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Sugar House Journal

Longtime custodian embraces his position as a role model for kids

Sep 01, 2021 15h36 ● By Lizzie Walie

Marcos Orozco poses in front of East High School where he currently holds the title of lead custodian. (Courtesy of Salt Lake City School District)

By Lizzie Walje | [email protected]

Marcos Orozco is an ordinary man with a remarkable story. For over 40 years, he has worked for the Salt Lake City School District as a custodian where he has quietly impacted the lives of thousands of students. 

Orozco has an impeccable understanding of his work and is acutely aware of the influence custodians can have on children. “You know I could tell you who my elementary custodian was, both of them, Percy and George,” he said. A reminder that it’s sometimes the background or secondary characters in our lives who come to be the most memorable. For Orozco, he gladly embraces his position as a role model, acknowledging that for many of the students, “[I’m] the only positive male role model that [the kids] see, especially being Latino, too.” It’s that sense of steadfastness that has punctuated Marco’s four-decade career.

When Orozco started working as a custodian, he made it about a year before leaving the position. “I knew right away I had made a mistake,” he recalled. From there he continued to ask for his job back, and, in the interim, looked for other custodial opportunities in schools until finally, he received news of an opening. Since then Orozco has never looked back and has subsequently built a remarkable career for himself in the hallways of Salt Lake City schools. On any given day you’ll see him in the halls of East High School, doling out high fives and handshakes to a legion of high schoolers. 

Orozco says it the relationships he’s made that are the primary reason he’s lasted so long in one position. 

“I didn’t have a good role model as a father. You know…not at all. And so it’s the relationships that we build. It’s not just myself, it’s my team, everyone who works in custodial.” To this day Orozco is recognized by students, even those who have long graduated and left the primary schooling system. It’s something he never tires of, and he feels proud to make such a lasting impression. “These kids remember me positively,” he said, “and for them to remember me after all this time…it makes me proud of what I do. I love my job.”

Orozco is proof that every job has merit, even those often overlooked. “Some people might have their opinions of me. Oh, he’s just a janitor. But it’s more than that, we’re not just custodians, we’re the community.” The praise that Orozco has gotten over social media further substantiates this idea, with hundreds of students both past and present attesting to his exemplary character.

Orozco sees his role as being able to provide consistency for children who may have very little of it in their day-to-day interactions. Particularly children who may fall through the cracks both systemically and emotionally. 

“I show them that I’m here,” he said. “If [they] need a job, if [they] need to talk to somebody, I’m here. Whether they’re athletes or regular students, we just talk to them. Whatever you do, take pride in it. I take pride in what I do. This is where I’m supposed to be.”