They are the hardworking custodians – a team made up of a wide range of cultural and professional backgrounds. They clean the offices, the classrooms and blackboards, empty the trash cans, clean the toilets and sweep the footbridge – keeping the campus scenic and attractive for students.
These under-appreciated workers go about their daily chores, working odd hours and almost invisible to students.
Aida Avedissian, a senior custodian, has worked at GCC for 25 years. Avedissian is originally from Iraq where she was a typist for an oil company. Her job there was to translate documents from English to Arabic.
“My job in Iraq paid well, and since I was the oldest of my siblings, I had to take care of my family,” she said.
With her earnings, Avedissian was able to cover her brother’s college tuition; however, in 1980, she and her family left Iraq to pursue political and religious freedom in the United States.
“I didn’t want to leave,” she said. “I liked my job and my co-workers but leaving was inevitable.”
To those who come in contact with her, Avedissian serves as a mother figure. She keeps a box full of safety pins and band-aids for students in her office, in case they get a scrape or fall during the dance classes.
“I have a great relationship with the students and staff here,” she said. “I love them all. I treat them with respect and everyone respects me. I love my job and I work hard at it.”
Although several students have asked her why she does not get an office job, especially since she speaks English, her response is always that the enjoys the people she works with and that she does her job with pride.
Avedissian has received many awards for her outstanding work and dedication, but one of her favorites was given to her by a student, and was presented to her through the GCC Board of Trustees – a large coffee mug with a picture of the world, which she keeps neatly tucked away in her locker.
“This award means a great deal to me,” she said. “When the student gave it to me, she said, ‘You’re the best in the world,’ but I’m a simple person. When I do something, I do it with all my heart and I guess that’s my signature.”
Pastor C. Soto, originally from Culiacan, Mexico, has been with the college for 15 years – two of them at the Garfield campus and one at the Professional Development Center in Montrose. Soto said he enjoys the camaraderie he has with his fellow workers.
“We have each others’ backs,” he said. “When one of us can’t make it to work for whatever reason, we just do their work.”
Soto does not complain much, but sometimes finds it annoying trying to access the women’s restrooms to do his job.
“I just wish the girls wouldn’t wear headphones in the bathroom,” Soto said. “It is very hard to get their attention when I need to clean – especially when I’m yelling at the top of my lungs ‘custodian’ and the girls can’t hear me and don’t answer. They are surprised to see me.”
Soto has a good relationship with students and staff. He said they are professional and courteous and he enjoys the interaction with all of them.
Raul Yepez is a former professional soccer player from Mexico who played for the Atlas soccer club based in Guadalajara and now works at GCC.
Yepez has been an avid soccer player since he was 14 years old. He played for several semi-pro teams until he landed a job with Atlas.
Being a goalkeeper, which was a very demanding position, instilled a great deal of discipline, which he carried over into other aspects of his life.
“I take a lot of pride in what I do,” said Yepez. “I always work hard because your work reflects the type of person that you are. I love keeping the campus clean for the students and making their stay a little better.”
Today Yepez enjoys the game more as a spectator. In fact, he travels to Mexico once a year to see the “Classico,” a soccer game between two of the most successful franchises in the Mexican league, Chivas vs America.
Custodian Carlos Avalos has worked on campus for 15 years. Raised in Glendale, Avalos graduated from Hoover High School, going on to complete an associate of science degree in computer technology from GCC. However, he said jobs in the computer field were drying up.
“I could not find a job and, while I was a student, I was also a part-time custodian,” said Avalos. ”I worked briefly for United Parcel Service, but GCC offered me an opportunity to go full-time and I took it. I’ve been here since.”
Avalos said that what he likes best about his job is working with students and the relationships he keeps with his fellow workers. The one thing that concerns him is that he sees the school growing and wonders if the staff is also going to grow, hoping the workers they hire are not just part-timers.
“The best thing about my job is that the school got rid of the third shift, which starts at 10 p.m. and ends at 6 a.m.,” he said. “That shift is hard on the body – you don’t sleep and you don’t eat right. I’m very happy now. ”
There are many other workers on campus, such as the technical staff, engineering and office staff that work just as hard and get very little recognition for their excellent work. The work of the custodians is evident on campus daily, but not the men and women who do the job.