Mary W. Lark Humanitarian Award

The Mary W. Lark Humanitarian Award was established in 1982. Mary Lark came to Rapid City, SD in 1941 as the Dean of Girls at Rapid City High School. Miss Lark always worked as a counselor, but her role as a counselor was officially recognized in the mid 1950's. She epitomized everything that we are taught are the positive characteristics of the perfect counselor. She was a caring, kind, accepting person who had an enormous capacity  for hard work, long hours, no complaints, and had an exceptional ability to listen. Long after student had graduated from high school, they would return to visit with her. She was everybody's friend and provided comfort and assistance for a couple of generations of high school students. 

This award was established to recognize counselors who are true humanitarians-those who go above and beyond the ordinary. The recipient (if they are an ACA member) is then submitted as a candidate for the Gilbert Wrenn Award at the national level. To learn more about the Wrenn Award, click HERE

These award winners have shown concern about human beings in special ways through caring behavior, documented and generally recognized by peers. They have also been observed in unselfish involvement over a period of time in a cause of situation which benefits others, not self.


2023 Winner: Amanda Bender, pictured with nominator Jeff Heavlin

To serve as any type of counselor, they must truly care about others. Amanda Bender constantly shows her genuine care and compassion for others through her daily work. Additionally, she is someone who has been involved in leadership in both SDCA and SDSCA for about a decade. She steps up to lead, connect, and educate other counselors not for her own glory, but she works collaboratively with our professional organizes to help others better serve their clients.

Last year, Amanda became the literal "posterchild" for empowering helpers. When faced with criticism from the public on the right of staff members to display things like Safe Space signs, her school district met to her both sides of the debate. Amanda fought for the rights of staff to not only exercise their First Amendment rights, but more importantly let students know they had allies within schools in the Lead- Deadwood School District. She stood up for inclusivity and the ability to support marginalized students. - Jeff Heavlin


Past Award Winners