Donated photo. Haywood Community College success coach Farrah Rodriguez was named winner of the 2021 Staff of the Year Award by the State Board of Community Colleges. The award recognizes excellent performance and commitment to the community college mission by the non-teaching staff of the 58 institutions of the North Carolina Community College System.

Haywood Community College success coach Farrah Rodriguez was named winner of the 2021 Staff of the Year Award by the State Board of Community Colleges. The award, sponsored by BB&T and established in 2001, recognizes “excellent performance and commitment to the community college mission by the non-teaching staff of the 58 institutions of the North Carolina Community College System and the System Office,” according to the NCCCS website.

Rodriguez advises over 800 students in 14 programs of study. Building strong relationships with students, she continuously displays selfless dedication and is able to uniquely identify and understand their problems to help solve them. As a graduate of HCC and a recent graduate of Gardner Webb University, Rodriguez uses her personal life experience and the challenges she has overcome to help students through similar situations.

Rodriguez says she was humbled and honored to win this award. “The whole process has been surreal, from being recognized and nominated by my peers to winning HCC superior staff of the year award. When I found out I made it to the finals at the state level, I thought I was dreaming. I am blessed to work at such an amazing place, surrounded by such amazing people.”

As the top award winner, both Rodriguez and the HCC Foundation will receive a cash prize. The recipient is selected by a committee that recommends the winner to the State Board of Community Colleges.

“I love our students and what I do,” Rodriguez explains. “I get the opportunity to help many people achieve their goals, find their path, finish school, and be successful. There is nothing more satisfying or rewarding.”

HCC President Dr. Shelley White says, “There are some people that radiate positivity, warmth, authenticity and genuine care for others. The people that upon meeting them, and in every interaction thereafter, you know the passion they have for service. As a leader, those are the people I want on the team, those who can blend a genuine desire to help and serve with their work. This is Farrah Rodriguez.”

Rodriguez has played a large role in HCC’s food pantry program. She collaborates with others in her department and Student Wellness to ensure the pantry is stocked and alerts supervisors when supplies are running low so students can always access and utilize this resource.

“Farrah understands that many factors go into ensuring a student’s success, not just enrolling, persisting, and graduating,” Dr. White continues. “She understands that students’ educational journey often is impeded by daily struggles with basic necessities such as food, rent, childcare, gas/transportation, and the list is endless.”

Rodriguez collaborated with the Student Services department to change the admissions process, making it easier for students to navigate. This helped remove barriers for students who were oftentimes bogged down in the admissions process. She also connects students with resources such as tutoring and student wellness.