Fremont, Calif., July 27, 2020—Ohlone College EOPS/CARE/CalWORKS Coordinator Sandy Jenkins-Bennett, member of the California School Employees Association (CSEA), was recently selected as one of four national recipients of the 2020 Recognizing Inspiration School Employees (RISE) Award.
“To say Sandy is deserving of this award is an understatement. Sandy is a shining example of a classified employee who goes above and beyond in their job, dedicated to fulfilling what she believes is her life’s purpose,” said California School Employees Association President Ben Valdepeña. “She is an inspiration to the many students and staff whose lives she has touched over the years, as she has grown and evolved at Ohlone College.”
The award was created by CSEA and the National Coalition of Classified Education Support Employee Unions to recognize the essential role that all school professionals play in education. It focuses on those who go above and beyond in helping students achieve academic success, while keeping them physically healthy and emotionally safe, as well as engaged and connected to the larger school community.
“Rarely am I rendered speechless, but because I wasn’t expecting to hear that I had been selected for the national award, I grappled for the words to express what I was feeling,” Jenkins-Bennett said. “I never expected to win an award or receive accolades for doing my job. My goal was to do the best job I could for a college that has done so much for me.”
Jenkins-Bennett helps students find their voice by coordinating programs and services for those who want to go to school but lack the financial and social resources to do so. The programs she works with include EOPS, Cooperative Agency Resources for Education (CARE) and CalWORKS, which provides cash aid benefits to families with children. She uses her personal and professional experience to turn around the lives of those students who often wouldn’t have a chance to do so otherwise, including returning students, single parents, disadvantaged or low income.
“A lot of people search for their dream job. I feel so blessed to have found mine early in life,” Jenkins-Bennett said.
She was also named one of CSEA’s 2019 Members of the Year and was named the 2018 Employee of the Year at Ohlone College.
“Often, students express how much I have impacted their life, but what they may not know is that being in a community with them saved my life and restored my faith in the educational system,” Jenkins-Bennett said.