TAKE THIS JOB – I LOVE IT!

Sharon Plump is a Groundskeeper with the Facilities Department at Cerritos College.  When she is mowing, edging, and trimming, Plump is smiling – even when no one is looking.  This woman’s mantra is, “I love my job!”

Johnny Paycheck’s Country music hit “Take This Job and Shove It!” chronicles an employee who hates his job, has had enough of the boss, and tells him so in no uncertain terms.  This song became the battle cry of the American blue collar, white collar, no collar worker in the 1980s.  Plump’s  uniquely positive, upbeat attitude toward her work makes her the antithesis of Paycheck’s antagonistic employee.

Passion for gardening and the outdoor life began when Plump was eight.  She learned her gardening and landscape skills from her grandmother.  When she graduated high school, Plump took a job as a bank teller.  It took one day for her to realize she was in the wrong business.  Even though she is a people person who is eager to serve, she found it very difficult to deal with difficult people and their money.

Plump left the world of high finance and took a job with a landscape company.   She likes to challenge her body so being a groundskeeper allowed her to be outside, gardening, and interacting with people.  “Gardening is a free stress reliever,” says Plump.

Plump was serious about her new career, taking classes and obtaining certificates in landscape maintenance.  Even when she was employed at other southern California colleges, she always had her eye on Cerritos.  She knew about the college because her mother was a Cerritos College graduate.  When an opportunity to work with the Cerritos Facilities Department was posted, Plump did not hesitate to apply.

Sharon Plump was the first woman groundskeeper hired by the Cerritos College Facilities Department.  Facilities Manager Tom Richey is very proud to have been the one to hire her.  “Sharon is one of my best hires,” says Richey.  The boss is also proud to let you know that Plump was awarded Employee of the Month after only six weeks – faster than anyone else in the department.

Richey recognized a special spirit in Plump.  He assigned her to the college Quad so that she could interact with students who hang around the Student Center, especially the athletes.  Plump may be maintaining grass and flowers, but garden fairy is also scattering the spiritual pixie dust of her positive attitude and timeless wisdom.

 

 

Plump and fellow teammate Donnie Hawkins believe it is important for employees to make the effort to reach out and show students and teachers respect by developing relationships.  Students often thank them for their hard work, letting them know how much they appreciate what it takes to make the campus clean and attractive.  “One little girl brought me a box of my favorite chocolates,” Plump revealed, “just because she thought so much of what I did for her campus.”

The Facilities Department company jackets are emblazoned with the words Facilities Team.  Richey says it takes a lot of work to communicate the vision of the department to employees these days, “Everyone has a different idea of what the work is.”  Older people have a different view of the job than younger people.  Communication is the key to getting the job done.  Not only does Richey have to communicate his vision to his team, but he also has to get the college instructors and Trustees to realize the vital role of his department.

 

 

Plump and Richey share a core vision – that their facilities department is the foundation of the education process at Cerritos.  Without the work of custodial, plumbers, groundskeepers, painters, and tradesmen, the campus would not be well-maintained, would not be a comfortable work and study environment, and no one would want to be there.  Plump points out the people judge the inside of a college campus or restaurant by the way it looks on the outside.  She believes that people make snap judgments based on appearance.  “Sometimes, they don’t even make it inside because of the way it looks on the outside.”

Sharon Plump and the Facilities Department Team work very hard to make sure everyone who steps on the Cerritos College campus will like what they see, want to come inside…and decide to stay.

 

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Someplace That’s Green

As I was wandering the Cerritos College campus during my break between classes recently, I came across a flower bed with some of the most beautiful Birds of Paradise that I have seen in a long time.  I was so struck by their brilliance and beauty that I spent the next hour roaming around campus finding beautiful little niches of green and splashes of color.

I confess, I thought the campus was pretty dull looking until I saw the variety of flora on display.  Daniel Becerra from Facilities said that Cerritos College maintains a wide variety of trimmed shrubs, well-manicured grass, rock gardens, desert plants, and an assortment of shade and sun plantings tucked away in little areas around the campus.  Caring for the greenery is a full time job.

When I finished my photo safari, I was refreshed and mentally revived.  That is the gift nature gives us every day.  Trees and flowers live to not only purify our air and provide oxygen for us, they offer us free beauty.  Most people probably never even notice the beautiful growing things in their path every day.  Maybe I can change that with a few photos.

A wide expanse of well manicured grass provides a refreshing green belt on the quad between the Athletic Department buildings and the newly renovated gymnasium at Cerritos College, Norwalk, Calif., April 15, 2014.  (Samii Taylor)

A wide expanse of well manicured grass provides a refreshing green belt on the quad between the Athletic Department buildings and the newly renovated gymnasium at Cerritos College, Norwalk, Calif., April 15, 2014. (Samii Taylor)

 

This beauty keeps its branches low for sitting on, but he branches reach skyward to provide cool shade on a sunny day.

