2017 Janitor of the Year inspires students and faculty

Ted Qualli, the 66-year-old janitor at Newtown Elementary School, knows the names of every one of the school’s 850 students.  Of course he is the first person to arrive in the morning and the last person to leave at night.  But he does much more than cleaning classrooms.  He wears his old Air Force uniform on Veterans Day and talks to kids about his service.  He grows countless plants and gives them out to the staff and student body.  Most importantly, he talks with the kids about life and teaches them that some of the most important things you learn, you won’t find in a book.  He explains to the kids:  “You got to listen.  You listen, everybody has a message that they're trying to tell you.”

“He's the guy that’s unsung.  He’s the guy that everybody knows is the go-to person.  He’s the guy that keeps the ship afloat,” says principal Kevin King.  As one student puts it:  “He does all this stuff, and he does it with a smile on his face.”  A parent expresses her appreciation: “They just don't make them that way anymore.  He is just absolutely one of the most amazing human beings on this planet.”

Among over 1,200 nominees nationwide, Ted has been selected the 2017 Janitor of the Year.  “I’m so overwhelmed and I just can’t believe that it happened,” said Ted, fighting back tears.  “I just can't believe that people think that much of me.”

The town of Newtown declared a Ted Qualli Day in his honor.  The parent-teacher moms sang him a song at the announcement of his award.  He received a $5000 cash prize from the Cintas Corporation.  And the kids, well, they just love him.


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From Compton to Harvard!

“It was a struggle.  It was rough,” Elijah says of his time growing up in Compton, where only a little over half of students graduate high school.  He remembers a defining moment when he was little:  “It was kind of late at night, my mom ran into my room, and they were shooting outside.  So we would lay, actually, right there, kind of looking at each other.  I was just...looking at my mom for strength ... That moment changed me forever.  I knew I would have to leave Compton.”

Elijah worked hard to achieve his goals, immersing himself in his studies, and never losing focus of his academic goals.  He was accepted to a prestigious high school, over an hour away from home, and there he excelled - using the long commute to study.  Academics always came first, and he achieved a 4.69 GPA on a 5.0 point scale.  He was also a star football player, a track athlete, a leading actor in the school’s productions, and chair of the school’s peer mentoring program.  He became fluent in Spanish.  “I think that struggle - it ignites a fire under you to want to work hard and to want to do more,” he said.

“Everything in his life is preparing him for his future,” his proud mother said.  “He has been through a lot, he has seen a lot and guess what? It made him stronger.”  Elijah credits his mom with getting him to where he is, and she credits him with giving her the strength to be a mom.  His mother raised him alone for 13 years while his dad was in a federal penitentiary.

And where is he now?  Only five percent of applicants are accepted into Harvard, one of the world’s most prestigious universities, and 17-year-old Elijah is one of these elite Harvard bound graduating high school seniors!!!   Harvard awarded Devaughn a complete tuition, room and board scholarship, and his mom set up a GoFundMe campaign to help with books and other school expenses.

Where will Elijah be in 10 years?  “Umm, maybe med school, maybe Wall Street, or maybe an actor on somebody's stage,” he says. “I don't know, but I will be somewhere great. I know that.” Ducking for cover when he hears the ricochet of gunshots outside his bedroom window will now be a distant memory.



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Triangle InfoSeCon and BSides RDU Close Out Cybersecurity Awareness Month in NC

The Research Triangle Park (RTP) located in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area of North Carolina is home to number of tech companies and a growing cybersecurity community. This location closed out the October cybersecurity awareness month with a bang! Two conferences back to back with a goal to educate the community.

First, BSides RDU was held on October 19th at the historic Carolina Theatre in Durham and featured a fantastic line-up of speakers, hacker jeopardy, Capture the Flag (CTF), Lockpick Village, Vintage Tech Museum, and more.  This year, BSides RDU was able to make the event FREE to all attendees which undoubtably expanded the outreach to the community.  It was a special event that provided education for individuals from beginning to advanced cybersecurity skill levels.  The event was live streamed and all talks can be found on the BSides RDU YouTube channel.

Triangle InfoSeCon is the largest security conference in North Carolina with over 1,600 attendees.  The event was held on October 26th at the Raleigh Convention Center and is organized every year by the Raleigh ISSA Chapter.  It was an action-packed event with two keynotes and eight speaker tracks.  In addition to speakers, the event had a hacking tournament, lockpick village, and after-dark educational events.

These two wonderful conferences are going strong in a growing security community.  They have created a positive learning environment and are amazing educational events in North Carolina. Well done!


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