by Collin Burwinkel
Eagle Editorial Board
The lawns are precisely manicured, and events are meticulously set up. Hard work is put into the late hours of the night setting up ahead of time for the next event.
Sergio Plata, Director of Operations, knows the ins and outs of the school. He and his crew work hard to maintain and polish such a beautiful campus.
Just over 17 years ago, Plata left his day job in Columbia and traveled to the United States. A notable banker, he now needed a new job. When Plata heard about an opening at a near by high school, he thought to apply for the job.
“I did not speak any English when I came to the United States,” Plata said. “ I applied for the job over 17 years ago to try to see if I could get lucky, and I did.”
When he began, he was responsible for supervising the night shift. But in 2006, Plata became responsible for the entire maintenance crew.
“I help with all the setting up and breaking down of all school events. Whether it is athletic or social, I’ve got all my guys helping with that,” Plata said. “We try to keep the school in the best shape we can, and every year we keep it nice and clean.”
Nice and clean is an understatement.
In 2012, Richard Connelly of the Houston Press ranked St. Thomas as the third most architecturally beautiful high school campus in Greater Houston.
That means Plata and his crew have one of the best looking high school campuses in the city.
“I dedicate a lot of my time to keep the school clean,” Plata said. “I also keep an eye out for things that need to be improved.”
Plata and his crew oversee a large amount of school functions. These include masses, parent-teacher conferences, open house, Round-Up, theater productions, events for freshmen and more.
The Booster Club and the Mothers’ Club benefit greatly from Plata and his crew as well. In addition to this, everyday the rooms are cleaned, the trash is taken out and many more unseen things are performed by his crew, coming early and working late.
The dedication of Plata starts early in the morning, and does not quit until the job is done.
“Everyday I wake up around 4:30 a.m. and drink a lot of Columbian coffee,” Plata said. “When I get ready, I think about the things I have to do for the day and what I have to focus on.”
The work these men do often goes unseen. What many students do not realize, is that without them the school would have a hard time functioning.
Plata and his crew put in an honest day’s work every day without question, contributing as much as they can to the school community.
“I never pay attention to the hours. I do the best that I can for the school, and when I’m feeling tired I go home. That is how I feel comfortable, knowing that I’m doing the best I can do for the school,” Plata said.
Doing the best he can do takes sacrifice, dedication and hard work.
“I remember one day when we had open house, that same week we had a wrestling tournament,” Plata said. “I remember being here until about three in the morning setting up. I probably got one hour of sleep.”
Because of this, many of the faculty members have noticed his effort.
“Everyday I need help with something, and Sergio is there to help,” English teacher Hunter Youngblood said. “Just the other day, I forgot my room keys at home and Sergio was there to give me a replacement set. Him and his crew even help me empty my car if I need them to.”
Just as the community respects Sergio, his crew does too.
“The way I treat them, is the way they treat me. How I respect them, is how they respect me,” Plata said. “It’s great, I don’t have to yell at anybody. I can relate to them because everything that they have to do, I’ve done in the past as well.”
Plata became a United States citizen in 2002 and could not be happier.
“I love this country, this is the place of opportunity. In my heart, I have both Columbia and The United States,” Plata said.
The school community was just as overjoyed for Plata as he was.
“The day when I swore in to become a United States citizen is one of my most memorable days. The Mothers’ Club, all my guys, and many of the faculty members threw a surprise party for me,” Plata said. “Honestly, that was one of my biggest days here on campus.”
One thing that remains constant with Plata is his selflessness.
“I love the Basilian Fathers, I love every single person that works here, I love everybody,” Plata said. “I believe that people love me too, and I feel very comfortable at St. Thomas. Every single person here is important to me, especially the students. I don’t have children, and I feel like the students here are my kids.”
Just as Plata loves others, people love him as well. English teacher Hunter Youngblood taught him grammar when he was learning the English language.
“He doesn’t pick favorites,” Youngblood said. “He is one of the most respected people here at St. Thomas.”
Sergio Plata contributes to the school in uncountable of ways. In addition to him, his crew puts in long hours to ensure a comfortable learning environment for the students, teachers and faculty of the school.
The hard work and dedication that these men put in to the wellbeing of this institution should be appreciated and respected by everyone.