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Seabeck custodian instills school pride

“Let’s roll,” says custodian Cliff Blough as he makes his afternoon rounds at Seabeck Elementary.

He pushes in front of him a large trash can, its wheels rumble on the linoleum. A jumble of keys jangle from his right hip pocket Two helpers — Easton West, 9, and Taylor Hokama, 11, follow at his heels.

The two students, members of what has been dubbed the “Cliff-hangers,” dart around the classrooms grabbing full waste cans and pencil sharpeners to dump into the large can.

The trio talk, joke and get plenty of exercise along the way. Easton is on a constant lookout for empty soap dispensers. They snatch up pencils and other debris too large for the vacuum’s suction.

The children are members of the YMCA’s after-school program. Each day Blough has two of the students go with him as he tidies up the classrooms.

“I have the kids do little projects,” he said. “I want to teach them the custodian’s not just your cleaning man.”

Blough started the program while head custodian at Brownsville Elementary and brought it with him two years ago when he transferred to Seabeck.

“It’s fun,” Taylor said, “We don’t have to be in Y-kids during quiet time,” she said.

Each day two Y-Kids help Blough from about 3-4:30 p.m., their names are on a rotation. After they finish Blough buys them a soda or a snack to reward them for a job well-done.

“It’s fun,” he said. “The kids have a blast.”

The trick to keeping the kids focused on the task at hand is to keep them moving, he said.

“It’s gotten so popular there’s a waiting list,” said Lisa West, Easton’s mom and YMCA child care provider.

“This is a good way for the kids to do community service,” she said.

But according to the children, they aren’t the only ones having fun.

“He doesn’t just do the job — he talks to you,” Jordan Myhre, a Seabeck fifth-grader.

“He plays the games with us and he has a good sense of humor,”said Phar West, a sixth-grader and part of the West clan.

“He’s nice, he’s fun and gives us soda and candy,” said Paige Colson, a fourth-grader.

In a letter from the Seabeck PTSA, Blough’s dedication to students is lauded. Sue Watson, president for the CKESP, read excerpts from the letter to the CKSD school board at its Jan. 14 meeting.

“This is such a seemingly simple thing with wonderfully insidious repercussions. Cliff’s motivation is to help build school pride by involving the kids in keeping the school spic and span.” Watson read.

“But most importantly Seabeck Elementary School is very lucky to have someone about who any kid ... would say ‘I like helping Cliff because if you don’t have a friend right then, he’ll be your friend.’”

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