Better Know a Building Attendant: Barbara Castillo

“Better Know a Building Attendant” is a series at the Forum dedicated to introducing students at Claremont McKenna College to their Building Attendants.  The series will run every Friday morning until the end of the semester.  This interview is the third of thirteen. Barbara Castillo is the warm and energetic housekeeper of Claremont Hall.  She has been in charge of the dormitory since it opened four years ago, and she runs a tight ship.  Her supply closet is immaculate and filled with photographs of her family and cards from students.  Though it was clear from the way she had kept every one and put them all up, she let me know how much she appreciates them.  She does her best to get to know all 108 of her students and make them feel at home, and keeps tight records of the goings on around the dorm.

She keeps records of everything that happens, from spilled tea to holes in the wall, on 8½ X 11 notepads, which she keeps neatly organized in the supply closet in a bin on a shelf.  She keeps them in case students or the administration have any questions about work orders or dorm damages.  There are four notepads from the first year, 2008-2009, three from the second year, two and a half from last year, and hopes to keep it down to one and a half this year.  It’s not that she is recording less; students have just gotten better about making a mess.  This fall, she’s only filled out a half-notebook—so far.

This is how she feels about it: “I mean I don’t love that I write everything down, I hate that I have to write these things down, but just to me, you know, it’s something that I have to look forward to, to see how good my kids can be.  And so far this has been the best year, not even a whole book yet.  So I said, come on dorm, let’s not go over one book even—but if we have to go one and a half, okay!”  She laughs.  She is constantly smiling and has a powerful laugh; it’s hard not to join in.  “So far this year, these kids have been really good.”

She takes care of students’ rooms like they were her own children’s.  Make your bed, or she’ll do it for you: she insists “a room is not clean unless the bed is made.”

When talk moved on to party night aftermath, I asked her about how hard it was to get beer out of Claremont Hall’s plush carpeting.  She responded:

“I don’t call it beer, you know what I call it?  Devil’s water, the Devil’s water.”

“When it’s on the carpet, or when it’s-“

“All over.”

When I asked her what she does at home and what makes her happy, she had a one-word answer:

Jesus.

Barbara is deeply religious.  She was married to her husband twenty years and almost divorced because of her husband’s problems with substance abuse.  You can understand why she calls alcohol the Devil’s water.  When the problem came to a head and she was ready to leave, he turned to the church for help, found Jesus, and got clean.  Her kids convinced her to give him one more chance.  She was a Catholic her whole life, but started going to his church with him, and for a whole year before she started attending it full-time, went to her church in the morning and his in the afternoon.  They have been together 38 years now.  They are happily married, active members of their church, and spend lots of time with their large extended family.  During the holidays they all get together and make as many as one thousand tamales in an evening.

She is a happy woman.  She says, “God puts you through things, you know, but yet, he shows you all the Glory.”

About all of you that live over in Claremont Hall, she says: “I love my kids, I love them here, I just tell them, take care of the place, it’s our home away from home.  I love it.  I can’t tell you how much I love Claremont.  It’s so much fun to work here, and the kids, you know, some of my kids are really, really good.  They keep their rooms immaculate.  I got some kids, I’m like, oh Chihuahuas, do I have a bunch of Chihuahuas here?”  She laughs.  Clean or messy, she loves them all.

We talked through her entire lunch break, and could have kept going, there was a lot to talk about.  Share your favorite story about Barbara below in the comments section.

Though she has three different machines to get stains out of the carpet, she still has to get on her hands and knees to remove wine stains.  Please try not to spill your drink, for everyone’s sake, and pick up after yourself.  You know she’ll notice.  Don’t forget to say hello!

Interested in getting involved in appreciating our support staff? The Worker’s Support Committee (WSC) meets on Thursdays at 7:30pm.in Marks Lounge. Each month WSC holds student sponsored appreciation events for our service staff. 

Want earlier editions of Better Know a Building Attendant? Get to know Ilma in Green and Sylvia in Fawcett.