Dona Gaudio

Beloved Custodian Brings Light into Hallways of Schools and Lives of Students

“Ms. Gaudio is a one-woman dynamo at Chartiers Valley Middle School. No one here works harder.”

The Champions of Learning Awards are a collaboration between the Consortium for Public Education and United Way’s Be There Campaign, that recognize adults in western Pennsylvania who go above and beyond to create opportunities and motivate students to meet their greatest potential. United Way’s Be There initiative promotes excellent school attendance to students so they will have greater success in school and more opportunities following graduation. Dona Gaudio was the School Staff award winner at the 2019 Champions of Learning event for going above and beyond for local kids at Chartiers Valley Middle School.

Dona Gaudio’s favorite time in school as a child was when she could assist her favorite staffer with an important duty: eraser cleaning. In this task, Dona worked alongside someone who would be a positive influence her entire life, Mr. George, the school’s custodian captain. Mr. George never failed to show subtle kindness to Dona, especially when she was impacted by bullying. Dona grew up hoping to emulate what she learned from him, but with a twist; She wanted to interact and support students in a much more outgoing, personal way.

Today, whether she is changing light bulbs, operating fork lifts, or helping a student with a locker jam, Dona Gaudio is Chartiers Valley Middle School’s go-to when it comes to lending a hand to help, or an ear to listen. As the chief custodian, Dona (Miss Dona, as the students call her) is known for her tireless work ethic, warm-hearted conversations, and strong school spirit. Part-janitor, part-electrician, part-friend-to-all, Dona is a jack of all trades with a heart of gold.

Adrienne Floro, CVMS principal, nominated Dona for the Champions of Learning Award because, “Dona is the heart and soul of CVMS. Students feel well cared for, respected, and safe when Miss Dona is around.”

Dona considers the school her home, and the student body and administration her family. She’s deeply invested in the emotional health of the school community and does everything in her power to help lift a person’s spirit. This past Christmas, a student presented Dona with a dozen roses to thank Dona for the constant kindness she showed him during a troubled period in his life. “Dona’s ability to empathize with troubled students is perhaps her most powerful attribute,” Mrs. Floro said.

Just as Mr. George offered an open line of communication to Dona as she struggled with bullying, she recently had the opportunity to pay that kindness forward to a student experiencing social anxiety. When Dona noticed the student eating lunch alone, she instinctively offered to join him and even treat him to his favorite soda. Dona provided him with friendship every day until the student returned to a table with his peers.

Dona’s dedication to the student body and administration goes far beyond her job description. And, Dona strongly encourages the students to live out the advice Mr. George’s shared with her years ago: “Walk with your head held high, no matter what.”

For her service to the children in our community, United Way is proud to honor Dona as a Champions of Learning “Be There” Awards winner. To learn more, visit https://uwswpa.org/be-there/ .

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