Janitor: a small word with a strong meaning

“When you’re cleaning, they [people] look at you like you’re nothing. As if you — you know, as if you don’t have an education,” said Debra L. Plez, custodial manager at Florida International University, as she shared her experience as a janitor.

Plez first joined FIU as a janitor on Oct. 18, 1996. She has faced many challenges — including the time a woman got sick and left the restroom a mess. The following day, the same situation occurred in the men’s restroom, making the FIU janitor break down in tears. 

Plez set out to make the team of janitors feel significant. She pushed herself to become a supervisor. “I took it to another level. I’m a manager now,” she said.

She teaches her team how to face difficulties and helps them overcome their own challenges. Plez makes it her goal for them to recognize their importance to the university. “I tell them [the custodian team] they are the U in FIU,” she said.

Bailey Alfaro is a senior studying broadcast journalism and pursuing a minor in film. Her experience extends from editing to managing cameras during productions and using the quill of her own pen to capture the stories of the community.

Srishti Jaiswal is an international student from India. She is currently a senior pursuing a degree in broadcast media. Though far from home, she continues to push herself to give a voice to the voiceless no matter her location.