WHEELING, WV, May 19, 2011 -- The 2011 Manning Award for Academic Success was awarded to Wheeling Jesuit University graduate Sean Cooksey of Pittsburgh, Pa. Created in 2010 by Kathy Tagg, director of the Academic Resource Center (ARC) and Disability Services, the award honors students with learning disabilities who overcome obstacles and utilize resources to achieve academic and personal success at Wheeling Jesuit University.
Shawn Manning, a 2010 graduate and criminal justice major, presented the award named in his honor.
Cooksey was a transfer student who began his college career at Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC). However, he heard about Wheeling Jesuit University from a neighbor.
"After I visited the campus and talked to people at the university, I felt like it was for me. I felt an immediate connection to this place – I just knew it would be the right school for a great education – a place where I could succeed," said Cooksey, who has learning disabilities.
Cooksey could have been totally discouraged from pursuing a college education because of negative remarks on a psychologist’s report that predicted he may not be successful in any field that requires reading, writing or math skills, he said.
"That statement is actually humorous now in light of the fact that I am graduating this month from a Jesuit university with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and I have earned a place on the Dean’s List," he added. Cooksey chose his major because he enjoys reading and learning about history.
Cooksey went diligently to the Academic Resource Center to take tests in a quiet environment, to meet with peer tutors for math and science, and to set up regular appointments with ARC Writing Coordinator, Roberta Caswell, to improve his academic skills, according to Tagg.
"I knew it would take me extra time and work to complete course assignments and I never hesitated to put in that time and effort," said Cooksey. And the Disability Services staff provided him with the encouragement he needed to pursue and reach his academic goals.
Cooksey was chosen to present his senior thesis at WJU’s annual Research Day. His history proposition entitled, "The Maginot Line: the Achilles Heel of the Third Republic," was selected as one of the top three research papers in his class.
In addition, Cooksey served as a reporter for the campus newspaper, The Cardinal Connection, which helped him hone his writing skills. Cooksey found that this position was "a great way to meet people and to practice writing at the same time."
Service was also an important part of his education at WJU. He participated in a woodchopping trip to Mingo County, W.Va. and a clean-up and painting project in Kopperston, W.Va. during spring break. He has been an active member of Students for Life and traveled to Washington, D.C. for the annual March for Life. He attended a conference at Georgetown University with the campus organization JPOT (Justice and Peace in Our Time). He also led small prayer communities through Campus Ministry.
The day after graduation he left for Germany with his history professors. After that he will prepare for a one year commitment as a Jesuit Volunteer in Chicago, Ill., as a guest coordinator for Elam Davies Social Service Center where he will help people connect with resources and teach them computer skills for job placement.
Sean Cooksey’s parents, Mary Reidell of Pittsburgh, Pa., and Steve Cooksey of Colorado Springs, Co., inspired and supported him in his pursuit of a Jesuit university education. Cooksey believes that if a student, with or without a disability, wants a college education, it is possible to achieve it.
"It all starts with you – if you want it, you can do it."