Facilities worker brings positivity to campus

January 26, 2018

As students pad in their slippers to the bathroom in Reitman Residence Hall, they are often greeted by the smiling face of Teresa Pais, a Brandeis facilities worker with kind eyes and dark brown hair tucked neatly into a low ponytail. If she is mopping, she will stop and wave at the students who are just beginning their day, though she has been up for hours. If she is vacuuming, she will turn off the vacuum just so students can hear her say hello.

Pais wakes up at 4:50 a.m. and commutes at least 45 minutes to Brandeis, where she has been working for almost a year. Though she grew up in El Salvador, Pais came to Long Island when she was 17 and moved to the Boston area in her late twenties. She spoke no English when she arrived in the U.S., but she quickly picked it up in school. She began working in the North End of Boston, waitressing at a small Italian restaurant in Little Italy.

Daniel Figueroa, Pais’ husband of nine years, works as a chef at Ocean Prime, an upscale seafood restaurant in the South End. While Pais and Daniel are at work, her mother watches her two sons, Joel and Emerson. Pais spends most of her time outside of work with her family, which is growing. She is three months pregnant, and she counts the pregnancy as one of her biggest blessings.

Pais had always been interested in working at a university, but finding a job at one was not easy. She appreciates the benefits of working at a university that are not available in the restaurant industry, such as vacation time and earlier hours. Although she originally wanted to be a receptionist, she quickly discovered that the job didn’t give her the opportunity to stay active throughout her day. Her favorite thing about working at Brandeis is the people, who she said are always polite and respectful.

“She makes an effort to say hi to everyone and she’s always friendly,” said Melissa Nicolas, ’21.

“She gets to know people,” added Kareem Adams, ’21.

Pais’ oldest son Joel, 22, was born with spina bifida, a birth defect that occurs when the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly, leaving him handicapped. He does many things on his own and enjoys playing games on his PlayStation. While Pais admits that at first Joel’s disability was very challenging, with time it has gotten easier.

Emerson, 10, dreams of being an engineer. He has always had a talent for Legos and plays basketball at his school. Over the summer, Pais takes her sons to the park and the lake, where Emerson can run around and they can enjoy nature.

Andrea Murillo ’20, the Community Advisor of Reitman Floor 1, remembers Pais working the day she moved into the hall. “She stopped and said, ‘If you need anything, let me know.’”

Pais, along with the many other facility workers that Brandeis employs, works hard to keep the campus clean. She works 8 hours a day, and often skips one of her breaks to get more done. But her cheery disposition never falters, and students often comment that she’s always happy and always smiling. “I am happy. I feel I’m blessed,” she said. “So many good things happen to me and I don’t even ask. They just happen.”

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