When 25-year-old Yolanda Geronimo ventured from her home country of Mexico to the United States, she was unsure of what the future would hold for her. Though abandoning the place she called home posed a big risk, she soon found that the States had much to offer. Now 54, Geronimo has been honored as the Midtown Office Cleaner of the Year.
“I was so happy when I found out I had won,” Geronimo says. “I have never been awarded anything in my life.”
Geronimo currently works at the WeWork co-working office space on West 18th Street. Her daily duties include maintaining conference rooms, communal areas, hallways, bathrooms and other parts of the office.
Though buildings in Manhattan, particularly within the Midtown area, employ countless cleaners, Geronimo was selected for the award due to her positive attitude toward the job and overall outlook regarding her daily tasks. She believes that someone in her position must possess certain characteristics to be successful as a cleaner.
“You need to be friendly and just be a hard worker,” says Geronimo. “You really just have to be happy while you’re doing your job.”
Geronimo maintains the belief that she must keep up a good work ethic to set an example for her children. Her four daughters, at 30, 23, 20 and 17 years of age, are proud of what their mother has accomplished thus far in her life.
“It’s important because I want my daughters to be good people and hard workers,” Geronimo explains. “Working gives you great value in life.”
Despite Geronimo’s fears and doubts upon immigrating to the United States, she was certain a life in New York would provide for better opportunities in terms of quality of life and job prospects. She left behind her job as an elementary school teacher to join her husband, who had already moved and settled in New York.
“I was scared because of the language barrier, but what comforted me was knowing my husband was here already,” says Geronimo.
The award recipient is satisfied with her present situation, saying that the treatment of employers toward their workers is better here than in Mexico. As far as what may happen in the next phase of Geronimo’s life, she is open-minded when it comes to changing her career path, wishing to someday return to school and earn a degree.