Whatcom Community College Student Receives Top National Award for Adult Learning


Submitted by Whatcom Community College

Whatcom Community College student Cecilia DeLeon is the 2020 National Adult Learner of the Year. Cecilia was honored with the prestigious award by the Coalition of Adult Basic Education (COABE) at the organization’s virtual conference and award ceremony earlier this month. The award is annually given to a student who demonstrates leadership and has overcome difficult circumstances to pursue adult learning.

Photo courtesy Whatcom Community College

During the pursuit of her GED at WCC, Cecilia battled stomach cancer and raised two children on her own. Despite setbacks, Cecilia made the phrase “Never give up” her anthem. In November 2019, 12 years after embarking on her journey, she earned her GED. 

“I have never seen a woman rise from the ashes like Cecilia. She never gave up; she has survived in a way that can’t be quantified apart from the inspiration it gives others,” said WCC Transitional Learning instructor Dawn Kroontje. “Cecilia doesn’t just represent the best our school has to offer, but the best our nation has to offer.”

Cecilia had been the victim of sexual assault and then became an advocate against it while serving members of her community as a translator and resource. She has also worked with Community to Community, a local organization devoted to social justice for farm workers. In 2017, she actively stood against the Department of Licensing’s record-sharing agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that impeded on the rights of immigrant families. In 2018, Cecilia lobbied against sexual misconduct among immigrant agricultural workers and was honored with the Seeds of Justice Award for her tireless work in the community. 

“I want people to understand that no matter how hard life can get, don’t give up,” said Cecilia. “Just keep on going. Push for your dreams. Just go for it.”

Cecilia plans to continue her education and study law advocacy. A video of Cecilia receiving the award, as well as a special video message from Cecilia, is available online at: https://youtu.be/PqGJNmmf2W0

Cecilia is also working with the WCC Foundation to support other students in need of financial assistance. Donations in Cecilia’s name can be made at www.whatcom.edu/give.

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