overhead shots, volleys, and serves, while adding direction, control, and accuracy.

“Pickleball Tournament Ready Prep” runs Nov. 28 and Nov. 30, with sessions at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. These are designed for players who want to prepare for tournament-level play, with practice that will help them improve shot variety and accuracy and develop better strategies for playing doubles.

Slots are limited. To register, visit hcc.edu/health-and-fitness.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) President George Timmons received a warm community welcome during a reception on Sept. 12 at the Gary Rome Hyundai dealership on Whiting Farms Road in Holyoke.

It was the first public reception for Timmons, who began his tenure as HCC’s fifth president on July 13.

“As a business leader in the community, it is an honor to host President Timmons and introduce him at our dealership,” Rome said. “Together, we can join forces and accomplish great things for the future of HCC.”

The reception followed the quarterly meeting of the HCC Foundation board of directors, on which Rome and Timmons both sit.

“We are excited to work with President Timmons,” said HCC Foundation board chair Corey Murphy, president of First American Insurance Agency. “He is clear about wanting HCC to be acknowledged nationally for its efforts to support and inspire students, and he is eager to connect with donors to help us get there.”

The reception included the presentation of a $5,000 check from Rome to the HCC Foundation for the benefit of HCC’s Thrive Student Resource Center, which provides essential resources and support to students dealing with challenges such as food and housing insecurity.

“Mr. Rome has clearly shown his dedication to HCC and to the work the college is doing to help students achieve their academic and career goals, and we are very grateful for his donation,” Timmons said.

Those in attendance included members of the 27-member HCC Foundation board, as well as members of the HCC board of trustees and others from the community.

In addition to being on the HCC Foundation board, Rome is a regular donor, vocal advocate for HCC, and partner in HCC’s annual April “Together HCC: Drive to Change Lives” 24-hour fundraising campaign.

“The money we raised that day goes to the President’s Student Emergency Fund and Thrive Center to help students facing food insecurity and housing insecurity,” Rome said. “It’s very important that we give everybody the tools to go to school, and it’s important to bring awareness to Holyoke Community College because it is a hidden jewel right here in our community.”

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This is the third article in a monthly series examining how area colleges and universities are partnering with local businesses, workforce-development bodies, and other organizations to address professional-development needs in the region. One college will be featured each month.

Jeff Hayden

Jeff Hayden says professional-development initiatives have become an important part of the mission at HCC.

Communication. Teamwork. Networking. Listening.

Jeff Hayden acknowledged that, to many, these sound like buzzwords in discussions about the workplace and how to succeed within it — or about how companies can become more productive and achieve continuous improvement.

But in reality, these are just some the skills that individuals must possess if they want to thrive in their chosen career and move up the ladder within it. And they are the qualities that businesses large and small must stress if they want to prosper in an increasingly global, intensely competitive business climate — and if they want to successfully compete for talent and retain it.

And these are just some of the skill sets — some broad, some very specific — that help define a full roster of professional-development programs at Holyoke Community College (HCC), which Hayden serves as vice president of Business and Community Services.

“Those words, like teamwork and communication, feel like buzzwords, but in reality, those are the places where employee satisfaction and productivity find their nexus,” he said. “It’s really a unique spot where one can see the gain for the company, but also the gain for themselves.”

These touchpoints run through the portfolio of programs at HCC, the Commonwealth’s oldest community college, which include everything from a non-credit “Introduction to Bookkeeping” course to a women’s leadership lunch series; from certificate programs in residential interior design and medical interpreting to two new HR workshops on “Leveraging Assessments with the New World of Work” (more on these later).

In each case, the motivation is the same, Hayden said — to help individuals advance and enable companies to be efficient and productive, and also recruit and retain employees when businesses in all sectors are still struggling to do so.

“We put an emphasis on trying to find those occupational skills that managers, business owners, and professionals need to successfully grow their company, grow their employees, increase productivity, or increase employee satisfaction.”

“We take a broad approach to professional development at HCC,” he explained. “We do certificate and training programs in management, leadership, and IT, and then we have a number of programs aimed specifically at careers, like our introduction to bookkeeping or, in the IT field, an introduction to networks.

