My Story PhotoHelping Others
Emily Kaufman always knew she wanted to go to college.

Even though she had to leave high school after the ninth grade to help support her family, she never gave up on her dream.

Her journey led her to Luzerne County Community College, where she showed her academic drive, commitment to helping others, and her commitment to herself by achieving her goal of getting an education.*

"I really feel like I've accomplished something by getting my degree," said Kaufman, of Shavertown. "I had to leave high school - not by choice, but because I had to work to help support my family. I always knew I was going to go back to school."

Kaufman, who is 27 years old, graduated this spring with an associate degree in social sciences. During her time at LCCC, officials recognized Kaufman for her academic successes and her commitment to helping others.

Kaufman most recently received the 2024 Outstanding Adult Learner Award, which recognizes five students from area colleges.

Each year, the Luzerne County Council on Adult Higher Education, which consists of representatives from LCCC, Misericordia University, Wilkes University, Penn State Wilkes-Barre and King's College, select a student from each of their institutions for the honor.

The award recognizes an adult learner who has distinguished themselves in academic achievement and participation in college/community activities.

"Emily exemplifies the spirit of determination by getting her GED and continuing on to get her associate degree at Luzerne County Community College," said LCCC President Thomas P. Leary. "Emily's commitment to herself and her passion for wanting a career where she will help others shows how truly remarkable a person she is. We are proud to have been part of her journey and to have helped her start what will undoubtedly be a successful life both personally and professionally."

During her time at LCCC, Kaufman maintained a 4.0 grade point average, was an LCCC tutor, participated in the College food donation drive, became a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honors society, and has a published essay in the Ablaze inaugural edition.

Besides being recognized as a 2024 Outstanding Adult Learner, Kaufman earned a spot on the All-PA Academic Team, where she will get scholarship money to continue her education.

"It's truly an honor to be recognized for the work I have done." Kaufman said. "I went from having nothing to turning my life into something."

Kaufman's journey began when she had to leave school after the ninth grade to work at a motel to help her mother and her mother's boyfriend with their monthly rent.

"I cleaned rooms, helped run the front office and I even did minor maintenance at the motel," she said.

But her hope and determination for a better life kept her going.

She found a better paying job working at a local business and an apartment she could rent by herself so she could get out of her living situation. It was at her new job where she learned about LCCC.

"My coworker was talking about LCCC and I thought it would be a good option for me too," Kaufman said.

Kaufman started her education by getting her General Educational Diploma (GED) through LCCC's Adult Learners' Training and Assistance (ALTA) program in 2021. Then, she took classes for her associate degree in social science.

Along the way, LCCC's faculty saw in her a special individual who not only exceled academically but someone who was altruistic and wanted to help others.

"...Ms. Kaufman has turned her experiences to fuel a deep concern, empathy and desire to help others," Lynn Grilli, LCCC professor of History/Social Science, and Janis Wilson-Seeley, chair/professor of LCCC's Social and Behavioral Sciences Department wrote about Kaufman on their nomination form for the 2024 Outstanding Adult Learner Award. "She is an excellent student and a kind young woman who is generous of spirit."

Kaufman said she plans to continue her education but hasn't decided what she will major in for her bachelor's degree. Currently, Kaufman works with a young woman, teaching her life skills so that she can live more independently. She's looking into several career options, but most importantly she wants to continue to help others.

"I really like working with people," Kaufman said. "I don't know exactly what I want to do for my career, but I will look at majoring in something where I can help others."