Every campus has its heroes, some less recognized than others. University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point is no exception. Hidden heroes working behind the scenes doing more than you know.
The custodial staff at UWSP is responsible for cleaning more than 1.6 million square feet in more than 18 buildings on campus every day. On top of that, custodial staff is also noted for saving 2 to 3 lives a year on average.
“We do a lot more than just clean buildings. We see a lot going on,” said Denis Zylkowski, a custodian at UWSP since 1993.
Zylkowski has witnessed many acts of vandalism as well as medical emergencies.
Recently Custodial Supervisor Jason Zinda found a student in diabetic shock. The student had already been lying there for two hours when Zinda found him. Zinda gave the student CPR until the paramedics arrived and saved his life.
“It’s not uncommon for us to come across stuff like that,” Zylkowski said.
One night, Zylkowski saw a suspicious person in a parking lot trying to light a car on fire. He ended up scaring the vandal off, who ran away after the police were called.
“We know who belongs here and who doesn’t. We can be the eyes and ears of campus,” Zylkowski said.
Zylkowski also came across an underage student who was so drunk he was in a comatose state.
“His friends were carrying him and dropped him over by the CCC. I called the ambulance, and they had no idea who the kid was because his friends took his ID. Luckily, I had heard the kids calling his name earlier,” Zylkowski said.
Those aren’t the only encounters Zylkowski has come across.
“In the past we had someone on a ledge. Someone called us and said, ‘We need wrestling mats.’ At that point we knew exactly what they meant,” Zylkowski said.
The girl was about 20 feet up in the air and eventually fell and broke her ankle.
“It would have been a lot worse if we hadn’t gotten there in time,” Zylkowski said.
Tammy Larson, the head of the Academic Custodial Department, likes being able to help and protect students in need.
“During the first week of school, there are lots of lost students who are crying and confused. We try to talk to them and cheer them up, even walk them to class. We’re always here to help,” Larson said.
Last year, with all the heavy rains and floods, the custodial staff fixed all of the leaks and got rid of all the fallen trees.
“We save hundreds of thousands of dollars because we catch these things early,” Zylkowski said.
The academic custodial staff is often taken for granted for what they do, from keeping the campus looking its best to protecting students and saving merchandise.
“We get short-changed for what we do around here. I think it’d be a good idea to use us more effectively,” Zylkowski said.
“I always tell my staff the students are like our own. They’re away from their families, so we have to look out for them,” Larson said.