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Adult Learner Award

Each year the Luzerne County Council on Adult Higher Education, a consortium of the Adult/Continuing Education offices of College Misericordia, King’s College, Luzerne County Community College, Penn State Wilkes-Barre, and Wilkes University, sponsors an awards ceremony and dinner to recognize outstanding achievement by an adult learner at each institution.


Danko Named 2010 Penn State WB Outstanding Adult Learner

About four years ago, college was not the first thing on Robert Danko’s mind – simply staying alive took that spot.

After suffering two heart attacks just two months apart, Danko realized he could not continue on the path he was on, working as an explosives technician. “I knew I had to make some dramatic changes in my career path and education was my only solution,” Danko said.

However, the cost of returning to school became the next big hurdle Danko had to conquer.

“The only job that allowed me to make the money I needed to make and not require an extraneous amount of physical effort was operating a tractor trailer,” Danko said.  “So, I drove a tractor trailer from coast to coast for three years to prepare myself financially.”

Danko returned to school full time this past fall and has not only excelled in his studies, but has also established himself as a pillar to the campus and community, serving in leadership positions for many campus clubs including Students for Justice, Lion Ambassadors, and the Blue and White Society in addition to his involvement with the Wyoming Valley AIDS Council and local volunteer fire companies.

Marshall Davis, Administration of Justice instructor at Penn State Wilkes-Barre, said Danko is not only a leader who takes charge when needed, but encourages and mentors younger, less experienced students to develop their own talents and abilities.

“Drawing on his maturity and wisdom he is always concerned about what will happen to the clubs, activities, and the campus in the future,” Davis said.

“His enthusiasm extends beyond his own person as he has done a tremendous job of encouraging other students,” added Frank Hughes, also a lecturer in Administration of Justice at the campus.

Danko, an International Politics major, plans to attend graduate school in a dual enrollment International Relations/Juris Doctor program and hopes to one day work as a research professor on a university campus.


Haydock Named 2009 Penn State WB Outstanding Adult Learner

After serving six years in the Army National Guard and being deployed to Afghanistan, Margaret Haydock, a senior administration of justice major from Nanticoke, was honored with the 2009 Outstanding Adult Learner Award. Haydock was recognized for her high academic achievement and community service. "I’m proud that I won the award and to be recognized by Penn State is quite an honor," said Haydock.

A recipient of many National Guard service medals, Haydock has maintained a cumulative 3.91 grade-point average while volunteering for several organizations. She is a board member for the Greater Nanticoke Area School District Family Center and a volunteer maintenance worker for the Honey Pot Playground Association. "It’s important that there’s a place for kids to go and play. I fought for my country and now I want to do the same for my community," she adds.

While at Penn State Wilkes-Barre, Haydock has been a member of both Phi Theta Kappa and Alpha Sigma Lambda Honor Societies. The twenty-five year old single mother also holds an associate’s degree in criminal justice from Luzerne County Community College.

Haydock is currently employed as a part-time counselor’s assistant at Clem-Mar House. Her immediate plans include campaigning for a seat on the Nanticoke City Council and pursuing a master’s degree in criminal justice.


Shawnee Acker

Acker Named 2008 Penn State WB Outstanding Adult Learner

Despite facing some major obstacles, Shawnee Acker, an Administration of Justice student, is having the time of her life at Penn State Wilkes-Barre. Acker has been selected to receive the 2008 Penn State Wilkes-Barre Outstanding Adult Learner Award. This is quite an achievement for someone who, less than three years ago, was involved in a life-threatening car accident that left her confined to a wheelchair.

While in the hospital, Acker had to re-learn how to walk. During her rehabilitation period, she made the decision to begin taking on-line courses at Penn State University. It was after she was discharged from the hospital that Acker became a full-time student at the Wilkes-Barre campus.

Not only does she excel in the classroom by maintaining a 3.0 GPA, Acker also serves as a volunteer at the Soup Kitchen in Scranton and at Saint Mary’s Villa Nursing Home. She is also the president of the Local Environmental Revolution Club and a member of the Honor Society.

Currently working as an intern at the United States Probation Office for the Middle States of Pennsylvania, Acker is in the process of completing her Administration of Justice degree from Penn State Wilkes-Barre.

