Your mess is not her job

Custodian shares about duties on staff and passion for others


Photo by Alyssa Kift

Custodian Katrina Flatt stands in front of the cafeteria courtyard between lunches.

Story by Craig Crawford, staff writer

Dirty trays piled high with the remains of food litter the tables in appalling numbers as students take their bags and make for the door. Custodians make their way to each table, clamoring through trays and stacking them on carts so that they may be washed, rinsed and dried.

Those not involved in the collecting of trays, wipe down tables and prepare them for the next onslaught of students.

Among them, Katrina Flatt.

Flatt has been involved in this field of work for the past 11 years, her most recent installment at Texas A&M. However, Flatt is more than meets the eyes.

Behind her tired gaze and quiet demeanor is a custodian, a mother, a second-degree black belt martial artist in taekwondo, a student and a woman with an undying adoration of kids.

“I love kids. I have a child, so I feel very close to children. I love making the students’ lives better,” Flatt said. “I always try to greet students and ask them how their day is. I read in the paper all the time that kids are committing suicide, and a simple ‘Hi’ or ‘How is your day going?’ can make a difference.”

As an adolescent, Flatt dreamed of becoming a nurse, working side-by-side with people she loves and admires, helping people, changing lives– much like she aims to do as a custodian. Though on her way to becoming a nurse, she felt pressured by the daunting weight of college. Amidst this time period of uncertainty, she took a turn into the field of computer technology.

“I’ve always loved computers, and I’ve been around them my entire life,” Flatt said. “It seemed the best option for me to pursue a degree.”

After receiving a degree in the field, she was then challenged by the marketability of her degree, one she soon found out was not in high demand around Texarkana.

After realizing how competitive the field of computer technology was, she found work instead as a custodian here. Although she is a diligent and compassionate worker, she plans to someday work in an area of business.

“I definitely need a change,” Flatt said. “I don’t want to be working a dead-end job for the rest of my life.”

She works hard to balance a life of work and study not only for herself, but to serve as a role model for her daughter Brianna.

“I’m always on top of my homework, so my daughter knows to always be on top of hers,” Flatt said. “She does her thing. I do my thing, but she always knows to be on top of her game.”

Constantly having to divvy her time between work, college and her family, Flatt has had to abandon some of her favorite hobbies.

“I had to quit Taekwondo because it’s a very expensive sport,” Flatt said. “Getting back into school and working makes it hard to keep doing the things I like. No time. No money. It gets hard.”

Since she dedicates a great deal of time and effort to try to do a sufficient job as custodian, she is often upset by the treatment she receives from kids she works so hard to please. The smirks and laughs of students as they throw food around and leave their mess for others to clean up disheartens her.

“They ignore us when we ask them to put away their trays,” Flatt said. “The students think it’s our job to dump their trays and take it to the window. We feel ignored and underappreciated.”

Despite the difficulties of working, raising a child and giving up her favorite hobbies, Flatt is determined to be positive and impactful as much as she can.

“I love helping people,” Flatt said. “It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”