This beauty keeps its branches low for sitting on, but he branches reach skyward to provide cool shade on a sunny day.

A large rock resembles the shape of a Golden Grizzly, the California state animal, in a rock bed outside the library at Cerritos College, Norwalk, Calif., April 15, 2014.  (Samii Taylor)

A large rock resembles the shape of a Golden Grizzly, the California state animal, in a rock bed outside the library at Cerritos College, Norwalk, Calif., April 15, 2014. (Samii Taylor)

Outside the Student Center dining area, a tree with a split trunk offers shade on a sunny day at Cerritos College, Norwalk, Calif., April 15, 2014.  (Samii Taylor)

Outside the Student Center dining area, a tree with a split trunk offers shade on a sunny day at Cerritos College, Norwalk, Calif., April 15, 2014. (Samii Taylor)

A large rock resembles the shape of a Golden Grizzly, the California state animal, in a rock bed outside the library at Cerritos College, Norwalk, Calif., April 15, 2014.  (Samii Taylor)

A large rock resembles the shape of a Golden Grizzly, the California state animal, in a rock bed outside the library at Cerritos College, Norwalk, Calif., April 15, 2014. (Samii Taylor)

A spent flower is poised for the perfect moment to shed its seeds and start life all over again at Cerritos College, Norwalk, Calif., April 15, 2014.  (Samii Taylor)

A spent flower is poised for the perfect moment to shed its seeds and start life all over again at Cerritos College, Norwalk, Calif., April 15, 2014. (Samii Taylor)

The planter bed around the water feature in the middle of the Quad is bursting with color at Cerritos College, Norwalk, Calif., April 15, 2014.  (Samii Taylor)

The planter bed around the water feature in the middle of the Quad is bursting with color at Cerritos College, Norwalk, Calif., April 15, 2014. (Samii Taylor)

The variegated Mock Orange bushes outside of the Student Center are kept well manicured at Cerritos College, Norwalk, Calif., April 15, 2014.  (Samii Taylor)

The variegated Mock Orange bushes outside of the Student Center are kept well manicured at Cerritos College, Norwalk, Calif., April 15, 2014. (Samii Taylor)

Sword ferns about to drop the last of their bright red berries in a flower bed at Cerritos College, Norwalk, Calif., April 15, 2014.  (Samii Taylor)

Sword ferns about to drop the last of their bright red berries in a flower bed at Cerritos College, Norwalk, Calif., April 15, 2014. (Samii Taylor)

A gnarled tree trunk offers tone and texture, light and shadow to students passing by at Cerritos College, Norwalk, Calif., April 15, 2014.  (Samii Taylor)

A gnarled tree trunk offers tone and texture, light and shadow to students passing by at Cerritos College, Norwalk, Calif., April 15, 2014. (Samii Taylor)

Late season camellias are in full bloom at Cerritos College, Norwalk, Calif., April 15, 2014.  (Samii Taylor)

Late season camellias are in full bloom at Cerritos College, Norwalk, Calif., April 15, 2014. (Samii Taylor)

Delicate red, feather-like flowers offer tasty sweetness to bees and humming birds on campus at Cerritos College, Norwalk, Calif., April 15, 2014.  (Samii Taylor)

Delicate red, feather-like flowers offer tasty sweetness to bees and humming birds on campus at Cerritos College, Norwalk, Calif., April 15, 2014. (Samii Taylor)

Giant Birds of Paradise make a bold display on either side of the walkway of the Athletic Department at Cerritos College, Norwalk, Calif., April 15, 2014.  (Samii Taylor)

Giant Birds of Paradise make a bold display on either side of the walkway of the Athletic Department at Cerritos College, Norwalk, Calif., April 15, 2014. (Samii Taylor)

A tree trunk grows sideways, offering it's rugged beauty for all to see behind the Student Center at Cerritos College, Norwalk, Calif., April 15, 2014.  (Samii Taylor)

A tree trunk grows sideways, offering it’s rugged beauty for all to see behind the Student Center at Cerritos College, Norwalk, Calif., April 15, 2014. (Samii Taylor)

A large alligator lizard pauses to express his annoyance at being disturbed while sunbathing on the steps of the Student Center at Cerritos College, Norwalk, Calif., April 15, 2014.  (Samii Taylor)

A large alligator lizard pauses to express his annoyance at being disturbed while sunbathing on the steps of the Student Center at Cerritos College, Norwalk, Calif., April 15, 2014. (Samii Taylor)