Keeping Baylor clean and safe
Story and Photos by Megan Rule
The sun rises slowly, filling the Texas sky with gorgeous shades of pink, blue and orange. The dew begins to melt off the grass as the warmth of the morning kisses the cold night air goodbye. Building doors are unlocked as the parking garages begin filling up. Hallways are filled with the aroma of coffee beans brewing as students slowly but surely fill the Baylor Bubble. Residents and visitors alike admire how beautiful the Baylor campus is, all thanks to the work done throughout the previous day and night by people like Maria Picazo and Leticia Garcia, members of the custodial team at Baylor.
“I don’t think everybody realizes how much we do in our department,” Rose Provost, custodial director for Aramark at Baylor University, said. “It’s so much more than what people think. It was interesting, we had a manager that transferred over to us and they were like, ‘We had no idea all that you guys do.’ They had not a clue.”
Picazo works as a day shift supervisor and has been in this position for the past eight years, while Garcia oversees the custodial department at the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC) and has worked here for seven years. Provost was able to speak very highly of the work done by both women, emphasizing that both stand out among the overall 170 employees. Provost also said these two women were nominated for the Ring of Stars, an employee award program with Aramark, a company that provides food service, facilities and uniform services for clients, that highlights stand-out employees and sends them on a paid week vacation. Unfortunately neither Picazo nor Garcia were selected, but there are always more years, Provost said.
“I nominated both of them last year and they didn’t win, but we’re going to nominate them again next year,” Provost said. “What our company does is a paid week’s vacation and they fly them out – last year it was Florida – and it’s a whole week long. They get to pick events – snorkeling and cruises – and then of course we have our motivational events and dinners. Both of these ladies were elected for that.”
Garcia started her time at Baylor working the night shift before moving to her current position overseeing the BRIC. Garcia’s favorite part of working is the collaborative teamwork that all employees place an emphasis on. She enjoys working in a position with a company that dedicates time to sprucing up people’s lives. Garcia recalled one year when Baylor custodial staff volunteered to fix up the baseball stadium that her son plays at. They updated the lights, fixed the paint and even gave the stadium new restrooms, which really excited the kids. Every year the staff picks a place and a day to volunteer and fix up, adding to the teamwork and familial mentality.
“It looked very pretty, all the kids were very excited saying, ‘Hey, look. It all looks new,’” Garcia said. “It was a very happy moment. Everything looked better.”
Provost said the staff focuses on promoting themselves within and encouraging employees to grow. She said it’s exciting to see people who want to grow and move up in the ranks. Picazo and Garcia nodded, in agreement. They spoke about how they try to keep their groups and staff engaged and make things fun on a daily basis, with games and competitions. They all hold the same values of teamwork and keeping everyone safe, and they communicate these ideas to their teams to show how important this job really is.
“I like this company because everybody tries to focus on teamwork and the employees all want to make the customer happy,” Garcia said. “That’s why I like it. Everyone has the same idea: keep it clean, keep it safe.”
Picazo and Garcia both have families of their own that they take care of when they get home, so the work isn’t over the moment they pull out of the Baylor campus. Picazo has two kids, a 12-year-old and a 9-year-old. Garcia has four kids, a 17-year-old, a 15-year-old, an 11-year-old and a 7-year-old.
“I see all of our employees enjoy what they’re doing because it is a tough job, and they’re here more than they are at home,” Provost said. “We try each and every day to make things as fun as possible. Obviously we have to do our job.”
Picazo leaves work at 3:30 p.m. and goes straight to pick up her kids and bring them to their grandmother’s house for an afternoon snack. After everyone eats, Picazo drives from soccer practice to piano practice and back. Once everyone is finished with after-school activities and finally home around 8 p.m., they eat dinner. Wednesdays the family attends religious education classes at the church, says rosaries and goes to Mass at 7 p.m. before going home for dinner. The kids love hearing stories from her childhood back in Mexico, she said.
“Every time that I come to work, I think of my family because they are the ones I want to work for,” Picazo said. “Every day they see that we can do it. I want to be an example for my children and for my family in Mexico.”
Garcia also leaves around the same time to pick her kids up and drive them to tennis practice before going home to cook dinner and do homework with them. She said she tries to have them in bed by 8:30 or 9 p.m., but the popular video game Fortnite serves as an enemy.
Between busy schedules, managing groups of staffs, raising families and just dealing with the ins and outs of life, Picazo and Garcia adopt an incredible philosophy of positivity. Garcia said she believes that every day, as long as you’re happy, the little problems in life don’t show. Picazo emphasized this, saying that everything has a way of getting done, whether it’s bills or taxes or the family. In spite of the hectic, busy, stressful lives they lead working so hard with the custodial team, these two women have an admirable outlook on life.
“You may have a lot of problems that you’re thinking about, but like Leti said, once you come to work you need to put your eyes on the task that you’re doing every day and leave the problems for your own time,” Picazo said.
All in all, both women continuously expressed how proud they are to be part of a team at Baylor, and expressed gratitude for how welcoming the staff was when they respectively joined years ago. Provost smiled and said she wished she could clone these two women because they’re both such valuable assets to the team and take their work so seriously.
“It’s a really important job,” Picazo said with a tear in her eye. “So many people don’t think it is that important, but it is. That’s what I tell my team, this is something really important. Sometimes they feel like, ‘Oh, it’s just cleaning.’ I tell them no, please, it is really important what we are doing no matter if anyone tells you something different.”
Provost said these women are at work more than they are at home, and loves celebrating employees like Picazo and Garcia that serve as front line staff who excel in what they do. They influence their teams well and encourage everyone to work hard and take their work seriously.
Everybody has problems, Garcia said, but it’s just a part of life. When you put a smile on your face, though, it changes the emotions of those around you, Garcia said.
Spreading positivity to the team and the Baylor family that walks by every day is just one way Picazo and Garcia make the jobs fun for their team. They emphasize the importance of the work done by the custodial staff, telling their team that cleaning thoroughly brings safety to everyone by protecting Baylor’s health. If no one cleaned, germs would be everywhere, infecting the campus. This is why, Picazo and Garcia said, working as a team with a common mindset is so important, and their favorite part of the job. The teamwork of the custodial staff is what keeps the rest of the Baylor family healthy and safe.
“We’re like a cake,” Picazo said. “You can’t just have milk; there’s more ingredients. I can’t be flour and the whole cake. We need teamwork to make a good cake with eggs and milk too.”
A Day in the Life of Maria Picazzo and Leticia Garcia
Morning Arrives at work for the day shift
3:30 p.m. Leaves work to pick up kids and bring them to their grandmother’s house for a snack
5:00 p.m. Drives kids to soccer and piano practices
7:00 p.m. Attends religious education classes and Mass on Wednesdays
8:00 p.m. Arrives home after a long afternoon of activities and gathers family for dinner
Morning Arrives at work for the day shift
3:30 p.m. Leaves work to pick up kids
4:00 p.m. Drives kids to tennis practice
Evening Cooks dinner for family and helps kids with homework
8:30 p.m. Begins putting kids to bed