Hawks Uncovered: Janitor Maria Arriaga


Janitor Maria Arriaga cleans the cafeteria at the beginning of D lunch. She cleans for around ten minutes between every lunch and does a final sweep after all students have left.

Editor’s Note: “Hawks Uncovered” is a series that tells the often unknown stories of Hebron students and staff.

The bell rang hours ago, but there are still sections of the school that need to be cleaned. Even then, janitor Maria Arriaga doesn’t complain, because it’s what she loves to do. She’s helping in the one way she knows how: taking the broken pieces littered around and shuffling them away so that when students arrive tomorrow, they will see no mess. 

She cares for the school the way she cared for five kids, the youngest now 25 and putting himself through college. She cares for this school the way she cared for her first daughter, born when Arriaga was barely 19 and learning to adapt to a new world. 

Just 17 when she moved to the United States, fresh faced and excited to begin anew, Arriaga faced battle after battle. A fight against a world that spoke a different language. A fight against a lack of education. A fight against an ex-husband who never spared a penny for her daughter. 

And yet, she won. 

The halls may seem infinite, but amongst the years of hardships she has faced, they’re another page in the best chapter of her life. 

Now, she cooks big meals as a way to show her gratitude when her family gathers around the kitchen table, listening to her kids tell her she should retire and relax. She shakes her head and smiles, repeating the same thing: “I love my work. I love helping people.” 

It was no Cinderella story, no glass slippers or fairy godmothers. No magic wand to fix her life in an instant, and yet, her happily ever after was still there, war-hardened and true. Her castle is not built of granite or marble, filled instead with students who bustle through crowded halls, yet she is happy all the same. 

So she continues to clean the school, picking up every piece of trash that litters the floor and mopping until the tile shines. Her life has not been easy, but she’s made it count.