When Charles Clark took a custodial job at a Euless, TX high school 26 years ago, he thought it would be temporary until he found a better job. Pushing a mop in the halls a few weeks later, he changed his mind. He had found a place where he could make a difference.
Ask the Trinity High School students the most influential person at the school and Clark’s name is sure to be at the top. Over the years, he has mentored hundreds of students at Trinity. Clark has done everything from taking students into his home, purchased shoes, food, and clothes when needed. School counselors and officials have asked Clark to speak to students who are having problems.
In an interview with People.com, principal Mike Harris said,
“The kids relate to him because he’s genuine. If somebody is hanging their head low, he’s the first to step in and see what he can do to lift their spirits.”
Clark just says he likes to help the kids.
“A lot of our students come from single-family homes and don’t know what it’s like to have a dad in their lives,…I’m not going to analyze their situations ? I’ll leave that to somebody else?But if a child is hungry or a child needs a kind word, I’m going to take care of that child right now. It’s just the right thing to do.”
Helping others and being there for them, Clark learned from his parents; his father Willie, a barber, and his mother Julia, a homemaker.?? They raised eight kids, five boys and three girls, during the civil rights struggle in Mississippi.?? Despite the struggles faced outside the house, the home was filled with love and care for one another.
Clark attended one year of college at Nationwide Business College in Dallas, Texas in 1966. Afterwards he took a job at a chemical plant. Later, Clark married and raising three children, He worked for over a decade as a long-haul trucker. The next job he took was for the school district and Trinity High in 1989.
After being on the job for a few weeks, Clark heard about a girl who had a tough home life. He decided he wanted to do something to help her. The girl was going to wake up Christmas Day without a single present to open. He called his wife and explained what was going on. They got the girl some earrings as a present.
Clark has a box of letters from students which he treasures. The letters are thank you notes for all that he has done over the years. Sometimes all he does is listen or offer advice to students who need it. But sometimes, the students need a lot more, and Clark has no problem helping when he can.
“One young man told me I was the first man in his life he ever trusted,” he says. “We built a relationship, and he would live with us for a time. Now, he’s graduated from college, and we’re still in touch. I cry a lot when I read those letters.”
Butch Anthony Sias, a former student, now 38, now works as a furniture salesman and recently moved back to Euless.?Sias had a troubled home life in his youth, with a father in prison, and was a student that Clark helped out.
“Mr. Clark took me to ball games, he took me to dinner, but mostly, he just listened. He taught me how to be there for others, how to care about others and to always have a smiling face. He changed my life.”
People might wonder why he stays a custodian in his life but to Clark, he is living his American dream. He is loved, has a home and family, and loves doing his job. He is, after all, cleaning more than just floors and classrooms. He is cleaning hearts and minds of students from the dust and grime that life has given them.