Schools’ Custodian Has Connection to Kids

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Hard-working Costello says he feels more like a teacher at his Upper West Side schools

By Alan Krawitz

To Jahwara Costello, his work as a porter at two schools on Manhattan’s Upper West Side means much more than performing routine maintenance and upkeep.

“I have a real connection to the kids at both schools,” said Costello, who has worked at the Amber Charter School at 220 E. 106th St. for eight years, and at P.S. 7 on 120th Street for the past year and a half.

While his responsibilities at both schools include general repairs, painting and upkeep, he said that most of the kids treat him more like a teacher than a custodian.

Jahwara Costello is more than just a porter at two Upper West Side schools. He also provides a compassionate ear to the students. Photo by Daniel S. Burnstein

“The kids come to me with their problems and I help them out,” said Costello, 33, who grew up an avid sports fan in the shadow of Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

Costello, the oldest of seven siblings now scattered throughout the city, said that he has always loved working with kids. “The community where I work is very family-oriented, and having the kids acknowledge me is really very special.”

And the kids aren’t the only ones who think Costello’s work is special. “He’s one of the most hard-working people I have ever known,” said parent Teresa Ingram, who has a 4th-grade daughter at Amber Charter School.

Ingram, who lives in the Bronx and works as a legal secretary, says that on most days Costello can be found at the school as early as 5 a.m. “He is a true source of inspiration for the many kids who don’t have father figures,” she added.

And, in addition to his work at the school, Costello volunteers his time to coach basketball for 12 to 15 kids at the school starting in October straight through to May. “All the kids know me and I know them by first-name,” he said, recalling his own love of basketball and his past days growing up playing in school. “I loved all sports growing up, including baseball and football and now I even like golf.”

Costello, who lives in the Parkchester section of the Bronx and commutes 35 minutes by train each way to work, admitted that lately, his job has been part inspiration but even more perspiration. He has been logging 15-plus hour days between Amber Charter School and P.S. 7 for more than a year.

“I’ve been working from 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Amber and 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. at P.S. 7. It’s a rough schedule but I’m used to working hard,” he said, underscoring his work ethic of always giving 100 percent.

In the next two years, Costello says he plans to marry his longtime girlfriend and his current grueling schedule is helping him to earn extra money. In addition, he recently celebrated the birth of his first child, a girl, barely two weeks ago.

“That has added to my crazy schedule, but I want to spend as much quality time with my daughter as I can,” he related.

Asked about his strong work ethic, Costello credits his mother, Marilyn, for setting him on the right path early on. “I take the values I learned at home, from my mom, and I bring them to the workplace,” he said. “My mom raised all my brothers and sisters just about by herself,” he added, proudly. “She was definitely my hero.”

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