UNIVERSITY PARK, Penn. — U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Bryan Smith, a Crestview native, has earned the 2016 Penn State Outstanding Adult Student Award.

The senior, who majors in criminology, received a Penn State diploma case and a $500 grant from the Adult Learner Opportunity Fund. Leslie Laing — Penn State’s assistant director of Adult Learner Programs and Services in Student Affairs — established the fund to aid non-traditional-age students and veterans juggling financial and family responsibilities while earning an undergraduate degree.

Smith is an ideal candidate, Laing said.

“Bryan courageously serves his country, his campus and our community,” she said. “He has bravely faced personal, financial and professional obstacles while pursuing his educational goals, and yet makes time to mentor other students.”

Smith, a married father of two young children, serves as an adviser and trainer in the Navy ROTC program and is a volunteer in the State College community.

He said balancing family, career and class work can be a challenge — “first and foremost, I would not be able to balance anything without the support of my wife,” Smith said — and “there are many times (when) I don’t necessarily get the sleep I need, but that’s where I think being a Marine is useful.”

He deployed for two years in Iraq before the Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Educational Program accepted him. The program allows Smith to remain on active duty while enrolled full-time at University Park. Upon completing his degree, he will be a commissioned second lieutenant.

“I hope to continue serving in the Marine Corps until retirement while also pursuing a master’s degree and ultimately a doctorate,” Smith said. “I know this is going to be difficult, but I enjoy being challenged.”