Before the 2015 Wellington C. Mepham High School homecoming game got underway Saturday, the crowd was given a moment to recognize the efforts of homecoming grand marshal Gino DiClemente, the head custodian who is set to retire soon after serving for 28 years at the school.
“I used to be a deli manager in Queens, but I wanted to spend more time with my kids, so I applied for a [custodial] job here,” he recalls.
DiClemente admits at first he only knew a limited amount about custodial responsibilities, “but I learned and worked my way up.”
Mepham principal Michael agrees that DiClemente learned his job well.
“The school building dates back to 1936,” explained principal Michael Harrington, “and Gino has kept it spotless and makes sure things always work.”
But DiClemente's role at the school has morphed way past sweeping floors or making routine fixes.
“I always told the kids when they first came to the school to respect Mepham and to respect themselves. . . and when anyone needed to talk about anything, they could come see me.” DiClemente said. “Some kids, maybe they have a problem at home or with school, and I’m there to talk about anything, or point them toward getting the help they need.”
Senior Chris Lucas knows firsthand the help DiClemente provides.
“My dad was recently in a motorcycle accident,” Lucas said, “…and it has been tough. But Gino’s been here, talking to me, supporting me . . . he’s almost like an uncle. He’s been so important, helping me deal [with it], getting me through it all. I feel bad for the kids in the future who won’t have him around in school.”
But DiClemente says Mepham students have very little to worry about as far as that goes in the future. He lives right down the block and often sees Mepham students while in his yard.
“They all know where I live,” adding with a laugh, “They all know where to find me when they need me.”