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Haller Middle School students throw janitorial staff surprise appreciation party

ARLINGTON — A group of Haller Middle School students decided that the school’s janitorial staff doesn’t get enough credit.

So instead of telling the school’s two custodians that they appreciated them, they showed them by throwing a surprise party.

“I’ve been here since sixth grade and I’ve seen some really bad messes,” said eighth-grader Ameresia Wilburn. “Nobody ever says thank you, so we decided to do something nice.”

Wilburn was about 20 students who recently recognized janitorial staff members Donna Lewis and Kenny Tanis during their Feb. 26 “Pay it Forward” HAWK — or Haller Awesome Weekly Klubs — Friday meeting.

To show their appreciation, students gave Lewis and Tanis cookies, ice cream, juice and even balloons as the two staff members sat at the front of Fran Schmitz’s seventh-grade classroom during a 45-minute party.

One parent volunteer — Kevin Carr — helped cover the custodians’ duties during that time period. Those responsibilities included emptying garbage, Tanis said.

“It’s really cool — it makes you feel appreciated,” Tanis said. “It makes you want to invest even more effort in the school and these kids.”

Schmitz, the club’s adviser, said that this party was the group’s first act of kindness. The Pay it Forward club is only in its first semester at Haller.

In addition to feeding and celebrating the custodial duo, the students also presented the staff members with coupons that can be redeemed during each Friday meeting.

The coupons will allow either custodian access to one or more students to help them with specific tasks, such as sweeping the floor or cleaning the kitchen.

A morning announcement encouraged other Haller students not in the club to thank both staff members throughout the day, said eighth-grader Sierra Mauchamer.

“Not many people do that,” Mauchamer said about giving thanks to the custodians. “I’ve heard a lot of people saying thank you today, though.”

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