The janitor worked around the students — many of them in their 20s like him, many with entrepreneurial ambitions like him — for nearly a decade before one of them finally broke that ice last year.
A nod one night. A hello the next.
And within weeks, Batchelor and the student, Febin Bellamy, were having long talks about being immigrants, about wanting to be entrepreneurs, about politics and history and music. Bellamy even went to Batchelor’s church and met his 6-year-old daughter.
After he formed that bond with the once-invisible worker, Bellamy couldn’t stop noticing the others.
It’s not just affluence, age and pedigree that create this yawning gap.
“Everybody’s in their own world,” Bellamy said. “A lot of students have good hearts and were raised right. It’s just not always easy for them to get to know people around them.
Each of those workers has a story. Many of them are immigrants, and their collective histories of war and flight and families left behind offer a master class in geopolitics. No tuition needed.
Bellamy understands because these are his people. His family immigrated to the United States from India when he was 5.
So he had a brainstorm. What if he found a way to introduce the workers to the students? And that idea went from a class project in April to a fundraiser making real change today.
He did it in the language his peers understand: a Facebook page. He calls it Unsung Heroes, and he began posting little profiles of workers around campus.
The stories got shared. And liked. And loved.
“I walk through campus now, and people are waving at me, saying hi all the time,” Batchelor said.
It gets even better.
The students also learned about some of the hopes percolating, as windows are washed and floors are scrubbed. And they’re helping.
Turns out that Batchelor really is a gifted cook. Students who read about him encouraged him to hold fundraisers serving his now-famous-on-campus chicken. They raised $2,500, got him catering gigs and helped him put up his own web page, Oneil’s Famous Jerk.
“It’s like the door has cracked open in front of me,” he said. “And I can smell the air coming through. The inspiration.”
That cafeteria cashier at Leo’s? The same students who once silently handed their meal cards to Ripai just raised more than $5,500 on a GoFundMe page for him to go to South Sudan to visit. That’s enough money for two round-trip tickets. He’s planning his journey now.
Say all you want about tax returns and emails and locker rooms. This is what makes America great, Americans.
keyboard shortcuts: V vote up article J next comment K previous comment