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The Puma Press

The Student News Site of University Prep

The Puma Press

The Student News Site of University Prep

The Puma Press

An Unsung Hero

Mirna Ruiz works hard to keep UPrep clean
Photo: Carter Headstrom
Mirna Ruiz wipes off a desk in a math classroom. “On a typical day…after class, I come, I prepare things, I start in the first classroom on the third floor, and it is generally unoccupied,” Ruiz said.

Every day, when the clock strikes 2:55 p.m., and students across the school close their computers, pack up their things and rush out the front door, Mirna Ruiz, supervisor of the overnight janitorial team, enters ready to start her shift.

Ruiz, along with three other custodians, is responsible for cleaning the school every night. She spoke with The Puma Press about her experience. Due to language barriers, the interview was conducted in Spanish and translated into English.

“We arrive and start in each classroom. We clean the tables, we arrange the chairs, we clean the whiteboard,” Ruiz said. “Then, we leave it ready to be vacuumed, and we go onto another floor.” Her crew later comes back to vacuum the rooms.

Before her workday begins, Ruiz likes spending time with her granddaughter.

On nice days, she enjoys taking her golden retriever on walks.

“I like to take her to the park,” Ruiz said. “She is very affectionate and she also likes to run.”

In addition to spending time with her granddaughter and dog, Ruiz loves to cook food from her home country of Ecuador, especially shrimp ceviche and a soup dish called “Bola de Verde.”

Born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Ruiz immigrated to the United States in her early 40s. However, getting a visa took many years to accomplish.

“I left my country for my daughter. When she was 15, she told me she wanted to come here. She could not see herself living in my country,” Ruiz said.

She finally made the journey in the early 2000s. Due to family connections, Ruiz was able to obtain the required paperwork to immigrate. 

“My dad was already living in Florida and I said to him ‘Oh pa you know I love my daughter. She wants to go to the United States. Please arrange the papers and make the request for me.’ And that took a long time,” Ruiz said. “After ten years, the papers came, and we made the decision to move.”

Ruiz has been working a 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift at University Prep for more than ten years. Before UPrep, her cleaning company, Mary Kay, assigned her somewhere else until she left the country due to a family emergency.

“My mom got very very sick in Ecuador, so I left for around four months in order to be with her. I stayed there until she died,” Ruiz said. “When I came back, there was obviously someone at my old company working for me. The company told me there was a part-time job at UPrep. After that, I started moving forward, and I am now the supervisor of the janitor department.”

The company told me there was a part-time job at UPrep. After that, I started moving forward and I am now the supervisor of the janitor department.

— Mirna Ruiz

Ruiz relies on efficiency and organization to clean the school effectively. She works with facilities assistant Micah Green to get information.

“Sometimes it is difficult when there is something going on in the theater, or a practice that runs late. But Micah gives me a schedule of when they end so I can tell the person who cleans there to wait until the end and then come back so we can leave school ready for the next day,” Ruiz said.

When the school is all clean, Ruiz heads home. However, despite it being late at night, her day is not over.

“I’ve been taught to work at that time, so I normally stay awake,” Ruiz said. “I make tea, read emails and watch TV.”

About the Contributor
Carter Headstrom
Carter Headstrom, Editor-in-Chief
Carter Headstrom is an editor-in-chief on the staff of the Puma Press. He is a junior and this is his third year on staff. He loves to write sports stories and student spotlights. His favorite part of journalism is giving members of the community a platform to use their voice. Outside of journalism, he enjoys playing soccer and tennis.