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Chicagoans is a first-person account from off the beaten track, as told to Anne Ford. This week's Chicagoan is Michelet Boursiquot, elementary school custodian.
"I'm the head custodian. I'm in charge of the whole building, and I love it. I clean, I repair things. Whatever is needed to assist the kids, I'm there.
"I get there at six in the morning. I'm not a morning person, but I don't have no choice. I open the doors, and I make sure there's no emergency, no leak, no problems. And then around 10:30, 11 o'clock, I set up for lunch. The kids throw up, make a mess—I take care of it. I'm always handy: water, lights, whatever they call me for. Two-thirty, I go home. There's no hard part of my job. Whatever come, I take it.
"The kids love me. I'm telling you, they're something else. They keep me young. I feel like they are my own. My favorite part, it just be hanging with the kids in the gym, playing ball. They tell me everything. If they have problem at home, I make them comfortable. Something bother you, come talk to me, and I will straight it out. If another kid bully them, they come and tell me. I call the other one and say, "If I have to take you to the principal, I will."
"All my life I deal with kids. I'm the oldest of 20 kids—17 sisters, two brothers—and I had to take care of them. Haiti, that's where I'm from. I was 20 when I came to the U.S. I came here in February, it was snowing like crazy. The first time I see that stuff, I start crying. I wanted to go back home. I read about snow in National Geographic, but I never knew it was like that. But I get adjusted.
"It take me a little while to learn English, about six months. Channel 11, that's my favorite channel when I first came. Big Bird, Sesame Street. [Laughs.] I went to night school at Truman College, and then I started working for a Ford dealership. Then they shut down, and I come to the school district. In the meantime, I used to drive a school bus too. And I went to the high school too and got my GED.
"Almost every year, I go back to Haiti. I always go to Mardi Gras. Just having fun, relieve some stress from here. They have parades big time. I just follow the band, dancing in the street.
"I been in this 30 years. I have three more years left. I have a new generation coming now. The ones who used to go to school here, their kids are coming to school now. They always remember me. They always bring me this, bring me that. I feel so much love here. I'm just a lucky man. The parents are so nice. That's the hardest part—to quit here. That will be my hardest thing."