From tee-ball to Lutnick: Joel Colon’s story

Vidhatrie Keetha, Staff Writer

“I’ve always been a pretty calm person, even as a kid, I was always quiet,” maintenance staff member Joel Colon said. “I try not to let anything get to me. Even though I think everyone has some level of stress, everyone’s human. I’ve had my share of stress in life. You go through a lot of rough patches, you go through a lot of good times, and I think for the most part, even through the bad times, I’ve always maintained that same mentality.” 

Colon attributes this mentality to the way his parents raised him. “I grew up in a really bad neighborhood, and I think I give my parents a lot of credit for the way they brought us up,” Colon said. “Even living in that bad neighborhood, my parents always taught us that there’s better out there, and they always kept the good positive energy around us.”

Colon strives to implement these teachings by doing his best to help others. One time, Colon noticed that one of the tennis coaches seemed to be out of breath. “I ran into him and I asked him if he was okay, he was like, ‘I’m fine, I’m fine,’ but I knew he wasn’t doing well, so I took him outside to get some fresh air,” Colon said. 

Colon stayed with the coach for a while before calling another coach over and getting the nurse. “It turned out that it was something in his heart,” he said. “I’m always aware of stuff like that. I don’t know if it’s from training, or if it came naturally to me.”

He tries to help out around the school by reminding students to be respectful and take care of their school environment. “This is your second home, you have to appreciate it,” Colon said.

During a typical school day, Colon makes sure that everything related to the Athletic Department is in order. He spends time ensuring the gymnasiums and locker rooms are clean, maintains the pool, and helps set up the field before athletic games. Aside from these duties, Colon receives work orders around campus, which include fixing broken desks and working on installations, he said. 

Colon joined the school’s maintenance staff in February 2018 when a friend informed him of a job opening. Before coming to the school, Colon worked as a wallpaper hanger for 12 years, during which he worked with multiple construction companies on commercial installations in new buildings and hotels, he said. 

Colon became introduced to wallpaper hanging because two of his uncles were part of a construction trade union, he said. One of his uncles, who was a wallpaper hanger, brought Colon into the union as an apprentice, he said. “It wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to do, but it was good pay, and I saw an opportunity for myself at that time.” 

Although Colon ended up working as a wallpaper hanger for many years, he eventually chose to leave. “It was very unstable for me, dealing with periods where I wouldn’t work, and I wouldn’t get paid,” he said. “It got super hectic at the end, the instability of not working all the time and having a child. It just became too difficult.”

Colon chose to work at the school because the job would offer him the stability he needed. “I knew coming here, [that] having the stability of working every day and being somewhere that I feel like I can call home, will be beneficial to me,” Colon said. “I already had an idea of what kind of atmosphere it would be because of my friends that worked here. I knew that everyone was nice and it was a great place to be, so I knew I would fit in.”

In the three years he has worked at the school, Colon has developed a close relationship with his coworkers. “We’re actually like a family,” Colon said. “We take care of each other. We do have rough days here in New York and we’re all human, there are days that are a little bit tougher for some of us. But aside from that, it’s great, we all get along.”

As a child, Colon had other dreams for his future. “When I was younger, I was really into sports. My main thing was baseball,” Colon said.

Colon became interested in baseball because of its similarities to tee-ball. “I was born in Puerto Rico, and I’ll never forget it — I was maybe like four years old, maybe five years old, and I played T-ball [there],” he said. “So when we moved to New York, I started playing little league.” During that time, Colon typically played shortstop, second base, and first base positions, he said. In high school, Colon played Junior Varsity baseball in the infield, shortstop, and third base positions.

While Colon played baseball during his first two years of highschool, moving from New York to Florida in the middle of his highschool career made it difficult to continue to pursue his passion, and he no longer plays.

“On the weekends I would play, but I haven’t done it in a very long time, especially since having my son,” Colon said. “I put more time into him and taking care of myself, so I really don’t do it as much anymore. But I do follow it all the time on TV, watching games and stuff, so I still follow it very closely.”

After highschool, Colon attended Valencia Community College in Orlando, Florida. He initially took courses in the liberal arts before deciding to study civil engineering. 

However, Colon was only able to attend college for a year and half because he decided to move back to New York to be with his girlfriend. “At that age you’re not thinking clearly, your emotions are all over the place. But I can say that to this day I’m still with the same person, so it happened for a reason,” Colon said.

Colon’s wife is now a speech pathologist, and the couple has a seven-year old son, who currently attends Success Academy. Colon enjoys travelling and spending time with his family. 

“During the summer we do regular stuff, [we] go to the pool, go to the beach. My son loves mini golf, he’s really good at it, so I’ll go mini golfing with him,” Colon said. “At home, we’ll watch movies together, and we also try to take vacations every year.”

As an only child, Colon’s son gets bored easily, so Colon does his best to keep him engaged at home. “He plays Roblox, so he’ll get on his iPad, I’ll get on my phone and I’ll play with him that way,” Colon said. “I’ve [also] been reading Harry Potter with my son, because he’s never read it, and he wants to watch the movie. So I’ve been reading the first book with him.”

Colon enjoys working at the school, he said. “I really like [that] we’re constantly busy, and I like the community here, I like the way that kids carry themselves,” Colon said. “Everyone’s very polite and respectful. It’s a good place to be. I hope the kids realize that what they have here, not a lot of kids have.”