A gathering of American River College staff filled the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) conference room Thursday, for an award ceremony celebrating excellence on campus.
Among those present were Faryal Said, recipient of the Classified Senate Employee of the Year Award, and Heidi Fuller Bennett, recipient of the ITAP Teaching Award.
The award ceremony began with an introduction by Christina Wagner, who thanked everyone for coming and introduced the award winners.
Gloria Nobles, the recipient of the ARC Patrons Chair Faculty Award and Honorarium, and Kristina Casper-Denman, the recipient of the ARC Diversity and Equity award, were both unable to attend.
Faryal Said, a student personnel assistant at ARC, was the first recipient to be introduced.
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As an immigrant from Somalia, Said has had no shortage of challenges since arriving in California.
When discussing those challenges, she mentioned learning English as the greatest of them all.
“Just imagine [going to Somalia], and not knowing anything about the language or the people,” Said said, adding that language is “the key.”
Said attributed her success to her ability to communicate with and engage others, citing it as her strongest quality.
Derek Booth, the dean of Computer Information Science, introduced Bennett, the second award winner.
Booth expressed admiration for Bennett’s boundless energy and made note of one of her defining characteristics — her ability to go through wholesale changes every semester for the sake of creating a continually better learning environment.
Bennett, who has been an employee of ARC for 26 years, has had an overwhelmingly positive impact on the staff and students.
Booth added that he regularly received emails and had students approach him solely to praise Bennett, and even said that having her around energized him.
“The most difficult part for me has been to dial it back,” Bennett said.
Previously the administrator of a high school before joining ARC’s staff, she said that adjusting to “just being in the classroom” was difficult.
“They couldn’t contain me,” she added. “I ended up starting a lot of different programs.”
One of those programs would later become the ARC Advantage Program, for first-time students.
The program, which is oriented towards first-time college students or students returning after an extended absence, introduces them to essential college skills such as study habits and building up a support network and counts as two units upon complete of enrollment.