School Recognizes Custodian with a ‘Big Heart’

Photos by Ani GASPARYAN
Lalo Barcena, a custodian at Fremont Elementary school, was honored on Friday for 40 years of service.


Lalo Barcena, a custodian at Fremont Elementary school, was honored on Friday for 40 years of service with Glendale Unified School District.

At the school’s morning assembly, students and staff surprised Barcena by expressing their gratitude for his work and gifting him with a watch. Barcena will be retiring at the end of the school year after working 40 years within GUSD, 38 of those at Fremont.

“I knew this was a special place from day one, that’s why I never left. I had a lot of opportunities to go (into) different capacities within the district,” Barcena said. “I just didn’t want to leave here. All these people treat me very nice, I’m happy to be here.”

Students played a game of “Guess Who It is” in which several students came up to share a personal fact about an unknown person. Afterwards, they collectively guessed the facts described Barcena. The children at the assembly were each holding a paper heart with a message for the retiring custodian.

During the assembly Fremont students held up paper hearts in salute to Barcena.

Vickie Atikian Aviles, principal of Fremont, spoke about Barcena’s dedication to the school and gave him the watch to thank him for the time he’s given to the district. Students chanted “open it” and cheered as Barcena accepted the gift.

“He takes pride in everything that he does, he wants to make sure that we have a school that kids can be proud of,” Aviles said.

Theresa Osment, a sixth grade teacher, said that students feel like they’re safe and belong at their school because of Barcena. She said that he is the heart and soul of Fremont Elementary.

“He skips his lunch and goes down to the lunch benches and stands around, talks to the kids, makes sure everybody has somebody to talk to, and he just recognizes the kids every day,” she said. “He’s just so special, we are so fortunate.”

Students and staff had worked together to surprise Barcena, who was not aware that Friday’s assembly would be dedicated to him. Aviles said that they wanted the event to be a surprise because of how humble Barcena is about his work.

“He didn’t want any recognition but we couldn’t let [him] go without recognizing all the amazing things that he’s done for this school,” she said.

Barcena said that he’s sad to be leaving Fremont, but that it’s time to close this chapter. He’s planning on spending more time in retirement with his grandkids.

“[The staff and students] mean a lot to me. They’re like my family here,” he said. “I think I spend more time here than I do at my house.”

As the assembly ended, several staff members and students came up to Barcena to thank him for his work. Many of them expressed how important he has been to the school and how happy they were to see him.

Aviles added that Barcena is kind and caring toward all students because of his big heart.

“He’s a part of this school that’s goes beyond just his regular job,” Aviles said.