Jacqueline Adams is rarely seen without a smile on her face. Looking much younger than her 48 years, Adams may not be what you usually think of when you imagine a custodian; she looks more like what many identify as a rapper than someone who cleans university floors for a living. Her hair is always pulled back in a thick black braid and she has several tattoos on her lower and upper arms. She keeps most of her tattoos covered; the most visible tattoo states "family first" on her left forearm.
Adams begins each day by arriving at Wayne State’s Physics Building at 6 a.m., where she swipes in to transfer to her regular position and checks in with her supervisor. After checking in, she then heads to her building and swipes into work.
Adams’s current duties are the morning cleaning shift in Manoogian Hall, on the fourth and fifth floors. She vacuums the carpets, empties the trash bins in the classrooms and cleans the bathrooms. She also uses sliders and buffers to keep the floor shiny and waxed. She works until 2 p.m., with only a half-hour lunch break during her shift.
Adams has worked as a WSU custodian for almost 17 years. She was hired after a friend's aunt recommended the job to her.
"I haven't missed a beat yet," Adams said.
She began as a project and relief custodian, where she had a variety of tasks such as vacuuming up water if there was a leak, cleaning windows or covering for other custodians. As a PNR, she worked in every area of the university. She's been in the fixed position at Manoogian for almost a year now.
"When they changed the position and put more duties on the PNR person and you had to deal with a lot of supervisors, I just chose to stay in an area and build a relationships with the people in this building and on these floors," Adams said.
Adams enjoys the predictability of her job; the routine of cleaning the floors that she is responsible for makes her day go by faster. Coming to work is easy for Adams, except for the early mornings and the way some students leave the restrooms, she said.
"Every morning, the fifth floor men's bathroom is trashed." Adams said, "It's like someone deliberately takes rolls of tissue and paper towel and throws them on the ground. They leave waste on the seats."
Custodial work isn't everyone's dream job, but Adam's does it with a sense of pride. Many staff members consider her one of the best at WSU.
"Jackie has a wonderful work ethic; she always tries to assist us and help with any needs," WSU office clerk LaTosha Marshall said, who has known Adams for five years.
Adams puts her all into her work. She goes above and beyond to help others and is always looking to do something more. Not only does she do her regular janitorial duties, but she also offers a helping hand in setting things up for journalism functions and replacing items that are getting worn out. She takes notice of everything relating to her work.
"When she first came on board here in January, she was going to do the carpets, and I don't know if they've ever been done," said a WSU source, who asked to remain anonymous.
Proud of her job as she is, Adams knows that she and the rest of the custodial staff aren't recognized much. Custodians do a job that is important for the function of the university, but few see that.
"I don't really notice (custodians) much," WSU student Michael Smyth said. "I'm usually more focused on my homework or studies."
Adams tries to put a smile on everyone's face, from the faculty to the students.
"In the morning time, you don't know what kind of day (anyone)had the night before, so, when they come in, and it's clean and everything smells good, their whole attitude can change," Adams said.
Adams has many side interests. She trains and breeds pit bulls and helps her cousin at his car wash business. She details cars for extra money and owns two vintage cars.
"I've got a '71 dropped-top Cutlass and a '71 Caprice, both in mint condition. I've got the historical plates and everything; I drive them in the Dream Cruise every year," Adams said.
Adams also considers herself a “sports fanatic.” She enjoys playing basketball, racquetball and video games on the weekends and is very into working out. She has no children of her own, but takes a very active role in the lives of her nieces and nephews. She is the baby of her family, having four sisters and five brothers.
"I really believe in family first," Adams said. "I'm very active with my nieces' and nephews' education. I was unfortunate, I didn't get to graduate from college and I'm making sure they do."
Adams attended Eastern Michigan University for two years for physical therapy and physical education, but dropped out do to a family dilemma.
She is a people person more than anything. People are the reason that she comes to work everyday, she said.
"I like the people, they're real nice. The staff is nice. We're here almost 365 days a year and Wayne State is like a second family. We're here more than we are home. I just want it to be pleasant and clean,” Adams said.