The Gardner News
Gardner, MA – Although Vanessa Marcotte’s life was tragically cut short seven years ago, her memory will be honored as Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner hosts a self-defense workshop aimed at educating women on how to best protect themselves in potentially violent situations.
Marcotte, a 27-year-old Leominster native, was murdered while jogging near her mother’s home in Princeton in August of 2016. In 2022, Angelo Colon-Ortiz was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder and unarmed robbery in the case that sent shockwaves through the community.
The incident also caused a rise in interest in personal self-defense classes for women. In 2018, the Vanessa T. Marcotte Foundation joined forces with the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office and began offering self-defense workshops across the region. The free one-day program will be offered at MWCC on Thursday, Aug. 24.
“What happened to Vanessa was a tragedy,” said Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis. “This workshop has positively impacted so many women across Massachusetts, giving them the confidence and skills to protect themselves if needed. It’s an honor to collaborate with (the foundation) year after year.”
Program teaches women basic defense skills
The class, which is open to all women over the age of 16, provides hands-on training in basic self-defense skills, beginning with a brief PowerPoint presentation that teaches participants about situational awareness, Evangelidis explained.
“Being aware of what is happening around you can help prevent a dangerous situation from occurring in the first place,” he said. “The class then forms small groups and transitions to the hands-on portion of the workshop. Each group works directly with a female officer from the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office, (and) participants practice different strikes, takedowns, and various escape moves.”
Evangelidis said the workshops were a rewarding experience for officers, as they were excited to interact with the public and give back to the community.
“This partnership means a lot to our female staff,” he said. “They work in a small group setting to teach participants how to defend themselves in worst-case scenario situations. While we hope these tactics go unused, the staff walk out of the workshop knowing that they’ve passed on the knowledge needed for the participants to protect themselves.”