“We have a certificate in business communication, which is online, and also one in innovation and critical thinking,” he went on. “There are a number of areas, and depending on the needs and interests of the individual, we can accommodate many other things they may be looking for.”

 

Getting Down to Business

Hayden, who came to the college after many years working for the city of Holyoke in economic-development roles, said HCC — like all the region’s community colleges — plays a critical role in workforce development in the region. And that role extends well beyond providing the traditional two-year degree programs which, in the case of HCC, often lead to transfer to four-year programs.

Indeed, it extends to continuing education, non-credit programs, and initiatives that, as he said earlier, involve professional development for the individual and initiatives aimed at helping businesses of all sizes become more competitive and productive.

“Oftentimes, when we think of workforce training, especially at community colleges, we tend to focus on occupational skills,” he explained. “And although those are necessary, they’re often related to specific tasks. So we put an emphasis on trying to find those occupational skills that managers, business owners, and professionals need to successfully grow their company, grow their employees, increase productivity, or increase employee satisfaction.

“And in some sense, increasing productivity and increasing employee satisfaction are companions in that same effort,” he went on. “Sometimes we think of them as separate; when we think about how to make sure our employees are happy and satisfied, we go to the issue of compensation, instead of focusing on the issue of job satisfaction, having pride in one’s work, and ownership of the project or service they provide. So we try look at professional development as a way to broaden the scope or mindset of the employee and have them look at the picture in terms of just not making something or doing a service, but having that be part of their own career goals and pathway.”

With these goals in mind, the college has offered a women’s leadership lunch series featuring area women business leaders talking about their success formulas, Hayden said, adding that this series, staged over six lunches, will likely return in the spring of 2024.

Overall, the college is continuously monitoring the business community and the workplace, he explained, with an eye toward creating programs to address emerging needs and challenges.

Such is the case with the new HR workshops on assessments, which will be led by Lynn Turner, president of CORE XP Business Solutions Inc.

“These are designed to help organizations understand how to leverage assessments within the future of work — how to assess and evaluate employees in a way that increases productivity and increases teamwork, communication, and employee satisfaction,” Hayden said, noting that there will be two workshops, with participants having the option of signing up for one or both. They are designed for entrepreneurs, HR personnel, and managers at small companies that don’t have their own HR departments,

The first will focus on the changing dynamics of the future of work, understanding the value of assessments within a talent strategy, and gaining exposure to different assessment tools. The second will focus on best practices for assessment implementation, leveraging assessments for talent acquisition and development, driving engagement and retention through assessments, and creating a customized roadmap for leveraging assessments.

Overall, the professional-development programs at HCC are blueprinted to assist individuals as they look to enter or advance within the workforce, but also meet identified needs within the business community for specific skills, Hayden said, noting that these twin ambitions are the motivation behind such programs as a 12-hour educational cannabis core program that provides an overview of the cannabis industry in Massachusetts and is designed for individuals looking for general knowledge as they consider a career in that sector, and the non-credit “Introduction to Bookkeeping” course, the need for which has become increasingly apparent given recent trends.

“There is growing need for bookkeepers in the region, especially at smaller companies; many nonprofits, for example, are looking for people who can help on that end,” he said, adding that the program is geared toward individuals looking to enter that field, but also incumbent workers looking to acquire more skills in that realm.

There are many such programs being offered the school, he said, noting that HCC offers a number of online certificate programs, most of them focused on business management and administration, such as an offering in nonprofit management featuring a simulation component, another in business communication, and others in innovation and critical thinking, data analytics, and project management.

 

Work in Progress

Summing it all up, Hayden said professional development at HCC is a huge part of the school’s mission and its evolving role when it comes to both workforce development and economic development.

The portfolio of programs and initiatives is, like the business community and the workforce itself, ever-changing. But the goal remains the same: it’s about helping area employees, job seekers, business leaders, and companies get where they want to go.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) is launching a series of wine-tasting classes this month for would-be connoisseurs who want to explore the vast complexities of wine while sampling select foods.

