duPont Manual High custodian the 'silent force that keeps the sc - WDRB 41 Louisville News

duPont Manual High custodian the 'silent force that keeps the school running'

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Bo James, custodian at duPont Manual High School (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News) Bo James, custodian at duPont Manual High School (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News)
Bo James has worked as a custodian at Manual for the past six years (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News) Bo James has worked as a custodian at Manual for the past six years (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News)
"Bo is always there -- he's really the silent force that keeps the school running, he's always there in the background doing his job," Chris Adams, senior at duPont Manual High "Bo is always there -- he's really the silent force that keeps the school running, he's always there in the background doing his job," Chris Adams, senior at duPont Manual High
"Beyond cleaning up our bathrooms, he cleans up our attitudes. Bo is one of the best people in this school," TJ Williams, a senior at duPont Manual High "Beyond cleaning up our bathrooms, he cleans up our attitudes. Bo is one of the best people in this school," TJ Williams, a senior at duPont Manual High
Bo James is interviewed by WDRB on Tuesday at Manual High (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News) Bo James is interviewed by WDRB on Tuesday at Manual High (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- duPont Manual High School students say Bo James is often the first one they see each morning, and often times, after a school activity or sporting event, he's the last person they see at night.

They admire James, their school custodian, so much that they nominated him for a national award. On Tuesday, he was named a Top 10 finalist in the competition and he needs your votes to help him win $10,000.

"Bo is always there -- he's really the silent force that keeps the school running, he's always there in the background doing his job," said Chris Adams, a senior. "He doesn't get as much appreciation as principal, assistant principals or a teacher, but he should. He's different than a lot of people here -- he's a figure that students feel they can talk to."

James is a finalist in the Janitor of the Year contest -- hosted by Cintas Corporation -- shines a spotlight on those who work behind the scenes year round to make schools a clean, safe and positive place. He has a chance to win a $5,000 cash prize and $5,000 in Cintas and Rubbermaid Commercial products and services for the school.

Students and staff members say James works hard, often behind the scenes, to make sure their school is clean, safe and positive place.

"Whenever we have dress up days during our Spirit Weeks, he would always dress up and walk down the hallways and make everyone laugh, get everyone involved in the school activities," says TJ Williams, a senior. "But he also makes sure that everyone is OK."

"I've seen him see people crying and stuff and instead of walking past them, he would come and help them up, cheer them up," Williams said. "Beyond cleaning up our bathrooms, he cleans up our attitudes. Bo is one of the best people in this school."

Senior Nicole Hickerson says the first time she met James her freshman year, he played a joke on her.

"The first thing he ever said to me --  he asked me if I had been to the swimming pool on the fourth floor," Hickerson said. "It's really funny, he does that to someone every year."

Her sophomore year, Hickerson said she joined art club. James would often stop by to help students who needed help and made pieces for charity.

"He's one of our family members here and he makes every student -- freshman to senior -- feel welcome every single day."

Sophomore Jordan Grantz says James is "always optimistic, always smiling."

"That's nice to see every day," she said.

James, a 2004 graduate of DeSales High School, has been a custodian at Manual for six years. 

"The kids, they told me they nominated me, but I never thought I would be a finalist," James told WDRB on Tuesday. "I was surprised, taken aback because I do love the kids. They are the reason why I do this job.

"It's a not a glamorous job, not the greatest job," he said. "But I see kids in the hallways, chit chat, see how their day is going...(sometimes) kids can be in a bad mood. Maybe I can help them have a better day, or change their day. If i can take that extra step and make them feel better, it's worth it."

Jillian Bauer, a marketing manager with Cintas, said they received 630 nominations for the contest this year.

“It was hard narrowing down the hundreds of heart-warming nominations to just 10 finalists,” said Jillian Bauer, a marketing manager for Cintas. “These 10 janitors do much more than clean their schools. They work weekends, set up for dances, encourage students to learn, provide school supplies and much more. Their selfless acts have a profound impact on children, teachers, faculty and the community.”

The top 10 finalists include:

  • Saeed Amin – Robinson Elementary School (Beloit, Wis.)
  • Charles “Chuck” Arvin – Monocacy Middle School (Frederick, Md.)
  • Elisa V. Bridges – Model Elementary School (Rome, Ga.)
  • Keith Ciesielczyk – Midview Middle School (Grafton, Ohio)
  • Andre Hearn – Detroit Cristo Rey High School (Detroit)
  • Louis “Bo” James IV – duPont Manual High School (Louisville, Ky.)
  • Jerome Lewis – Crestline Elementary School (Mountain Brook, Ala.)
  • Enrique Mendez – J.L. Long Middle School (Dallas)
  • Jerry Ottosen – Liberty High School (Spangle, Wash.)
  • Bill Sanders – Wright Brothers Elementary School (Huber Heights, Ohio)

Public voting begins March 15 (one vote per person per day) and ends April 15. The janitor with the most votes will receive the $10,000 grand prize.

You can vote for Bo James here.

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Reporter Antoinette Konz covers K-12 education for WDRB News. She can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

Copyright 2016 WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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