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Rusty’s Pizza: Employer of the Year at H.I.R.E. Luncheon


Rusty’s Pizza has long been a shining example of inclusivity and empowerment, providing employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Their unwavering commitment to creating a more inclusive workforce was celebrated at the recent annual H.I.R.E. luncheon, where they were honored with the prestigious “Employer of the Year” award. The H.I.R.E. event is a heartwarming celebration of local businesses’ efforts to create a more inclusive workforce by hiring individuals with developmental disabilities. This event, hosted at the local Hodel’s Country Diner and graced by Bakersfield’s Mayor, Karen Goh, pays tribute to organizations actively contributing to a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

Cyndi Hicks: A Beacon of Inclusivity

The Stellar Team Behind Rusty’s Success:

At the heart of Rusty’s transformation into “Employer of the Year” stands Cyndi Hicks, the owner of Rusty’s Pizza. Since the first moment our team at Valley Achievement Center met Cyndi in April 2022, she has been an unwavering champion of inclusivity. Her warm welcome and genuine excitement for our mission of helping individuals find meaningful employment set the stage for the incredible journey that Rusty’s Pizza embarked upon.

Cyndi’s leadership, vision, and heartfelt commitment to inclusivity have been instrumental in Rusty’s remarkable success. Since partnering with Valley Achievement Center, Cyndi and the Rusty’s Pizza team have given 12 individuals opportunities under the Paid Internship Program. Among these 12, four were hired before the end of their internships and have become cherished members of the Rusty’s family.

Cyndi’s proactive approach extends beyond her doors. Whenever there’s a need for new talent at any Rusty’s Pizza location under her leadership, she reaches out immediately to inquire about individuals ready to enter the workforce, including those who may not have had the chance elsewhere.

The Whole Rusty’s Team: A Culture of Inclusivity

In this journey towards inclusivity, the entire Rusty’s Pizza team has played a vital role. From team members to supervisors, they have embraced the idea of creating an inclusive workforce with open arms and open minds. Their unwavering support for our individuals with disabilities has not only enriched the workplace but has created a culture where everyone feels valued and empowered.

A Community That Celebrates Inclusivity:

The H.I.R.E. luncheon was a remarkable gathering, bringing together local organizations that have made a difference by providing employment opportunities to individuals with disabilities. It celebrated the power of inclusivity and recognized those who are actively contributing to a more diverse and welcoming community. Mayor Karen Goh’s presence and support at the event exemplified the commitment of the city’s leadership to creating a more inclusive Bakersfield.

Rusty’s Pizza’s Impact:

Rusty’s Pizza’s recognition as “Employer of the Year” is not just an award; it’s a testament to their dedication to creating a workplace where everyone has the opportunity to shine. Cyndi Hicks, the driving force behind Rusty’s inclusivity, leads by example, and her partnership with Valley Achievement Center has set an inspiring standard for others to follow.

Acknowledging the Valuable Support:

Behind every success story, there’s a dedicated team that makes it possible. We would be remiss not to acknowledge the remarkable efforts of our team at Valley Achievement Center, who have been instrumental in helping individuals with developmental disabilities find meaningful employment. Our team plays a crucial role in job coaching, resume building, and work preparation, all of which are essential in leading individuals to employment.

Our Exceptional Clients:

We also want to take this opportunity to recognize the fantastic clients in our organization. Their determination and hard work have been truly inspiring. They have shown incredible dedication and resilience throughout our program, and their success in finding employment reflects their commitment and the positive impact they have on the community.


Rusty’s Pizza’s recent accolade at the H.I.R.E. luncheon as “Employer of the Year” is a testament to their commitment to inclusivity and creating opportunities for individuals with disabilities. The journey, guided by the extraordinary leadership of Cyndi Hicks, reflects the values of a community that celebrates diversity and strives to create a more inclusive world. In a time when inclusivity is more important than ever, Rusty’s Pizza, under Cyndi’s leadership, shows that a local business can make a substantial impact by opening its doors to all, regardless of their abilities. Together, we can continue to build a society where everyone is given the chance to shine.

Kurtis Parker

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