Nelly Jordan de Flores is a Custodian in Kalsbeek Huizenga Van Reken, where she ensures that the dorm is clean and managed. Chimes sat down with Nelly to learn more about the work that goes on behind the scenes of our on-campus experience.
Chimes: I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about yourself, where you’re from and how you came to Calvin.
Nelly: I came from Guatemala almost eight years ago with my husband and my three grown children. I got this job in 2007, so I’ve been working here for almost eight years. I started work in NVW and Bennink for four years, and I was moved to this building [KHvR], and I’ve been here for almost four years.
Chimes: So what does a typical day look like for you?
Nelly: We have to cover cleaning the building, and specifically, every day I have to clean coffee kitchens and bathrooms. So I have 10 CJs and nine kitchens to clean up, to try to keep the dorm looking clean and pretty. I take care of the students that work with me; I have to organize what they’re going to do and how they’re going to help me.
Chimes: Do you have a favorite part of your job?
Nelly: Well, since I was a child I loved to clean. Everyone said to my mom, “Wow, this girl is so awesome,” because I did it all the time—cleaning, cleaning, cleaning—and she taught me to do it well and I enjoyed it. It was part of my life. [I have] four sisters and they didn’t want to clean the house like I did, so when I started cleaning during vacation time they said, “Don’t do it, or Mom’s going to tell us to do it too!”
Chimes: Are there any challenging parts of your job, or things that change day to day?
Nelly: We have some changes in the summertime. Calvin’s open, like a hotel, for people who come for conferences. It’s constant and hard, we’re moving between buildings instead of staying in one building. So we have more intense work, and we have new student workers, and we have to start almost from the beginning with these workers, teaching them how to do everything.
Chimes: So is it a lot of work training new students?
Nelly: It’s a lot of work, but the time we spend with them is fun. We try to spend time together as a group, so we have break time together and lunch. We like to share food. Sometimes I bring food from my country when they say they’d like to try this or that. One Friday, I made fresh pancakes for them when we had a bit of extra time.
I’ve been doing cleaning in the summer for six of my eight years here, so I have a pretty good relationship with my students and they’re still my friends. I have students who come to visit Grand Rapids and they call or send me messages and come to visit, and I love it.
Chimes: If you could give a piece of advice to students at Calvin, what would you tell them?
Nelly: I was someone who really wanted to go to college, but I didn’t have the opportunity. I know there are a lot of students who come [here] to study, but they don’t take advantage of the opportunities they have. So they waste time, some of them don’t appreciate what their parents do for them, so my advice is to get everything you can out of your experience. Do the most that you can do for yourself and be a gentle person.