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Ask anyone at West Ridge Elementary to tell you a little bit about school custodian Jerry Williams, and there is a similar response no matter who you talk to. …
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Ask anyone at West Ridge Elementary to tell you a little bit about school custodian Jerry Williams, and there is a similar response no matter who you talk to.
“He’s awesome,” is the phrase repeated by students, teachers and staff alike.
West Ridge Principal Will Pierce said Williams goes above and beyond each and every day on the job.
“Everybody has an opportunity to just show up to work,” Pierce said. “Then there are those who show up and make the world a better place. That’s what Jerry does. He makes the world brighter.”
Pierce wrote a nomination letter to the 27J Hispanic Advisory Committee in support of Williams. Williams was honored April 30 with the Hispanic Advisory Council Award for excellence in embracing diversity.
“What he does to help every kid and everybody here is just amazing,” Pierce wrote in the letter. “Jerry Williams does his job to the best of his ability, and while he is doing it, he makes the culture of West Ridge Elementary a much better place to work and learn in.
“Jerry Williams cares for people and is always looking for ways to make a difference in the lives of staff members, parents, and ultimately the kids,” Pierce continued. “Jerry proudly wears a smile on his face every day. He checks in with people, he gives hundreds of high-fives a day, he jokes, he laughs, and he makes each interaction a memorable experience. Jerry supports people.”
Williams was also recognized for his generosity and commitment to the school by with a Reaching Out with Achievement Award at 27J Board of Education meeting April 27. He is humble when talking about the recognition he received.
“I’m not the only one that gives to these kids. Everybody here is giving to these kids. It’s a great school. A great school … and a clean school,” he laughed.
Williams, who refers to himself as ‘the jokester of the whole school,’ has worked as a custodian at West Ridge since it opened in 2007. He began working nights, then moved to a full-time day custodian position this year. Williams is a lifetime resident of Colorado. Prior to taking the job at West Ridge, he worked primarily in construction.
This is his first year working the day shift, and Williams says he loves it because it allows him to get to know the kids better.
“I know a lot of kids have some troubles at home,” he said. “When I see one down, I try to help them not think about the bad but think about the good. The same with the teachers. I try to pick them up.”
Williams even started up an afterschool basketball program in the school earlier this year. When serious, he calls his team the West Ridge All-Stars, when joking, they’re the Sweathogs of West Ridge. The team has organized practice one afternoon a week, but can often be seen playing before and after school. They’re gearing up to face off with the school’s teachers next week.
The idea to form a basketball club came to Williams because he remembered when his own son was having troubles in school. Once he became interested in basketball, things seemed to improve all around for him.
“I thought, ‘Maybe this will make a difference with the kids,’” he said.
And it seems like it has. The program began a few months back with three players and now has more than 10. Williams checks in with the teachers of his players to be sure they’re keeping up with their schoolwork and keeping their grades up.
“If they’re keeping their grades up and staying on track, then they can do basketball. It is making a difference with them,” Williams said.
The fifth-graders on his team agreed. They love their basketball team, they said, and they love Coach Jerry.
“He’s awesome, and he gives up opportunities,” one said.
“Yeah, he gives us opportunities,” echoed another.
“The kids in basketball, to see them from when they first started out and seeing the improvements they have made is just awesome,” Williams said. “That’s my payback.
“Our kids are our future,” he continued. “We have to care enough to be there and not just let them wander around. We have to give them somewhere to go, something to do. I want them to focus on what they want in life. If they want to play basketball, they can start from there. What I want them to do is to care about people.”
Williams said he always stresses the importance of performing off the court.
“They’ve got to perform,” he added. “And if they’re happy, I think they perform better. For me it’s just about keeping people happy.”
Williams said in addition to his own family of a son, daughter and four grandchildren, he now feels fortunate to have hundreds more family members at West Ridge.
“I look at all of these kids as my grandkids and my kids,” he said. “They’re good kids. It’s fun being around these kids. I enjoy the heck out of it.
“This school is great,” he added. “It’s a good aura, and there are great teachers. The efforts that they put out and the attitude they have, it makes you want to join in. It’s like a big family here, like when you’re around family you just want to help out family. I want everybody to have a smile on their face. I try to bring them up a little bit and these people make me want to do that.”
Williams said the support was returned to him after his father died recently.
“The support I got from here was amazing,” he said. “They showed they were behind me, and they checked to see how I was doing. I notice that they do that for everybody in here. We’re 800 people under the same roof and one big family.”
Whether it’s keeping the school clean, high-fiving students on their way to lunch, or continuing to expand his basketball program, Williams plans to continue to do whatever he can to support the students at West Ridge and help them be the best they can be in life.
“These are our future mayors, writers, governors,” he said. “Whatever it may be, I just want them to go on the right path and not get stuck in gangs and things like that.
“I’m a custodian, but I don’t feel like a custodian,” he said. “I’m willing to go the extra mile for these kids because if they see that people care about them, they’re going to care about other people too.”
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