Penn Stater clears educational hurdles, wins adult student award

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Growing up in Kansas with religious parents concerned about the morality of public school, Neil Meyer had no real educational structure after the second grade and never completed his homeschooling. When he turned 18, he moved out of his parents’ house and made his way to Pennsylvania.

Meyer began working as a Walmart cashier in April 2007 and quickly moved up the ranks. The head of human resources encouraged him to go to school. With services available through Pennsylvania CareerLink, Meyer obtained his GED. The year Meyer became eligible to apply for Penn State as an adult learner, he did.

Now a junior majoring in psychology with a neuroscience option, Meyer presented his laboratory work at a Summer Research Symposium last year. He is a Pennsylvania Postsecondary Education Award recipient and has been selected as a national McNair Scholar and a Penn State Bunton-Waller Scholar — all while working 20 hours a week as a Walmart pharmacy clerk.

For his extraordinary determination in furthering his own academic development and successfully juggling multiple roles, Meyer has been honored with the 2013 Penn State Outstanding Adult Student Award.

The award recognizes an exceptional adult learner at the University Park campus who has begun or resumed their education after the age of 24, after being out of high school for four or more years, who demonstrates initiative in overcoming obstacles to furthering their education, while serving as a role model for other adult learners, achieving academic excellence and contributing to their community.

Leslie A. Laing, assistant director for Adult Learner Programs and Services in the Division of Student Affairs at Penn State, sponsors and organizes the annual award recognition program. She praised Meyer for “bravely facing each obstacle to achieve his educational goals, contributing to the academy and improving the community.”

“This is, by far, the most personal award I’ve ever received because the committee looked at who I am as a person,” Meyer said. “It is incredibly humbling to be in the same category as the others who were nominated, and this award definitely has a special place in my heart.”

Just days after being honored with the Outstanding Adult Student Award, Meyer was awarded a $3,000 Penn State Summer Discovery Research Grant. He plans to attend graduate school and dreams of becoming a tenured faculty member at a tier-one research university to further his studies of borderline personality disorders and psychotherapy.

As this year’s Outstanding Adult Student Award recipient, Meyer is the third recipient of a grant from the Adult Learner Opportunity Fund. Laing established the fund to aid nontraditional-aged students and veterans who often juggle multiple financial responsibilities and family obligations while completing their undergraduate degree requirements.

To contribute to this fund, visit www.givenow.psu.edu (select “Other” from the drop down list and type “Adult Learner Opportunity Fund (XXTOF)” on the Additional Information line).

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Last Updated April 29, 2013