Juanita Villarreal (she/her)
Lived here for: 25 years
Originally from: Bakersfield, California
Notable: Custodian at Squalicum High School, wife, mother to four kids, Squalicum graduate.
Why did you move up to Bellingham?
I came with my family. I had an uncle and aunt who moved up here. They wanted a new start, and my mom wanted a new start, a fresh life. Bellingham seems like it’s been that fresh start for people, so it’s worked out pretty well.
How did you end up working for Bellingham Public Schools?
Why I came to the Bellingham school district was to make that change for the kids. I had a job where it was just so demanding. I was a dietary manager, and I had to be on call all hours of the day. My kids were still little, still growing up. I kind of realized that I had to make that change to be there for them. It’s been great. I love it.
I’ve worked in food service, security with the events here at Squalicum. I worked at an after-school dinner program. I know a lot of the kids here from Squalicum, and it's so sweet to see them grow up. I love the relationships that I build, the relationships with the kids. I love it. It just feeds my soul.
What does a typical day on the job look like?
A custodian does a lot of behind-the-scenes duties. The duties are some general cleaning, [like] cleaning bathrooms, sanitizing and wiping tables, vacuuming, sweeping, mopping and taking out recycling and garbage. We also make sure towels, toilet paper and soaps are stocked as needed. We are on call for any messes that may come up throughout the day. There is a team of six of us here at Squalicum to keep up with the daily cleaning after 1,200 students a day.
Do you have a favorite memory?
A memory ... I think, kind of, just the timeline of my daughter last year. I grew real close to the other girls who were in the GRADS program. On Mother’s Day, they invited me over to go spend it with them. It was so nice to be supportive to them. I was a teen mom, so it’s just kind of reconnecting with them and just kind of being a big sister to them.
What does an ideal day off look like for you?
Just spending time with my family. We like to take advantage of the little trails around here and go for walks. We just really lay low, [have] dinners and chill. I think [family time] is the most precious thing.
What are your hobbies?
I’m a big crafter. I make wreaths, bows for my granddaughter and little things like that. Another thing, I just love to write and get my thoughts and ideas out there.