Not much gets past Wyndham Community and Education Centre chief executive Jennie Barrera.

So when her colleagues managed to pull off a surprise presentation to award her a life membership – complete with her family sitting in the audience – Ms Barrera was beside herself.

“It was so exciting. It’s the highest honour that the organisation can bestow on you, and that’s fabulous,” she said.

“It was completely unexpected.”

Ms Barrera has been part of the centre for the past 24 years, first as an English as a second language teacher, then holding roles as a co-ordinator and manager before taking on the top job 10 years ago.

Tens of thousands of students have been through the doors in that time, as well as thousands of newly arrived refugees needing help with settlement services.

Ms Barrera said the centre becoming registered as a senior secondary provider and working with refugees were among her biggest achievements.

“There’s always something to be done, there’s always a program or people who need something,” she said.

“A lot of people come to us in a fairly disadvantaged or desperate state, and we help to get them back on track … they work really hard and it’s good to see the good news story that comes out at the end.”

Centre president Pauline Anderson said the life membership was well-deserved.

“She’s done so much for the organisation,” Ms Anderson said.

“She’s got an incredible work ethic and sets a very high standard for herself, and expects everyone to live to that standard as well, which raises the standard of the whole organisation.”