Cheryl Wilson, Custodial Team Leader, Yale Facilities

January 23, 2020

Cheryl Wilson is always smiling. She always brings positive, graceful energy and pride to her work, the team she manages, and their customers.

A native of New Haven, she attended Wilbur Cross High School and started working at Yale as a part-time, weekend banquet waitress after school and on weekends. From there, her Yale career began.

After graduating high school, she worked in Hospitality as a part-time pantry worker in the Pierson College Dining Hall, moved on to the Law School Dining Hall, and then to Berkeley College as a weekend desk attendant and general service assistant, before moving up to a cook’s helper in the Yale Commons Dining Hall. 

In 2014, she decided to make a change and became a custodian. Cheryl first applied for a senior custodian Cheryl Wilson, Custodial Team Leader

position, but the job required experience that she did not have. With that goal in mind, she worked as a custodian for two years. During that time, Cheryl was offered the opportunity to be part of an apprentice program that she took. When another senior custodial position became available, she applied and was hired.

Today, as a Custodial Team Leader, Cheryl manages a staff of 17 people, maintains four buildings, and the Sterling Power Plant. All located on the Yale School of Medicine campus.

She currently lives in West Haven, where she bought a home three years ago. Her daughter, Jalah Avery, is a freshman at Virginia State University studying Engineering. 

Below are some excerpts from our interview:

What was your very first job?

When I was in high school, I worked at Dunkin Donuts. I wasn’t there long because I got a call from Yale. It was my first experience with customer service and understanding the importance of it.

What was the best advice you ever received and from whom?

One of my colleagues here at Yale said, “Don’t let anyone steal your joy.” I had just lost my mom to cancer and was having a tough time and not feeling supported. I realized when he said that, that I am in control of my life, and it was important for me to have joy and peace in my life.

What are some of your hobbies?

I like to bowl and play pool. I recently bought a new pool table for my basement. I’m pretty excited about that and having friends and family over to enjoy it. I also love baking, especially making cupcakes; red velvet is my favorite.

What is the biggest challenge you face at work?

Managing people is challenging; everyone has a different personality. People have things happening in their personal lives so they may come to work sad or upset. Sometimes, I feel like a counselor, because as a team leader, people come to me for help and advice. It’s a big part of my job. I feel proud that I can help. At times, it can be extremely rewarding.

What advice would you give someone wanting to work at Yale or move up the ladder at Yale?

 Yale is a great place to work and offers a lot of opportunities for its staff. It can be hard to get a job here. But if you do, I’d say appreciate those opportunities. Keep doing your best work, and I guarantee it will be noticed. There are so many opportunities, but you have to really want it.

Do you have a favorite memory from your years here at Yale?

When I was working in Yale Dining, during the summer I’d work as a custodian. I was paired up with a senior custodian. He was a very big guy, tough. During breaks, we’d sit together and have a mini Bible study. He strongly believed in a higher power and had great knowledge of the Bible. Some people talk about being religious and believing in the teachings of the Bible, but he embodied them. He was a kind, gentle, and giving person. I learned a lot from him. He was a good friend and mentor. It was very sad, but he died suddenly of a heart attack. And ironically, it was his senior custodian position that I ended up getting.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of myself, my work, my family, and being independent.