In the United States, anywhere the road leads, you are bound to see an American flag, raised tall and blowing in the wind. For so many, it is a symbol of freedom: a symbol of hope. That is what Friendswood Junior High Janitor Quan Le sees when he looks at the flag.
Le grew up in Dà Nang, Vietnam. At the time, Vietnam was divided into its northern and southern communities. In the North, China had already spread its communist influence, but in the South, America had come to help the Vietnamese people. Dà Nang was in the South, so Le said as he ran around town with his fellow Boy Scouts, he would see American soldiers and want to help others as they did.
After serving four years as a medic in the Vietnamese Army, Le decided to study to become a psychiatric doctor, something he said was looked down upon.
“Only me study mental,” Le said. “No one wants to study that, but I love it. I take care of them.”
Take care of them, he did. Quickly, Le rose to become the Director of the mental hospital in Dà Nang. During this time, Le met and married his wife who had been named Teacher of the Year for the city. Together, they had two children: a son and a daughter.
Despite finding much success in their careers in Vietnam, Le knew he wanted to take his family to America for “a better life.” So, in 2003, that is exactly what he did.
“I had two brothers [in America] and they tell my family to come here,” Le said. “I think about the future of my children. [America] is better.”
When they first moved to the United States, Le and his wife worked together at a food-processing factory.
“We worked very hard,” Le said. “A lot of time. No weekends. Early morning – four or five a.m. – we wake up and go to work, and go home around 10 or 11. We were very tired.”
After six long years of working in the factory, Le heard about two openings in the Custodial Department in Friendswood ISD.
“I heard somebody talking about working in the school very good: have a good job and good benefits,” Le said. “I came to apply – I and my wife. [Maricruz Castellanos] said to come and work.”
Castellanos, custodial supervisor, said she is very happy about her decision to hire Le and his wife all those years ago in March of 2009.
“[Le] is an awesome employee,” Castellanos said. “He is the kind of person you can rely on. He knows what to do and he does it well.”
Le credited his work-ethic to his appreciation of being in America.
“If I stay over there, I may be different – and my wife too, but no,” Le stated. “I work and I work and I don’t care what I do. I’m very happy when I work in my job. I love it. I work with my heart.”
His heart definitely shows through his work, according to Castellanos.
“He always wears a smile and gets along with everyone,” Castellanos said. “His dedication toward the students, the staff, and the school is awesome. He knows we are here to have a good environment for the children and he does that and above.”
What started out as Le providing a better life for his two biological children has turned into Le impacting the hearts of thousands of children.
“I think of the kids as my children; my family,” Le said. “The kids call me everywhere and I feel very appreciated because they know what I do for them.”
Besides keeping the schools clean, Le stated he also hopes to give the students some advice that he was told back in Vietnam.
“Do a good thing per day,” Le said. “You will help many people.”
So the next time you drive past an American flag, maybe you will think of Quan Le and be inspired to do “a good thing” and help many people too.