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Custodial Staff Supports Student Residents With Tacos

January 13, 2016

UC Merced’s Housing and Residential Life custodial staff is building a positive — and delicious — rapport with student residents.

On Dec. 16, the custodial team served up about 500 grilled-beef tacos to student residents who were in the midst of taking finals.

The inspiration for the event came last spring, when Custodial Manager for Housing and Residential Life Peter Arroyo heard interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Charles Nies speak about the importance of student success and retention.

“We have to do more for our students,” Arroyo recalled thinking.

So he and his staff of 20 started brainstorming.

One staff member enjoys cooking tacos, so the group decided to host a taco break for students during finals week.

The theme was “FinalTacoMente,” playing on the word “finalmente,” which means “finally” in Spanish. They printed up fliers to let the residents know about the event.

Arroyo said the event helped his staff connect with the student residents they serve.

“Food is the one equalizer; it’s something everyone can relate to,” he said. “It’s a way of showing our residents that we care and we want them to do well on their finals.”

“We had a blast and the students were happy,” Arroyo said. One student even teared up at the gesture.

Another way Housing and Residential Life custodial staff members are reaching out to students is by wearing printed buttons that say “Celebrating Academic Excellence.” Wearing the buttons at work helps them break the ice with students and start the conversation about the importance of their academic success.

“When students ask us about the buttons, our message is ‘You came here and we expect you to leave with a degree,’” said Arroyo, who came from University of Southern California where he worked for 14 years before joining UC Merced a year ago.

The group plans to host the taco event again in the fall, but is coming up with something different for this semester.