SOURCE: Council for Adult and Experiential Learning

Clark Communications

November 13, 2014 07:00 ET

Council for Adult and Experiential Learning Names Learners of the Year

Four Women From Around the Country Recognized for Success and Perseverance

CHICAGO, IL--(Marketwired - November 13, 2014) - The 2014 Council For Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) International Conference, "Mobilize Learners -- Revolutionize Assessment," to be held November 12-14, 2014, Chicago, IL, will be the venue for the presentation of CAEL's prestigious Learner of the Year Awards to four outstanding adult learners, CAEL CEO and President Pamela Tate announced today. "These four individuals are truly representative of what successes are possible through programs that support adults returning to school. They are inspirational to us and to the entire education community," said Tate.

The four women recognized are:

Suzette Bennett, a life-long learner, is currently Operations Manager at CAEL; her learning story is one that includes two countries, eight distinct learning experiences, over 14 years working with CAEL, and countless years of a deep-rooted commitment to education as a life-changing experience. As the second child in a family of 12 children in Kingston, Jamaica, Suzette was raised by her grandmother after her parents immigrated when she was six years old. After making her way to Philadelphia, PA, education became her foundation in building a life link that has helped her to remain immersed and connected to two very different cultures. It has become part of her legacy to continue to pursue educational opportunities and to inspire others along the way. She volunteers on a Youth Aid Panel which provides juvenile delinquents with the opportunity to participate in a remedial program as an option to serving jail time.

Ms. Bennett holds an A.S. in Business Accounting from the Jamaica School of Business, an A.A.S. in Paralegal Studies from the Community College of Philadelphia (PA), a B.S. in Legal Studies from Saint Joseph's University (PA), a M.S. in Criminal Justice from Saint Joseph's University (PA), and an M.S. in Corporate & Business Law, with a concentration in Regulatory Analysis and Compliance from Widener University School of Law (DE). As part of her lifelong learning experience, Ms. Bennett is anticipating another year at Widener within which she plans to obtain her J.D. In addition to her degrees she also found the motivation and drive to obtain a Client/Server Programming Diploma from Computer Learning Centers, a Human Resource Certificate from Cornell University, as well as being a member of the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics.

Leasia Clark is currently attending De Paul University where she is seeking a BA in Fine Arts with a Concentration in Global Business Analytics; her projected graduation is 2015. She works for UBS, a global firm providing financial services to private, corporate, and institutional clients. As a teenage mother in high school, she knew that attaining a higher education would be the only way to give her daughter and her the life every human deserves. As she struggled to provide for her family at multiple minimum wage positions after high school, she took advantage of Year Up, a one-year, intensive training program that provides low-income young adults with a combination of hands-on skill development, college credits, and corporate internships. 

Diane Cioffi, from Rutland, Vermont, was working as an office manager at a dental office until mid-2012, when her hours continued to get reduced until she lost her job entirely. Meanwhile, her husband's construction business was suffering the impact of the economic recession, and she found herself in a serious situation. Knowing she needed to update her skills to stay competitive, she enrolled in Advanced Workforce, Inc., looking for help. She accepted all the job search skills assistance and mentorship available and took a medical billing and coding course as a result of which, she earned a medical coding certificate and a student grade of 100%. Diane was hired at Rutland Regional Medical Center as an office manager. Her commitment to success, her positive attitude, and her love of learning continue to bring her success.

Mary Van-Vleet is a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for the Department of Veterans Affairs for the Chicago, Illinois Regional Office and is responsible for coordinating a variety of duties to serve disabled veterans and other eligible individuals. She was born and raised in the small town of Monmouth, Illinois, where two teachers stood out to her: her second grade teacher and her freshman Science teacher who both lit the way to her appreciation and value of education. Upon graduation from high school mid-term of her senior year, Mary went on active duty in the United States Navy. She credits the military with giving her discipline, respect, dignity, a strong sense of self-worth and a desire to help others, well as strengthening these values through learned experience and education. 

Mary graduated from Capella University in 2011 with a Master's of Science in Human Services with a Specialization in Mental Health Counseling and a certificate in Marriage and Family Therapy. She returned to Capella's School of Public Service Leadership in May of 2013 for a Ph.D. in Human Services with a specialization in Social and Community Services. Her life was forever changed when she became a veteran and ultimately sought education as a means of bettering herself and taking control of her existence. 

Concluded Tate, "It's impossible to look at the challenges each of these adult learners overcame without recognizing the value of adult learning and the wonderful human capacity for perseverance. I can't express how proud I am to be associated with them and with an organization that every day, provides these kinds of opportunities that improve lives."

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The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) is a nonprofit 501(c) (3) organization based in Chicago, Illinois that assists adults with their educational endeavors, finding practical ways to earn college credit for learning acquired through training and work experiences. CAEL works with the public sector, private sector industries and higher education institutions to ensure that adult students receive the most efficient training and education to occupy a meaningful professional place in a 21st century economy. Since 1974, CAEL has assisted colleges and universities in providing college credit for prior learning. CAEL is the recognized national expert on a method known as portfolio assessment, and their Ten Standards for Assessing Learning are used by colleges and universities, as well as accrediting organizations, across the country.

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