GARDNER — The Mount Wachusett Community College (MWCC) Foundation Inc. awarded $60,000 in scholarships this academic year. For the first time in its 35-year history, was able to award scholarships to incoming freshmen. A reception was held on Tuesday to honor the recipients of the 2006 awards and thank the scholarship donors.

MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino congratulated the students on their awards, and thanked them for selecting Mount Wachusett.

“Whether this was your first choice or your last choice, this was your best choice,” he said. He then explained that all four of his children began their academic studies at a community college and established successful careers in their fields.

Darlene Morrilly, the executive director of the foundation, thanked the donors for their support of MWCC students. Their generosity, she said, makes “dreams come true by making college accessible and affordable.”

Laura Gage, of Winchendon, a student in the Early Childhood Education program, was the featured speaker. Gage who comes from a family of 10 and graduated from Murdock Middle/High School in a class of 72 students, emphasized the importance of enrolling in a college that has affordable tuition, small class sizes and a supportive environment.

“Mount Wachusett Community College means everything to me at this point in my life. In order to reach my goals, I have made education my first priority. I plan on pursuing and gaining as much experience and education as I can so that I can succeed in the world,” she said. “Children are our future. Their insight and innocent views on life are precious and very valuable, which is why it is important for me not to be just a good teacher, but to be the best.

“By awarding me with this scholarship, you are helping me to come one step closer to the success of reaching my goals,” she said. “Thank you for giving this opportunity to myself and many other MWCC students. Because of your generosity, many students are able to better themselves by continuing their education.”

The following scholarship recipients were announced:

Arthur F. Haley Scholarship: Laurie Ernst, of Shirley.

James O. Garrison Early Childhood Education Scholarship: Caryn Conway, of Shirley.

Arthur F. Haley Scholarship: Marianne Brouillette, of Townsend.

Soph NU Award/Arthur F. Haley Scholarship: Katie Salerno, of Townsend.