“A smile goes a long way.” This old saying embodies two Portage High School custodians’ day-to-day interactions with students passing by.
Barbie Evans and her partner in crime Ron Gish have been part of the PHS family for about 22 years, and have seen many students come and go in that time.
“It feels really good to watch them grow up and mature from freshmen to seniors. There are a few kids that will come sit and talk with us and these kinds of relationships are very special to us,” Evans said.
What also makes them feel special, Evans noted, is when students and staff recognize the work that they do for Portage High School.
“We see kids sometimes help with garbage in the hallway, and they will stop us from time to time to say thank you for cleaning the school. It just makes you feel good and appreciated. The same goes for the staff,” Evans said.
Gish and Evans also have built strong relationships with the PHS staff and administration.
“We try our best to make things happen for this school. If they need anything, we will go out of our way to make it happen because our staff, administration, and secretaries are truly top-notch here,” Evans said.
Because of these bonds, Evans and Gish work hard to keep the school safe.
“I’m always making sure everyone is safe, whether it’s checking doors or locking them,” Gish said.
During the day, the two are never far from one another. Some even describe them as PHS’s own Batman and Robin.
“Barbie and I are close co-workers and a great team. When I can’t be somewhere right away, she is there to cover me and I’d do the same for her; we always have each other’s backs,” Gish said.
Above all, Evans and Gish believe that their purpose is to lift spirits and make students know that they are seen.
“We’re thankful for this job because we get to meet a lot of great people. At the end of the day, we do what we do for the kids. We try to be the ones that say good morning to these kids who sometimes don’t get a ‘good morning’ or ‘how are you’ otherwise, and we feel like that is truly why we are here,” Evans said. “It’s the little things that can make a big difference.”
Outside of PHS, Evans loves to spend time with her two teenagers and Gish keeps busy watching and rooting for local sports teams such as the Cubs, Colts, and Blackhawks.