Starting Sept. 28, classes meet monthly on Thursdays from 6 to 8 p.m. at the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute, 164 Race St., Holyoke. All are taught by gastronomy professional Hannah Morrow, a travel food educator and cheese specialist at Formaggio Kitchen in Boston.

Each wine-tasting class has a different theme and food pairing: “Biodynamic Wines” (cheese and charcuterie) on Sept. 28, “Oaked Wines” (BBQ) on Oct. 19, “Skin Contact: Maceration and Beyond” (Thanksgiving and chocolate) on Nov. 16, and “Table Wines” (holiday leftovers and hand pies) on Dec. 14.

The cost for each session is $59. Seats are limited. To register, visit hcc.edu/cookingfa23 or call (413) 552-2500.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Gary Rome, owner of Gary Rome Hyundai, will host the first public reception for George Timmons on Tuesday, Sept. 12, welcoming him to the community as the fifth president of Holyoke Community College (HCC).

The reception will be held at Rome’s Holyoke dealership at 150 Whiting Farms Road beginning at 5:30 p.m., following the quarterly meeting of the HCC Foundation board of directors, on which Rome and Timmons both sit.

The reception will also include the presentation of a $5,000 donation check from Rome to the HCC Foundation for the benefit of HCC’s Thrive Student Resource Center and Food Pantry.

“I am passionate about ‘rallying the troops,’ not only to support a cause, but to raise awareness for a cause,” Rome said. “So many people have benefited from HCC in our community, and it is important to ensure that all have access to a truly exceptional yet affordable education.”

In attendance will be members of the 27-member FOUNDATION Board, including Rome, board chair Corey Murphy (president of First American Insurance Agency), and vice chair Susan Goldsmith (president of Marcus Printing). From the HCC board of trustees, chair Bob Gilbert will attend along with incoming vice chair Vanessa Smith, Ted Hebert, Evan Plotkin, Charlie Epstein, Yolanda Johnson, and student trustee Barney Garcia. Timmons and both board chairs are expected to speak at the reception.

“As a business leader in the community, it will be an honor to host President Timmons and introduce him at our dealership,” Rome said. “Together, we can join forces and accomplish great things for the future of HCC.”

Rome has been a frequent donor, vocal advocate for HCC, and a partner for HCC’s annual “Together HCC: Drive to Change Lives” 24-hour fundraising campaign.

“Gary’s enthusiasm for our annual ‘Together HCC’ campaign has been amazing,” said Amanda Sbriscia, HCC’s vice president of Institutional Advancement and executive director of the HCC Foundation. “The energy and fun he brings to giving back helps send the message that every gift matters, which is absolutely true. We are fortunate to have his leadership on the HCC Foundation board.”

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Interested in design work, either interior or exterior? Holyoke Community College (HCC) has two non-credit classes starting soon that might interest you.

“Residential Interior Design I” is a seven-week program that meets on Wednesday nights from Sept. 6 until Oct. 18 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the HCC Kittredge Center for Business and Workforce Development.

The class is taught by professional interior designer JoAnn Duza-Athas and explores the methods professionals use to design and decorate residential environments and how to make them special. Beginning with design theory, participants learn to follow the steps of designing a room from beginning to end, complete with field trips to illustrate ideas. Topics include color, style, materials, wall and floor coverings, window treatments, accessories, lighting, and furnishing trends.

“Dry Stone Wall Construction” is a one-day program that meets on Saturday, Sept. 9 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Stanley Park in Westfield. In this class, participants will learn techniques and secrets of creating beautiful, mortarless field stone walls and more. The class covers basic tools, styles, foundations, and stone types. Students will put their knowledge to work by tearing down and rebuilding a stone wall during class. The instructor, Westfield stonemason Kenn Kaminski, has worked throughout the U.S. and Europe on large estate projects. Stone working tools will be provided. Bring your own work gloves and safety goggles. The rain date is Saturday, Sept. 16.

The cost of the residential interior design course is $179; dry stone wall construction is $150. To register, visit hcc.edu/bce or call (413) 552-2500.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) will run three sessions of its free line-cook training program this fall at the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute.

The first of two daytime sessions begins Monday, Sept. 18, and runs five days a week through Oct. 20 (Monday, 9 a.m. to noon; Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.).

