Wilkes University recently named Rebekah Cleary of Edwardsville as the recipient of the Outstanding Adult Learner of the Year Award for 2021.
Cleary graduated in January of 2021 with a bachelor of science degree in accounting and a 3.39 GPA.
She is currently enrolled in the University’s 4+1 MBA program that allows students to earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in five years. She started her first two MBA classes while completing the coursework for her undergraduate degree.
Karen Alessi, associate director of the MBA program at Wilkes, nominated Cleary for the Outstanding Adult Learner honor and acts as her academic advisor.
“She jokes about always making things work regardless of the obstacles ahead. In my opinion, she is doing them successfully,” said Alessi. “I am glad I get to continue working with Bekah as her academic advisor at Wilkes.”
Cleary discovered her love for accounting in ninth grade at Elmer L. Meyers Junior/Senior High School in Wilkes-Barre, working with two other students to convince their teacher to offer a higher-level accounting course.
“In the long run, I thought accounting would offer really good opportunities and be a really good money-maker for the future,” says Cleary.
She completed her bachelor’s degree while working the overnight in Wilkes University’s facilities department. Cleary recorded lectures so she could listen to them on her headphones while she worked at night and scheduled classes so she could catch up on homework and sleep during the day while her daughters were in school.
“If you want it, you’ve got to earn it,” Cleary said.
Cleary was chosen for an internship position with United One Resources, a mortgage processing company in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., shortly before COVID-19 hit in 2020. Though the pandemic impacted her internship activities on site, the company hired her as a full-time accounts payable clerk, then promoted her to a junior accountant position when she graduated.
Cleary credits the faculty and staff at Wilkes with encouraging her and helping her continue her education and earn her degree while juggling family and work responsibilities.
“They pushed me when I didn’t even know I could be pushed. Don’t be afraid to follow your dream. My dream was to graduate from a university.”
The Outstanding Adult Learner of the Year Award is sponsored by the Luzerne County Council on Adult Higher Education (LCCAHE), a coalition of area colleges and universities focused on continuing education for today’s professionals. Members of LCCAHE are King’s College, Luzerne County Community College, Misericordia University, Penn State Wilkes-Barre and Wilkes University. For thirty-two years, participating institutions have named an award recipient who has overcome adversity and continued to excel academically.
Learn more at www.wilkes.edu.