“For 10 years, Maria Silva has cleaned up after the students in Wheeler Hall … I wanted people to know how hard, lonely, and exhausting her work is. Even more importantly, I wanted students to know Maria as a person. I wanted them to know that she has a family, ambitions, and feelings…”

woman cleaning toilets

Campus custodian Maria Silva cleans several bathrooms each night. Often they are filthy, with clogged toilets and paper towels carelessly discarded over the floor.

students in front of an open door with woman in background

Maria and the other custodians in Wheeler Hall start work at 5 p.m. and take their lunch break at 9 p.m. While she eats, students emerge from a late class; often they drift by her as if she were a ghost.

person sitting in empty auditorium

Maria and a co-worker clean the Wheeler Auditorium at least once a night, sometimes twice if there is a late-night event there.

woman sitting resting

Maria works from 5 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. and is still up in the morning to take her daughter to school. Most of the time she sleeps fewer than six hours.

woman cooking with child in foreground

On weekends, Maria sometimes makes tamales to sell in her neighborhood to supplement her income.

woman sitting with young girl

After a long night of cooking, Maria shares a quiet moment with her granddaughter.