Penn State Wilkes-Barre Outstanding Adult Learner honored

A group of six women standing in front of historic Hayfield House.

From left: Penka Farina, education and training specialist; Lynda Goldstein, chancellor and chief academic officer; Verena Lake; Auraleah Grega, learning support coordinator and award presenter; Karen Gallia, administrative support assistant; and Jane Ashton, director of Continuing Education.

Credit: Penn State

DALLAS, Pa. — Verena Lake, in her final year at Penn State Wilkes-Barre, was honored at an awards ceremony for adult learners held on April 23.

The 35th annual Luzerne County Council on Adult Higher Education (LCCAHE) Outstanding Adult Learner Award reception was held in Hayfield House of Penn State Wilkes-Barre. The LCCAHE is a consortium of the Adult/Continuing Education offices of Penn State Wilkes-Barre, Misericordia University, King's College, Luzerne County Community College and Wilkes University. Each year, the LCCAHE, the longest standing collaboration between Luzerne County colleges and universities, sponsors this awards ceremony to recognize the contributions and achievements of an outstanding adult learner at each institution.

The Department of Continuing Education administers the award program at Penn State Wilkes-Barre. Penka Farina, education and training specialist, said, “It was an honor for our campus to host the LCCAHE Outstanding Adult Learner Award reception. We would like to congratulate Verena and all the award winners for this recognition of their hard work and dedication. We wish them much success in their careers and future endeavors.”

Lake is a Caribbean native from the island of Dominica. She earned a bachelor of science degree in surveying engineering at the campus’ commencement ceremonies on May 4, making history as the first Black female student from the program. Lake hopes to become a licensed land surveyor and to use her degree to contribute to her country’s structural development and socioeconomic advancement.

“I am very honored to receive the award and feel it beautifully summarizes all of the years of my hard work,” Lake said. “Of course, Penn State Wilkes-Barre had a major role to play in that. My journey really tested my resilience and my perseverance. As I went through numerous challenges, it shaped me into a better person all around and naturally, that spilled over into my academics. I would like to thank all the wonderful faculty and staff at Penn State Wilkes-Barre who helped shape me to become the woman who I am now as I say goodbye and start a new chapter after graduation.”

She was nominated by Dimitrios Bolkas, associate professor of surveying engineering and program coordinator, and Janis Winter, professional math tutor at the campus Learning Center.

“Verena is one of the best students that I have ever had in the surveying engineering program. She is very intelligent and diligent,” Bolkas wrote. “She always has a positive attitude in the classroom and helps create a positive learning atmosphere. Her attitude and performance clearly show that she has remained focused on her goals.”

Winter wrote, “When Verena became a math tutor in her junior year, she showed great sensitivity to the needs of the students she worked with. She was an amazingly productive and constructive student in all aspects of campus life and a pleasure to work with. I have no doubt that she will continue to advance in her field and in her social and community life and make excellent use of this award.”

In addition to her work as a peer math tutor, Lake has assisted with several community service projects, including making blankets on the Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service, volunteering at the Weinberg Food Bank and Wilkes-Barre St. Vincent De Paul, taking part in a roadside cleanup of Huntsville Road in Dallas Township, helping other adult learners in a surveying workshop and participating in a campus international day presentation.

All award winners go through a comprehensive application process and are reviewed by a committee at each institution to be selected. The outstanding adult learner selected from each institution is the individual who demonstrates a commitment to learning and service, all while managing a family, career and educational responsibilities.

During the reception at Penn State Wilkes-Barre, each Outstanding Adult Learner was presented with a plaque to celebrate their achievement. The award was given to each of the Outstanding Adult Learners by someone from their institution who has been an integral part of their journey. Lake’s plaque was presented by Auraleah Grega, Penn State Wilkes-Barre learning support coordinator.

Award recipients from other institutions were Brian McNulty, King’s College; Emily Mae Kaufman, Luzerne County Community College; Liam Bradigan, Misericordia University; and Christine Dugan, Wilkes University.