People with mental disabilities have a chance to gain independence and income through Opportunity Village’s Custodial University.
The univserity teaches individuals how to use proper chemicals, machinery and etiquette for cleaning office buildings and parking lots.
“We’ve created a mock-up environment where individuals can learn to do different functions and tasks,” said Mauro Lara, associate executive director and chief operations officer. “Our goal is to help these folks become successful.”
Through the nonprofit organization, individuals have found employment at places such as the North Las Vegas Fire Department, Nellis Air Force Base, McCarran International Airport and the Foley Federal Building.
Marsella Keys, 23, has been working at North Las Vegas City Hall for more than a year.
“I like my work because I can keep to myself,” Keys said. “I also enjoy keeping everything clean and tidy.”
Keys trained in the university for three weeks and learned how to take out the trash and clean counters, toilets and urinals.
Keys works four days a week cleaning, maintaining and stocking restrooms.
Pointsetta Williams, site supervisor at North Las Vegas City Hall, is in charge of overseeing Keys and five other employees.
“I’ve seen them grow and advance with their work,” Williams said. “I’ve seen some individuals with limited detail skills grow into becoming the most detailed workers.”
Dawn Hull, assistant director of building services, was one of the first teachers whoopened Custodial University in April 2008.
She said individuals are taught through PowerPoint presentations, videos, quizzes and hands-on activities.
Before opening the university, individuals were trained on site.
“We created the university because we learned that it was easier for them to do the training on our campus rather than out on the job,” said Hull.
Lara said the program has a 100 percent success rate.
“Of course, we do face normal challenges and issues that most employers have,” Lara said. “But it’s important to remember that folks learn at different paces. Some take longer than others.”
There are 350 Opportunity Village members working throughout Las Vegas.
“We have employed people in a number of different places,” Lara said. “We have people working in federal, city, county and commercial buildings.”
The length of the training depends on individual experience and on the potential employer. Some employers do background checks that take longer, Lara said.
There are two types of training that take place inside the university. The first training covers ground maintenance, such as shopping cart cleaning, sidewalk pressure washing, trash removal, parking lot sweeping and landscape maintenance.
The second training focuses on custodial work, which consists of janitorial and day porter services, restroom attendants, window cleaning, pressure washing, hard floor and carpet care, concrete coatings and odor control.
In North Las Vegas, there are approximately 150 people enrolled in the program, according to Lara.
Last year, Opportunity Village opened its fourth campus at 4180 W. Craig Road.
“We opened the new location to ensure that no (individual) has to travel more than 45 minutes to get to Opportunity Village,” Lara said.
The university is in the Engelstad Campus, 6050 S. Buffalo Drive, and has a replica of restroom facilities and offices where individuals can practice cleaning and maintenance.
“The look they get when they get their first paycheck is pure excitement. It gives them dignity and independence,” Lara said. “We’ve created a good formula for success.”
For more information, call Rachel Allen at 702-262-1557 or visit opportunityvillage.org/custodial-groundskeeping.
Contact North Las Vegas and Centennial View reporter Sandy Lopez at email@example.com or 702-383-4686.