2017 Janitor of the Year inspires students and faculty

Ted Qualli, the 66-year-old janitor at Newtown Elementary School, knows the names of every one of the school’s 850 students.  Of course he is the first person to arrive in the morning and the last person to leave at night.  But he does much more than cleaning classrooms.  He wears his old Air Force uniform on Veterans Day and talks to kids about his service.  He grows countless plants and gives them out to the staff and student body.  Most importantly, he talks with the kids about life and teaches them that some of the most important things you learn, you won’t find in a book.  He explains to the kids:  “You got to listen.  You listen, everybody has a message that they're trying to tell you.”

“He's the guy that’s unsung.  He’s the guy that everybody knows is the go-to person.  He’s the guy that keeps the ship afloat,” says principal Kevin King.  As one student puts it:  “He does all this stuff, and he does it with a smile on his face.”  A parent expresses her appreciation: “They just don't make them that way anymore.  He is just absolutely one of the most amazing human beings on this planet.”

Among over 1,200 nominees nationwide, Ted has been selected the 2017 Janitor of the Year.  “I’m so overwhelmed and I just can’t believe that it happened,” said Ted, fighting back tears.  “I just can't believe that people think that much of me.”

The town of Newtown declared a Ted Qualli Day in his honor.  The parent-teacher moms sang him a song at the announcement of his award.  He received a $5000 cash prize from the Cintas Corporation.  And the kids, well, they just love him.

 

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Marty

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Student earns a bachelor’s degree before receiving her high school diploma!

Raven Osborne is the first student in the history of Indiana to earn a bachelor’s degree before receiving her high school diploma!   A week before she gets her diploma in May, she’ll be graduating from Purdue University with a bachelor’s degree in sociology with a minor in early childhood education.

 

Raven is a senior at 21st Century Charter School in Gary, Indiana, and has been taking college classes since she was 14.  The charter school pays college tuition for students who earn admission to partner colleges while still in high school.  Most students are able to receive credit for a few college courses while in high school, but Raven accomplished a whole bachelor’s degree of college credits.  Each semester, she took five classes, or 15 hours, at Purdue, while simultaneously taking classes at the charter school.

 

Raven never told any of the college students she met at Purdue that she also was a high school student. She doesn't drive so her mother and the charter school took her back and forth to university.  “It was very hard,” she said.  “At one point, I also tried to work a job.  I was working a midnight shift at a day care center.  I just had to watch the children while they were sleeping, then feed them breakfast when they woke up.  It was a daycare for parents who worked a night shift.  Eventually it just got to be too stressful, and I had to resign.”

 

Kevin Teasley, president and CEO of Indianapolis-based GEO Foundation, which runs 21st Century Charter School, explained: “Frankly, we’re breaking the cycle of poverty.  That’s what it’s really all about.”   The charter school pays the college tuition for the high school kids, so Raven is receiving her college degree unburdened by student loans.  She already has a job lined up for after graduation as she has been hired to work at 21st Century’s elementary school as an early interventionist.

 

What if most (or even all!) high schools were able to give this opportunity to their students.  All students can achieve beyond expectations if they’re given opportunities, guidance, encouragement, and assistance.  School districts have to decide priorities and how they can have the maximum impact on our children.

 

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Marty

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