SALT LAKE CITY – Most people can probably look back on their school years and remember a teacher or a counselor who had a profound impact on our lives. But, how many of us can say that about our high school custodian? Students who’ve attended school in Salt Lake City School District can say that about East High School’s Head Custodian Marcos Orozco. He has been able to connect with students in amazing ways.
With the extreme popularity of Disney’s High School Musical franchise, East High School started holding self-guided tours of the school, in the summer. this allowed fans to see where the shows were filmed. Those tours proved to be quite popular, so keeping the grounds clean was no easy feat.
All in this together
Orozco said that because of East High’s fame, it’s a special school in the Salt Lake School District.
“All three movies and now the series [were filmed here], so we have visitors from throughout the world in East High School, every day, doing tours. We have to be on top of our game, here and I’ve got an excellent team. I gave 100%, we all give 100%.”
Even though Orozco was never in any of those movies, he said he gets recognized all the time. That may be because he’s worked as a custodian in Salt Lake City School District for the last four decades. He has connected with students all along the way.
41 years and counting
“I have people, adults, come up to me… like I said, this is my 41st, year, and they’ll say, ‘Marcos!’ And I say, ‘Yeah, is that good or bad?’ They’ll say, ‘Good. You were our custodian at Beacon Heights or Whittier or Emerson or Lincoln,’” he said.
Shortly after he started working for the district, he quit, but he quickly realized that was a huge mistake.
“I knew I made a mistake within that week and so I went to talk to the custodial manager and said, you know, I made a mistake, can I get my job back?” Orozco said.
Unfortunately, he said his old manager said they had already filled that position. However, Orozco was persistent and kept checking back every week until he got a call to come back to work one week in 1980. He’s been with the district ever since.
Orozco said his job allows him to form relationships with a wide array of people, and that’s what drew him back to work. Some of the students he met at one of his schools are now educators and business owners. He’s happy he could have played a part in their lives.
“Sometimes, we’re the only positive male role model that they see,” Orozco said.
Orozco said growing up he didn’t have very many strong male role models in his life, and with his role now, he can be that to others.
“I’m always shaking hands. I have a lot of interaction with the students, and you know the teachers sometimes only see them for 45 minutes…But we’re in the halls, we’re in the offices, we’re in the classrooms, we are everywhere so they recognize us. So it’s like ‘Hey how you doing today man? How’s everything? Make sure you go to class, you know, education is important,’ so we do have quite a lot of interaction with the students.”
“We’re the community”
He admits, he grew up in a time when people would look down on his job, and that can sometimes still happen.
In one case, a student and his mother were walking to school on a snowy day and passed him dressed in his snow gear pushing a cart full of salt. As they passed they said hello to each other. Later that day the student found him and said his parent had thought he was a homeless person.
“I told her, he’s not homeless! He’s our custodian Marcos!” the student said.
Orozco said he’ll still get some people who will act funny when they find out he’s a custodian, but he said that he’s always taken pride in his work.
“[We’re not] just the custodian, we’re not, we’re the community, we’re the go-to person. This is my building, this is my job and I take pride in it.”
Orozco shared another experience with a former student who reminisced with him about his time working at an elementary school. After that, Orozco’s wife asked if it ever bothered him that students remember him as a custodian.
“I said, ‘He must have remembered me for a reason, and I think it was a positive reason because you see how we interacted together and he remembered me. I said that’s good. This is what I do. This is my job. And I take pride in my job, and I love my job.”
Noticing the smallest details
Principal Pam Pedersen said it’s not just Orozco’s ability to connect with people that makes him stand out, but his attention to detail. She said he notices small details no one else does.
“He will open these obscure closets down a weird hallway that you had probably not even noticed there was a door there, and it is immaculate inside,” according to Pedersen.
She’s not surprised so many people have positive memories connected to Orozco.
Pedersen said, “It doesn’t matter what your job title is. It’s about your attitude, your work ethic and how much you care.”
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