Student recognized for overcoming adversity

Adult learner Cindy Kosek travels 62 miles to campus each day from her home in the community of Home, Pa., in Indiana County. This single mother's determination to go back to school at a nontraditional age never faltered through a variety of hardships that she was forced to endure. For this, Kosek is the 2009 Recipient of the Pennie Mowery Memorial Award.

Each year this award recognizes a female student of nontraditional age who is a single or divorced mother and has overcome adversity in her life, yet balances family, outside activities and personal life to attend school. Pennie Mowery herself was a single mother who battled cancer while taking classes at Penn State DuBois as an adult learner. Pennie eventually lost her life to cancer just before her graduation.

"The similarities between Cindy and Pennie were striking to me," said fellow student Melinda Marconi, who nominated Kosek for the award. "Cindy has gone through so many trials since I first met her on campus two years ago."

Marconi said when they first met Kosek was caring for both her daughter and a granddaughter on her own, while her son served in Iraq with the Army National Guard. Then, Cindy was diagnosed with cancer. Through it all, she never gave up.

"I swear some days she really should have been home resting, but there she was, ready to work," Marconi remembered. "Never did she give up on school."

Kosek was able to overcome cancer. Things were looking up as she planned a wedding with her fiancé when tragedy struck again. Marconi remembers hearing the heartbreaking news. "Just after her final treatment, her fiancé was killed in a car accident. How she stayed so strong during all of this is a mystery to me."

Kosek, however, said she simply does what she has to do. "I was so speechless when I heard I got this award," Kosek said. "There are so many more people just as deserving as me; or more deserving."

Today, Kosek remains strong and determined to do her best in school. She sets an example for her children, who are both dean's list students at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Her daughter, Kristy, is a sophomore at IUP majoring in psychology. Kristy is the mother of Maria Jewel, Kosek's granddaughter.

Kosek's son, Charles Stanavich, is currently serving his third tour in Iraq.

After earning her letters, arts and sciences degree, Kosek said she would like to enter a field related to natural resources and conservation. "I want to work to conserve our environment so it is still there for my granddaughter to enjoy," she said.

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Last Updated May 12, 2009