Juan Garcia, 49, has been working as a cleaner at Bronx Early College Academy for two years. “I sweep the hallway, make sure the bathrooms are stocked, help out with the cafeteria. As soon as the kids are gone, that's when I start coming into the classroom, taking out garbage, sweeping, mopping, doing the rugs. And sometimes in between that I get a call on the radio. You know, there's a leak somewhere or and I got to assist either my coworkers or teachers. Some days it's crazy,” he says.
Garcia was working at a charter school in Washington Heights when the custodian there noticed Garcia’s work ethic and nominated him to work for the Board of Education, where he’s been since. Garcia has had several different jobs, but it was working with his dad in Puetro Rico one summer when he discovered his passion. “I saw my dad do the most amazing thing. He chopped some trees and put them on the ground, picked up a house and rolled the house from one spot to another. That blew my mind. I was like, this is what I want to do. So I started learning handyman things,” he recalls.
When he came back to the states he started working for a company called Three Generation painting, doing sheetrock and carpentry, among other things. He says most of his life has been about hard labor - he’s never had an easy job. But that’s the way Garcia prefers it. He tried security but found that sitting at a desk was too boring. After many years at Three Generation, he got his charter school job and then came to Bronx Early College Academy. He’s now a shop steward for 32BJ. “When I come to work I don’t worry about my coworker, what he’s doing, I come to work and it’s my time. I got kids and I definitely don’t want to go to a school and see that it’s dirty. I put that in my mind and said I’m going to do this as if my daughter went to this school,” he says.
On his days off, Garcia spends time with his four children and goes to the gym. He’s working on getting his personal training and nutrition certification online, and hopes to take on clients in physical fitness. He likes playing video games and making music. He is proud to have purchased a new car two years ago, and remembers how accomplished he felt getting it right from the dealer. Garcia describes himself as a workaholic and a homebody. “It’s like that saying: it’s not a job, it’s an adventure,” he says.
"I got kids and I definitely don’t want to go to a school and see that it’s dirty ... I’m going to do this as if my daughter went to this school." Juan Garcia