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Ohio School Custodian Becomes a U.S. Citizen — and Students Throw Him a Star-Spangled Celebration

Photo credit: Rebecca Holthaus

This article is one in a series at The 74 that profiles the heroes, victories, success stories and random acts of kindness to be found at schools all across America. Read more of our recent inspiring profiles at The74million.org/series/inspiring.

Jimmy Grajdianu headed to the Hilltop Elementary School gym to work his custodial magic as he had done countless times before, expecting no fanfare and nobody there to notice. What he walked into instead was a full-fledged celebration: 300 students and staff waving American flags, Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” blaring on the sound system, and the Beachwood High School marching band playing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

All in his honor.

Grajdianu, a native of Moldova — a country wedged between Romania and Ukraine — is a newly minted United States citizen, having taken his oath in November. So, the Beachwood, Ohio, school’s Kindness Committee decided to throw him a party.

“This is amazing,” Grajdianu told Cleveland.com. “These people are so nice. I’m not used to this (attention). I’m not a public person.”

Fourth-grade teacher Alesha Trudell told the newspaper that the event was in the works for months. “Jimmy’s very well liked here,” she said. “He’ll talk to the kids and joke with them. He’ll drop whatever he’s doing to help teachers and kids.”

The students spent a few days before the celebration learning about the meaning of citizenship, everything from how a citizen treats others to answering sample questions from the U.S. citizenship test. They also created special artwork for the celebration: a large American flag, made up of student and staff fingerprints.

“We have been discussing citizenship with the students,” Trudell told The 74, “so it was exciting to honor Jimmy at school.”

Grajdianu moved from Moldova to the U.S. in 2012 and landed a job at Hilltop Elementary in 2016, all while taking biomedical technology classes at Cuyahoga Community College. He had already earned degrees in micro-electronics and water and sewer systems while in Moldova.

“I’m very happy to be here,” he told the newspaper about moving to Ohio. “All of my expectations are being met. We have found a very good life for us and are very happy.”

So are the students and staff at Hilltop.

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