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Mom and Daughter Honor Students Graduate Together from ACCC

May 30, 2008

The saying, "Like mother, like daughter," definitely applies to Marie and Rebekah Zumwalt of Pleasantville, who graduated simultaneously-with honors-from Atlantic Cape Community College.

Marie and Rebekah Zumwalt

Marie, 46, graduated with dual associate degrees in accounting and accounting information systems. Rebekah, 27-who is an assistant editor for regional newspaper publishing company Catamaran Media- also received two degrees, in education and communication. Additionally, Rebekah received four honors during ACCC's recent Communication Awards celebration. Both have 4.0 grade point averages.          

Moreover, both Mom and daughter traveled a circuitous route toward the pursuit of higher education.

Rebekah, the eldest of three siblings, was born in Alaska and had been home-schooled her entire life.

"This was my first experience in a classroom," said the willowy strawberry-blonde, who was having lunch with her youthful, stylishly coiffed mom a few hours before commencement in the ACCC cafeteria.

Marie, meanwhile, had endured many trials and travails before going to college for the first time.

"I got married when I was 16; I had been married for 24 years and was a homemaker," she revealed. "I was 18 when I had Rebekah. I only had a high school diploma."

 When she and her husband split in 2000, Marie took a few years to concentrate on her family. 

She eventually started a cleaning business which she ran from the home she shares with Rebekah and her son, Isaac, 11. (She has another daughter, Anita Jimerson, 25, who also attended ACCC at one time.)

Although she didn't have a formal higher education, Marie was well-versed in academic matters due to her experiences with home schooling her kids-the state of Alaska has an excellent home-schooling system. In 2003, she decided to go to college to pursue an advanced degree.

"My main motivation was that I couldn't see myself cleaning houses forever, and I needed a job with benefits," she explained. "Cleaning is good money, but it's hard work."

Marie entered ACCC in 2003, with Rebekah following the next year, initially attending part-time and majoring in education. At one point, Rebekah became the editor of the Atlantic Cape Review student newspaper, which led to her attending school full time to pursue a double major in communication, and helped her land her current position with Catamaran Media.

While Marie admitted the two often competed with each other, both mom and daughter agreed that the rivalry was healthy and mutually motivational. Above all, they had a lot of fun going to school with each other, and even took a few classes together- which was especially helpful.

"I loved going to school with my mom," Rebekah said. "We spent so much time together and would tell each other stories about our experiences in classes. It was like going to school with your best friend."

Marie also imparted some very inspirational life lessons and philosophies that helped both mother and daughter to become better students, and people in general.

"I always told my children that life is not about how much prestige or money you have, it's about relationships," Marie said. "And you should always be looking and ready for a new challenge. It's what keeps your synapses in shape."