Hughson’s nominee for countywide award adored by students and staff at Ross Middle School
Maintenance man extraordinaire Pepe Flores is beloved by the students and staff at Ross Middle School. And why not? Who else has built such a bond with students that they invited him to become an assistant soccer coach? During the pandemic, who else took so much pride cleaning classrooms and offices, and later sewed masks himself to protect the Ross staff? Who else took a day off work and spent his own money to make tacos for co-workers?
The answer, of course, is Pepe Flores, a man universally revered at Ross. Given the respect and admiration Flores inspires, it’s no surprise that he is the Hughson Unified School District’s nominee this year in the countywide Employees Making a Difference awards competition. He and other nominees will be recognized Jan. 17 during a ceremony at the Stanislaus County Office of Education.
Flores has worked for Hughson Unified for 10 years. In his nominating letter, Eric Petersen, the district’s director of student support services, wrote that Flores “is notorious for his unlimited energy, positive attitude and boisterous laugh.” Former Ross administrative assistant Jovita Mendoza described Flores this way: “To say Pepe is AMAZING is an understatement. From the moment I met Pepe, it was obvious that he gives his job 110%. His smile and positive attitude are contagious! Pepe is humble and genuinely cares about the staff and students.”
If there is a maintenance-related job to be done at Ross, Flores is often the one entrusted to get it done. “Pepe has always expressed so much attention to detail. He is so thorough and thoughtful about his responsibilities. I can tell Pepe really enjoys serving the staff and students,” praised Andy Fontana, the district’s director of maintenance and operations.
For his part, Flores said he likes to keep moving and to stay busy. It helps to make the day go by faster, he said. One of Flores’ strategies at work is to alternate arms and use both hands so that they are equally strong, which he believes allows him to complete tasks faster and without tiring. Flores also enjoys and embraces the challenges of big summer projects within the district. “I enjoy working hard and I like to think of ideas to help make the district and campuses better,” he explained.
Flores’ popularity on the Ross campus is evident everywhere he goes. Students dap him up and yell his name as he walks the grounds. If he goes into a classroom, students greet him by name and yell out, “Hey, Pepe!” In the 2020-21 school year, the student body even voted to dedicate their yearbook to him. His Ross relationships are important to Flores as well. “I get to interact with the students and staff every day. They are my friends,” he explained.
When Flores – a longtime soccer player and fan -- was invited by a student to come watch his soccer game, of course he said yes. Soon after, the Ross coach asked Flores to be his assistant, despite the fact he had never coached before. Later, when the Ross team won the championship, the team presented Flores with his first-ever soccer medal. “He insisted that all of the players sign it and then, of course, he laughed and cried with joy,” Petersen wrote.
During the pandemic, Peterson recalls Flores “being fully suited up and daily decontaminating all of our classrooms so that students would have a safe and clean environment the following day. I always knew that when I called for him over the radio, that he would always answer back cheerfully, ready to help -- no matter how icky the task ahead might be.” Mendoza remembers the hand-sewn facemasks Flores brought in for the staff to wear. “In awe, I asked him who had made the masks,” Mendoza said. “Pepe proudly responded that he had so that he could make sure the staff were comfortable and safe! Wow!”
One of the things Flores likes to do in his free time is cook. Last spring, he approached Ross Principal Mary La Rosa with a request. He wanted to take a day off work in May to make tacos for the Ross staff and the folks in the district office next door. “He would not take no for an answer … and was glowing at the opportunity to be a blessing to our staff,” La Rosa said. “That is the embodiment of who Pepe is. He is a giver.”
When asked what he likes most about his work, Flores said: “It’s not a job to me; it’s a lifestyle and a family!”
It’s exactly that attitude and his years of devoted and dedicated service make Flores the ideal nominee for the Employees Making a Difference award.