Toby Liu

Nicolas Saucedo dragged two massive fans into the hallway, placing them over the carpet to dry off the excess water. This was the second water leak in the past week, and after fixing the leak in the AC water unit, he needed to dry the carpets. As he waited for the fans to dry, he checked his iPod that Westminster gave him and glanced at his next work order from the AwareManager software system. He sighed. Something with the electricity in Pressly Hall. He normally didn’t deal with electricity, but the electricity man had shown him how to fix a similar problem earlier—he supposed he could deal with it without having to call him. He double-checked to make sure the carpet was dry, rolled the fan away, and began to walk to Pressly Hall.

Born in Mexico, Nicolas Saucedo came into the United States at the age of 18, gaining legal status under President Ronald Reagan’s Immigration Reform and Control Act. He picked corn in Texas, and after about a year, he moved to Georgia, where he did remodeling and construction.  Working as a construction worker was hard work. He worked as a carpenter in the Piedmont Hospital and at the airport, and as a construction worker, pay sometimes depended on the weather. If it rained or snowed, he would be sent home, and he wouldn’t receive the day’s pay.

“It was a tough job,” he said. “But it was work, and it’s good because I worked to make money and pay bills.” After the financial crisis of 2008, however, he was unemployed.

Saucedo is a friendly-looking man with a strong build. He wears a green baseball cap which is matched with khakis and a green polo shirt with a “Westminster” logo on it. His voice is gentle but confident. I first met him before a school orchestra concert, where he was drying a water leak. In 2012, he applied and received a job at the Westminster Schools in Atlanta. Originally hired as a painter, he does maintenance work for the school. At Westminster, he does not have to deal with the on-and-off pay of previous construction jobs.

“I couldn’t believe it. I had just started working, and they gave me a whole week off on paid vacation!” he told me in an excited voice.

Each day, Saucedo arrives on campus in the morning, gets his iPod, and looks at his work orders. The orders are ranked from Priority One, which are supposed to be done within a day, to Priority Five, which can be done in around a week, and if he finishes all the Priority Ones, he moves to Priority Two, and so on. His job is “not just one thing” but a wide variety of fixing and maintaining objects that students don’t even realize are there until they break—fixing light bulbs, putting in new carpets, plugging water leaks, painting walls and much more. Saucedo, for the most part, works alone, except for emergencies. He tells me about this past summer when he was assigned to fix up the summer cabins for summer camps. He had to pressure wash the cabins, nail the sidings, paint the cabins, fix cracks. His “other maintenance guys didn’t want to go outside in the heat,” and occasionally, one of them would help him for thirty minutes or so, but he did almost all the work by himself. Although the school requires all workers to have someone else holding a ladder whenever they use one, Saucedo said that everyone has their own work orders to get to, so many times, he finds himself going up the ladders by himself. 

“Real careful,” he adds. “I’m just a worker, I do my best to get the job done, to paint, whatever they tell me to do, and I try to do it the safest way I can.”

He lives with his wife, who is also from Mexico, and his son and his daughter, who were both born in the US. His wife works in the nursery at Westminster, his daughter graduated from Westminster two years ago, and his son is currently a junior at Westminster. He became an American citizen, and as a result, his immediate family became naturalized American citizens. He mentions issues that other immigrants who don’t have their “papers” encounter, how they “have to drive to work without a driver’s license” and how “they get stopped and get tickets from police. Now,” he says, “the president doesn’t give papers to anybody, and all these people are having problems with papers. I don’t know if it’s right or wrong, whatever President Reagan did, but I’m glad I got my papers.” 

He told me that “it’s something good to have a lot of work because you’re always busy, always working hard.” Every day, he rides with his family to and from work, they are together all day. He’s grateful for that. 

He said, “I take care of the school, but at the same time, they take care of me and my family.”