Concurrently, an evening program (5 to 9:30 p.m.) also begins Sept. 18 and runs Mondays through Thursdays until Nov. 9.

A second daytime session begins Oct. 30 and runs five days a week through Dec. 8 (Monday, 9 a.m. to noon; Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.).

The line-cook program is designed for those already in the restaurant industry who want to upgrade their skills, as well as unemployed or underemployed individuals interested in starting a new career.

“We usually have a mix of young people entering the job market for the first time and people who are re-entering the job market and looking for a second career,” said Maureen McGuinness, assistant project coordinator for HCC’s non-credit culinary-arts programs. “The course is perfect for anybody who’s looking for a job and has a passion for food and the dining industry.”

Classes will be held in person at the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute, 164 Race St., Holyoke, where participants will learn all the essential competencies they need to become successful line cooks: knife skills; how to prepare stocks, soups, sauces, desserts, poultry, fish, and meat; culinary math and measurements; moist and dry heat cooking methods; as well as workplace soft skills, such as building a résumé and searching for jobs.

Offered as part of HCC’s Business & Workforce Development division, the line-cook course is free to qualifying applicants. For more information, complete an online inquiry form at hcc.edu/line-cook or contact [email protected] or (413) 552-2500.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — The Cannabis Education Center at Holyoke Community College (HCC) will begin its fall schedule of industry training programs on Oct. 14-15 with Cannabis Core: Foundations of the Industry, a two-day, introductory cannabis course.

A second fall session of Cannabis Core is set for Dec. 2-3. All classes meet over Zoom on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The fall calendar also includes a cannabis-industry job fair at HCC on Thursday, Nov. 9 from 4-7 p.m. in the PeoplesBank Conference Room on the third floor of the Kittredge Center for Business and Workforce Development on the main HCC campus, 303 Homestead Ave.

“The growing cannabis industry in Western Massachusetts has sparked a demand for innovative approaches to address the unique employment needs of this emerging sector,” said Cara Crabb-Burnham, co-founder and director of education at Elevate Northeast, one of HCC’s partners. “As the region experiences a surge in cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, and retail enterprises, the necessity for specialized talent and a skilled workforce has become evident. Cannabis job fairs play a crucial role in bridging the gap between job seekers and employers within this industry and offer a platform for individuals to explore diverse career opportunities.”

The Cannabis Core program provides an overview of the cannabis industry in Massachusetts and is geared for people looking for general knowledge as they consider a cannabis career. The program is a foundational course and a prerequisite for career-track courses, such as culinary assistant, patient-service associate, cultivation assistant, and extraction technician.

The cost of the Cannabis Core training is $599; scholarships are available to those who qualify. To register, visit hcc.edu/cannabis-core or contact Jeffrey Hayden, HCC vice president of Business and Community Services, at [email protected] or (413) 552-2587.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) will hold Registration Express for the fall 2023 semester on Saturday, Aug. 19, and Monday through Friday, Aug. 21-25, in the HCC Campus Center at 303 Homestead Ave.

During Registration Express, prospective students can apply for admission, take the college placement test, meet with an academic adviser, register for classes, and set up financial aid — all in one day.

“Enrolling in college can feel overwhelming,” said Mark Hudgik, HCC’s director of Admissions. “Registration Express puts all of the resources new students need in one place.”

The Aug. 19 Registration Express event will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Students who can’t attend on Saturday or need additional time to finish their steps can also return when Registration Express continues Aug. 21-24 from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Aug. 25 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Full-term, 14-week fall classes begin Tuesday, Sept. 5. HCC has two additional fall flex start dates: Sept. 25 for 12-week classes, and Oct. 30 for seven-week classes.

Those who can’t make it in person during Registration Express week will be able to connect with registration advisers via Zoom or visit campus another day. Outside Registration Express, the HCC Admissions and Advising offices on the first floor of the Campus Center are open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (4:30 p.m. on Fridays).

For more information and instructions about accessing Registration Express via Zoom, visit the Registration Express pages at hcc.edu/regexpress or contact HCC Admissions at (413) 552-2321 or [email protected].