Zuhdija Saric, Janitor at Washington University in St. Louis Village East

“After a month and fifteen days of living in St Louis, he got his first job in a factory. He was eventually laid off from that job, but was fortunate enough to get the job at WashU and he’s been here for the past 15-16 years now. He’s worked in many places on campus, including Park-Mudd and now in Village East. He said as much as it’s common or expected that rooms would get messy and dorms would get messy, some workers still say “it’s so dirty,” but he likes and knows what his job is and likes that he’s cleaning after students that are hard working and that are using it for rightful reasons.”

“My father first started in boot camp with the Yugoslav national army when he was nineteen. Things got really complicated because there was a civil war between Bosnian Muslims, Serbian orthodox, and Croatian Catholics. In the midst of that there was a regional conflict as well within the religious sects. It was essentially a war inside a war with brother fighting brother. Every time he saw a neighbor, he questioned whether he could be trusted and whether it was safe to go home. He learned a lot, even in times of despair, just about the value of people. At times, even though he was confused about what the war was really about, he developed a strong sense of brotherhood with those he fought with.”

“When we were living at the refugee center, my father was fortunate enough to get a call for an interview. We were finally approved to get in [to America] and it had taken so long even though we had family here. It was a moment when our fate and destiny rested on a decision that we had no control over. It’s hard when you’re living in a refugee center because there’s no way to get a phone call and no way to get a letter. I’m surprised, not only that people were able to remember the interviews, but also that they were motivated to start working right away when they got to America. Four years later, we finally got our green cards.”

“He values family more than anything and I see it everyday. Just this morning he woke up at 9 am to call family back home. Even though our uncle lives here, every day they’re calling each other. Those family values are part of why he’s so happy that I’m a student here. He always tells me that not everyone is fortunate enough to be living in this country, to be alive after war, and to not be stuck in refugee centers like many kids are. I don’t think he was thinking about college as he was growing up in a refugee camp. He never envisioned he would be living in St. Louis.”

This Unsung Hero story is a bit special. Our Unsung Hero, Zuhdija Saric, does not speak English. Because of this, we used an interpreter for this interview. It turns out his son, Meris Saric, is a Freshman here at WashU, so with Meris acting as the interpreter, we decided to get both of their stories about immigrating to the United States as well as their experiences at WashU.

Thank you Meris for helping share your story! Zuhdija is slowly learning English, and loves to say hello and good morning to the students he sees, so if you see him be sure to say hi and thank him for being our Unsung Hero. Follow Unsung Heroes of WashU to learn more about the heroes who keep the Washington University in St. Louis campus running behind-the-scenes!!

Denise Keeton, Housekeeper in Washington University in St. Louis Village House

“I’ve worked for WashU for twenty years… For me to be here for twenty years it has to be a great job. I like my job and I enjoy the friendships that I make with the students. Some of them stay here one year and end up coming back, staying here two or three years, so I’m comfortable with them and they’re comfortable with me because they know me.”

“I’m from St. Louis Missouri, born and been here all my life. I got married and had two children, I have three grandchildren…a granddaughter, she’s six, and two grandsons, they’re eight and nine. I spend my weekends with my granddaughter. I help my daughter plan her wedding, she’s getting married October 7th.”

“My mother was with me [in my childhood] the whole time, my father was there for part of my life. She took great care of us being a single mom, she had five children so that was hard. She always taught us to do our best… [She] kind of struggled trying to take care of five children alone, so my oldest brother actually left when he was a teenager and went to the military. He was around seventeen or eighteen.”

Thank you Denise for being such a hardworking and caring Unsung Hero! If you see her, she loves making connections with students! She also wants students to remember to “Just be humble, stay respectful, smile and say hi!”

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Marjorie Macklin, Cashier at Washington University in St. Louis the Village 

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“Me personally, I’m just an outdoorsy girl…I love to fish, I love fishing, Blue Gills and Crappies are my favorite. I love football. I love camping. But I still love to dress up and put on make-up and all the other little things like that. I’m a family person.” 

“Right now, I’m comfortable where I am at. I like communicating with people, and I like interacting with people. Like, food is the soul. It just makes people smile. I don’t care what kind of food it is, all the time the kids come in [the Village], its happiness with the food. I like that. It’s never a sad thing with food…I’ve tried sitting behind the desk, and I didn’t like it. It was too secluded, and kept me from interacting with people.”

“It’s just me and my mom, my dad passed a few years ago, and I got my son, Demarcus, and my two grand-babies, and I call one of them ladybug. I’ve been married to my lovely husband Fredrick Macklin for 13 great years. I’m the only one that’s allowed to call her ladybug. Their names are Demyra* and Demarcus III.”

Our interview with Marjorie has been one of the best yet! She is so personable, and she is truly excited to talk about anything with students. Next time you see Marjorie in the Village be sure to say hi and chat about her interests or her family. Thank you Marjorie for being our Unsung Hero!


Photo by Lindsay Athena Photography

 

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Gil, Cashier at Washington University in St. Louis Paws & Go

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“..It has been a fight guys, and I could not be sitting here in front of you guys if I had given up. Because I was homeless at one time, I didn’t have a job, I didn’t know where I was going, I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I knew as long as I was applying myself, I could get myself out of the rut. I’m out the rut, but it takes a whole lot. There are going to be some days you gotta pull so deep down inside of you to keep going because you’re not even gonna think you can do it, but you’ll do it, because you know you got to.”

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“I just try to be the man that I know I am, and I’m not ashamed of the man I know I am. I have a lot of people ask me why are you so close to [the students], and I’m like ‘they see me every day, I see them every day, so why wouldn’t I become closer to these guys because that’s what were supposed to do for one another.'”

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“It has been a fight guys, and I could not be sitting here in front of you guys if I had given up. Because I was homeless at one time, I didn’t have a job, I didn’t know where I was going, I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I knew as long as I was applying myself, I could get myself out of the rut. I’m out the rut, but it takes a whole lot. There are going to be some days you gotta pull so deep down inside of you to keep going because you’re not even gonna think you can do it, but you’ll do it, because you know you got to.”

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Follow Unsung Heroes of WashU to learn more about the heroes who keep Washington University in St. Louis’ campus running behind-the-scenes!! 

Joseph Jones, Line cook in Washington University in St. Louis Holmes Lounge

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“My childhood was very regimented, very strict because my father was a military man, and he came from a long line of military men. He is such a hard-working man. His first job after the military was at the post office, and he said it was too easy. I developed my strong work ethic from him, but my mom also made sure we were always working, doing something. She wasn’t the stay at home type she was ambitious.”

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“Getting this job here at WashU was the job I had to persevere for the most. I had to stay in touch with the woman who I interviewed. I called her every day and she said to me one day, ‘I’m going to have to give you a part here, so you won’t call me every day.’ I knew this was annoying but I also knew that constantly reminding her of my presence would help.”

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“My mom and dad taught me a lot, but the biggest thing I got from them was perseverance. No matter what the ideas are, no matter what the road ahead looks like, keep going. Don’t stop. Doors won’t open for you; you have to open them.”

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Joe, thank you for lifting our spirits with your warm smile and infectious laugh! Follow Unsung Heroes of WashU to learn more about the heroes who keep Washington University in St. Louis’ campus running behind-the-scenes!!