Spotlight on the Class of Winter 2020: Rebecca Kreh – Valedictorian’s Struggle for Success
Rebecca Kreh received the call that she was chosen as a valedictorian for PCCC’s first Winter Commencement ceremony while she was at her job in a fast-food restaurant. “My boss was the first to hear the news,” said Rebecca. “He really values education and was so happy for me.”
Rebecca graduates with a perfect 4.0 GPA at PCCC and had anticipated that she might be valedictorian. But when the initial excitement settled in, Rebecca was struck by the realization that she would have to give a speech before the entire graduating class, College faculty and staff, and guests.
“I didn’t know if I could speak in a way that will connect with everyone,” said Rebecca. After a few days of thought and some public speaking coaching from Professor James Sanders, she feels more confident.
“I am going to thank all the people who helped me to get to this point,” she said. “But I will also talk about struggle, because I know what it means to struggle for a goal, and I think many PCCC students can relate to that.”
Growing up in Ringwood, Rebecca did not enjoy the same level of privilege as others who lived in the affluent suburb. She experienced family and financial stress and even food insecurity at home, challenges that were rare to most of her classmates.
Socially, she felt like an outsider among her peers. “I never felt like I belonged anywhere,” she said. Her few friends were others who coped with similar struggles. “I related better to them, and often they were minority students,” she explained. “The diversity at PCCC appealed to me, because many of the students had similar backgrounds to mine.”
At Lakeland Regional High School, Rebecca was, at first, an indifferent student. “I didn’t see the value of school,” she said. “I was on the wrong path and got in with the wrong crowd.”
Then she met Jesus Gomez, a kind classmate who would one day become her husband. “He helped me to see my own value and encouraged me to do better in school,” says Rebecca.
She became an honor student, graduated in 2017, and decided to attend PCCC. “I didn’t apply anywhere else,” says the Wanaque resident. “PCCC is affordable, and the Wanaque campus is close to home and just down the road from my job.”
A creative artist who enjoys drawing and sculpting, Rebecca was undecided about the career path she wanted to pursue. “Everyone, including myself, thought I would go into art,” she said. But at PCCC, she made what she calls “a choice for stability,” and decided to major in Business Administration and become an accountant.
“PCCC helped me discover more about myself and what I want to do,” says Rebecca. “The professors here teach from their own personal experience and the students are from all different cultures, which I loved.”
A member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, Rebecca maintained her perfect GPA as a full-time student while also working full-time. “I’ve always worked 40 to 50 hours a week,” she explained. “I’m very good at time management. In fact, it’s one of my superpowers.”
Rebecca completed her associate degree requirements last August and transferred to William Paterson University where she is now in her junior year and on target to graduate at the same time as her twin sister, who is pursuing a nursing degree at Felician University. “Our goal is to graduate in the same year,” says Rebecca.
After receiving her bachelor’s degree in accounting, Rebecca plans to earn a master’s degree, pass the CPA exam, and land a job at one of the Big Four accounting firms. “I’m going to work my way up from there,” she says.
That would enable her to fulfill another goal: To repay her husband for all his support. Though Jesus had at one time attended PCCC himself, he did not complete his degree. Now a car salesman, he has taken over the couple’s major expenses, so his wife could get her education.
“I appreciate what he did for me,” says Rebecca, “so I want to help him be able to relax and return to college to complete his education.”
Article and photo by Linda Telesco