On the first day of school at M.U. Lujan Elementary School last week in Yona, when parents took their nervous and sometimes crying children into the school and to their new classrooms, they were greeted with a sight not common in most schools. Greeting the parents and children with friendly waves, at the front of the school, were Guam Customs and Quarantine officers, in full uniform. They weren’t there for a smile-filled drug raid or a search of schoolbags for illegally imported items.
The customs officers wanted to show the parents and kids that they are part of the M.U. Lujan family, as the school was adopted by the department last school year. “That’s part of our family, those kids coming to school,” said Ralph Sgambelluri, deputy director of Guam Customs. “It’s part of us, so we’re there to support the kids. We’re not just there to paint the school, we’re part of the school.”
For the second school year in a row, Customs helped the M.U. Lujan staff prepare for the big opening day, painting some of the exterior walls and helping out with manpower needs. “They needed a lot of hands, brute strength,” Sgambelluri said, adding that the agency continues to keep its commitment to help the school. “We always visit the school, not just at the beginning of the year. We follow through on things that need to be done during the school year. It’s a yearly commitment, and it’s constant communication.” (Source Article: guamPDN.com)
School principal Janice Chargualaf is greatly appreciative of the help her school has gotten from Customs — work that had to be done in the past by teachers and staff, their spouses and families, the Parent-Teacher Organization and the understaffed Department of Education maintenance staff. “It’s re-energizing,” Chargualaf said. “We’re looking forward to continuing to work together. It’s a sustained partnership, not just a one-shot type of thing.”
Chargualaf said that during the school year, Customs continued to help out, giving the school about eight truckloads of gravel, fixing tiles, resurrecting the flagpole, making a school banner, removing debris and unsafe playground equipment from the campus and more. “We get together and look at what safety issues we need to come into compliance with,” Chargualaf said, “And they would assist us with upgrading a certain facility or the grounds as well. They really helped us to become compliant with our safety standards and create a safer environment for the children.” And the relationship didn’t stop with need help, either.
Last school year during Christmas season, Customs officers dressed as Santa Claus and brought treat bags with cookies for the kids. “We passed out cookies to every student, for being good students, for not vandalizing and for taking pride in their school,” Sgambelluri said, adding that Customs and M.U. Lujan staffs also combined their annual Labor Day picnic celebrations last year and look forward to doing it again this year. “The bond is definitely closer,” Chargualaf said, adding that Customs has a lot of very good people that she enjoys working with.
“I commend our Customs and Quarantine staff for all their support on all the projects we have participated in,” Sgambelluri said, “because it’s not just coming to work — it’s helping the community.” Chargualaf said thanks to the partnership, the first day of school went very well. “We were hearing comments from my staff that it was the smoothest opening that we’ve had,” she said.