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Portland school custodian finalist for national honor

Donna Colello, head custodian at Ocean Avenue Elementary School, is being recognized nationally

PORTLAND, Maine — A Portland school custodian is getting some national recognition.

Donna Colello, head custodian at Ocean Avenue Elementary School, is one of 10 finalists for the 2021 National School Custodian of the Year, sponsored by Cintas Corp., makers of cleaning supplies.

"It's just an honor," Colello said, "I'm speechless."

She said she's overwhelmed after being chosen as a finalist out of more than 2,000 school custodians nationwide. The recognition is especially gratifying since the pandemic has changed the way she does her job.

"It's just been a lot of extra work with the same amount of staffing," she said. "It's hard."

"She is much more to this school than the head custodian," Ocean Avenue Assistant Principal Dawn Girsch said.

Colello said that when she found out she was up for the honor, she went to the main office for a "stress break" in which school staff sing and dance for a couple of minutes.

"Then they sang, 'Donna is our finalist,' and I broke out in tears," she said.

"You should have seen the smile on her face," Principal Beverly Stevens said, "It was a really great moment."

Colello said she wants to win this award for not just herself, but for her crew and all the custodians in the state of Maine.

"My crew is so well-deserving and I wouldn't be able to do it without them," she said." We're finally getting the recognition that we so, so deserve."

Of the 10 finalists, Colello is the only one from the northeast and one of only two women.

The winner will receive a $10,000 cash prize, $5,000 worth of cleaning products, and a training opportunity for their school.

Vote for Colello here.