New Castle News

May 13, 2013

Making a Difference: Custodian makes clean sweep of kids’ hearts

Lugene Hudson
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — When Croton Pre-Kindergarten Center students recess for summer vacation next month, “Mr. Pete” will walk out the door with them.

And it will be for the last time.

The affectionate nickname was given to Pete Squillo years ago. He has been on the custodial staff of the New Castle Area School District for 35 years, and it’s there and in community service that Squillo makes a difference.

For the last 22 years, he has been responsible for the district’s administrative offices and the pre-Kindergarten Center. On June 7, he retires.

Through the years, Squillo has acquired memory after memory based on working with the children and staff.

Every morning as kids get off the bus, he is there to greet them and listens to sounds of “Mr. Pete, Mr. Pete.”

“I can’t remember when they didn’t call me that,” he reminisced, adding through the years, he has met a lot of children and seen many changes.

One youngster never goes to class at 8:45 a.m. unless Squillo takes his hand and walks him down the hallway.

And throughout the school day, he is known for doling out a high five salute.

It’s more than just a job. He has cultivated friendships and developed another family away from home.

“People call me an institution there.”

Grey D. Berrier II described his friend as offering compassionate, selfless service, and looks forward to attending Squillo’s Sunday school class at First Assembly of God each week. The always-on-the-go Squillo is an ordained minister who has performed weddings for school district employees and is a church elder. He and his wife, Darlene, also conduct a prison ministry in Mercer.

The Hickory Township resident, 56, viewed the selection of Difference Maker as a tremendous honor.

“I really don’t think about what it involves, or awards or recognition,” he said. “It’s just my mode of operation day to day.”

Squillo, who has an associate degree in letters, arts and sciences from Penn State, Shenango Campus, is so much more than a custodian, said Terry Meehan, principal of Croton Pre-K.

“A lot of kids don’t have a stable father so Pete is like an uncle figure,” Meehan said. “They just light up when they see Mr. Pete.”

Caring about the kids comes naturally to Squillo.

“I believe the kids have a right to come into a building that has a pleasant environment, is clean, well-lit and safe,” he pointed out. “That’s where I’ve made a difference; I’m always interested in the kids.”

Even after retirement, he intends to keep making a difference with his ministries and “helping people wherever I can.

“I’m grateful and thankful for these 35 years. It’s been my life’s work and a wonderful experience. Everything has its time and it’s time to move on to the next step of my life.”

Meehan best summarizes what Squillo is all about.

“His genuineness is so evident that even a four-year-old can pick up on it. His presence and caring is vibrant, he is very loyal and dedicated, and it’s rare to find those qualities.”

(Email: lhudson @ncnewsonline.com.)