Nubia Bolanos in her uniform at Kean University.
By Nicole Brown
At seven every morning, Nubia Bolanos can be found in Hutchinson Hall rushing from room to room vacuuming, sweeping, scrubbing, collecting and disposing trash before faculty and students arrive, but this routine may not last much longer as the University considers outsourcing its maintenance staff.
“I cry every day,” said Bolanos. “I never complain about my job.”
On her lunch break, she agreed to divulge her personal life and how Kean University’s decision would affect her. As she stood in the hallway, three faculties greeted her and she responded with a smile and a wave of her hand. Immediately after, she chuckled and blurted, “my broken English.”
She hopped on the elevator to the third floor where she introduced the interpreter for the interview, Janeth Ronquillo, assistance secretary for world languages.
In 1980, the economy plummeted in Colombia and forced Bolanos to plot an escape route for a better life. Earlier that year, she traveled to the Bahamas with friends on vacation, but the island’s economic instability shocked her. This compelled Bolanos to construct a second plan, an illegal trip to the United States.
Upon migrating to the U.S., Bolanos lived at a friend’s house where she worked two jobs making cosmetic containers and clothes hangers in factories.
“Life as an illegal immigrant is hard,” she said. “I could not drive, I had to hide.”
However, Bolanos experienced similar job uncertainty before. On September 11, 2001 the U.S. experienced one of the most tragic moments in history when two hijacked airplanes collided in the World Trade Center (Twin Towers) buildings. As a result, the United Airlines in Newark, NJ decreased its staff through unemployment and Bolanos lost her job.
“I was devastated,” said Bolanos. “I didn’t know what to do so I went to Union County College to learn English but I learned nothing.”
Nine months after Bolanos lost her custodial position at United Airlines, Kean University employed her as a house keeper. But after 14 years of services she may have to contemplate unemployment again.
“There are no jobs in the market,” said Bolanos. “I have to pay for rent and food.”
The single mom’s deepest fears include her child’s education, paying her bills and surviving in a “stagnant” economy.
Since Kean University waives its employees’ children tuition, she worries about her son’s higher education at Kean, primarily because her employment at the University depends on his enrollment.
“I want my son to graduate,” she said. “If I lose my job he cannot graduate.”
Bolanos’ “glowing personality” stuns Ronquillo who commended Bolanos for “maintaining her composure and carrying out her duties” despite the uncertainty of her job.
Stephanie Hawkins, Office Manager for Middle and Secondary Education claimed that Bolanos “is a part of the family.”
“She is attentive to the needs of staff in the department,” she said. “She does an excellent job, everyone loves her.”
Outside of her job, Bolanos dances to salsa music and cooks all different kinds of food. She urged the University to reconsider their plan to outsource the maintenance workers.
“The same way the University depends on us, the same way we depend on our jobs,” she said.