Outstanding Adult Learner John Geisel

Geisel Named 2007 Penn State WB Outstanding Adult Learner

John M. Geisel III is Penn State Wilkes-Barre’s Outstanding Adult Learner for 2007.

John is a fourth-semester student in the associate degree in Surveying at Penn State Wilkes-Barre.  His academic standing is strong despite challenging courses and many years away from the classroom.

John was born in New York City and graduated from Neshaminy High School in Langhorne.  After graduating from high school, he attended a community college for about a year without great success.  He changed majors a number of times and then decided to enter the workforce rather than pursuing his higher education.

John worked for ten years at Hechinger Lumber in Langhorne, PA, and then moved on to work as a project coordinator for Siematic Corp. for another ten years.  Just at the time that John was considering returning to higher education, the company announced its imminent closing.

John had always wanted to be a surveyor.  An internet search uncovered the Penn State Wilkes-Barre degree program in Northeast PA.  He attended an adult open house at our campus and was encouraged to return to his higher education despite 20 years out of the classroom.  His decision to enroll as a full time student at Penn State Wilkes-Barre required great personal sacrifice, financial planning, and a strong desire to fulfill his educational dream.

Since enrolling in 2004, John has been an outstanding adult student each step of the way.  He is a senator in the Student Government Association.  He is a member of the Surveying Society.  He actively participates in the Adult Student Management Committee and he assists with the Student Activity Fund Committee.  He takes on appropriate issues of campus life and helps to find solutions for improvements in the campus community.  According to his nominator, “The traditional students look up to John as a confident, appropriately outspoken individual.”

His service to campus includes two years with the annual Haunted Forest to benefit the American Cancer Society and acting as a leader in the annual new student orientation.  He is currently an Intercollegiate Leadership Wilkes-Barre participant.  His service to community includes Habitat for Humanity projects.

In addition to all his other qualities, John has demonstrated perseverance and personal strength in overcoming significant health challenges in the past several months, John has demonstrated all the qualities of an outstanding adult learner, and the faculty, staff and students at Penn State Wilkes-Barre are proud of his accomplishments as our Outstanding Adult Learner.

Michele Cerski, 2006 Adult Learner Award Recipient

Cerski Named Penn State Wilkes-Barre 2006 Outstanding Adult Learner

Michele K. Cerski has been named Penn State Wilkes-Barre Outstanding Adult Learner for 2006. Michele lives in Ashley with her husband, David and her two children, Keriann and Matthew.  She was raised in Wilkes-Barre and graduated from Coughlin High School. 

Michele has been employed at Sallie Mae Servicing Corporation in Wilkes-Barre for the past 18 years and was one of the first fifty employees hired when Sallie Mae first located in Wilkes-Barre.  She holds the position of Records Research Analyst.

Michele began attending college at Penn State Wilkes-Barre in 1985.  After one semester, she moved on and began working.  She then got married and had children.

In 1999, Michele decided to return to college and elected to enroll in undergraduate business courses offered by Penn State Wilkes-Barre at Sallie Mae.  Michele completed a Penn State business administration certificate program at Sallie Mae and then continued her higher education at the Penn State Wilkes-Barre campus in Lehman.  She completed an associate degree in Business with high distinction in the fall of 2005.

Currently, Michele is working full time and carrying a near full load of college courses.  She will complete her bachelor’s degree in Administration of Justice in the fall of 2006 with a GPA of 3.9.  She has decided to continue for one additional year and earn a second bachelors degree in information science and technology at Penn State Wilkes-Barre in 2007.

Michele is an active campus volunteer.  She serves on the Adult Recruitment and Retention Committee.  She has done presentations for the annual fund and the advisory board at Penn State Wilkes-Barre.  She has brought a chapter of the adult student honor society – Alpha Sigma Lambda – to Penn State Wilkes-Barre, and she is the first president of this campus’ chapter.

As a community volunteer, Michele was involved in Sallie Mae’s Adopt a Child program for several years.  She is a basketball coach and marshal arts scorekeeper for her son’s basketball team.  She worked on a project group that helped to design a newsletter template for the Visiting Nurse Association of Wilkes-Barre.

In the words of Michele’s Administration of Justice instructor, Marshall Davis: “Michele brings more than academic proficiency and scholarly work to the classroom.  She displays an inquisitiveness and desire to learn which is contagious to her fellow students.”