Last week,May 20, the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges honored GCC’s Hoover Zariani as the California Community College Employee of the Year after he was nominated by the board of trustees.
The prize is awarded to classified, or non-faculty, employees who show commitment to their college’s mission, high standards of performance, participation in college activities and governance, and leadership beyond the college in local, state, and/or national activities.
While only a minimum of five years as an employee is required for the award, Zariani has 24 years of service with the district under his belt.
Early in his career, he learned that students are more likely to succeed if they are engaged in campus life and connected with their learning community. According to Zariani, this is where service learning comes into play, by allowing students to apply what they learn in the classroom to community service.
GCC superintendent and president David Viar, who nominated Zariani for the award, sees him as a valuable member of the college.
“Since coming to GCC in July, I worked with Hoover in the California School Employees Association — the union for the non-teaching staff of colleges,” said Viar. “I would meet with him as union president and got to know how much he cares about students and service learning.”
Zariani has helped students succeed by connecting them with the campus and community through civic engagement, actions by groups and individuals to address issues of public concern.
Having observed how much work Zariani has done for the college, especially in terms of student success, Viar met the criteria for the award.
“I’ve met with him on a weekly basis for the past six months and I found him to be honest, direct and caring,” he said.
Zariani’s influence can be seen all across campus. In 1994, he founded the Center for Student Involvement and serves as its senior student service coordinator and director. The program places more than 1,300 students in service learning assignments in approximately 150 non-profit organizations and schools.
Zariani also helped found Shadow Days, which allows 400 to 500 high school students to visit GCC and observe campus life. He also created SPARK (Students Providing Access, Resources, and Knowledge), a program where GCC peer mentors help freshman students adjust to college life.
“Technically I’m just doing my job, but a lot of people know that you really care about the students and how they develop, learn and grow. STAR and SPARK help in that,” Zariani said.
Zariani also was president of GCC Chapter 76, California School Employees Association from 2011 to 2013. This was a very rough period due to salary cuts, staff reduction, and decreases in revenue. However, even with these setbacks Zariani was able to help the college community and its leaders make more well-rounded and appropriate decisions.
Zariani’ initiative, dedication to service, and his leadership abilities translate into his life outside of GCC. He is currently a mentor for the American Association of Community Colleges, a presenter for various organizations, and also serves as a consultant and trainer for several colleges.
His work and dedication have earned him awards in the past, including the Student Services Program Outcomes Award in 2009 and the John Davitt Award for Outstanding Classified Staff Member. Currently, he is the chief negotiator for the Classified California School Employees Association.
Despite his numerous awards and positions, Zariani continues to work on himself. He is working on earning his second master’s degree in education and plans to teach courses relative to his major.
“It was an honor just being a nominee because it’s a big process that was worked on and put together, but winning and being recognized is very special. I’m very grateful,” Zariani said.