‘I am very proud’: School custodian goes back to school at 45 to earn diploma

Elmo Desilva, a DeKalb County school custodian, accepted his high school diploma. (Source: WGCL)
Published: May. 20, 2023 at 11:52 AM CDT
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STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. (WGCL/Gray News) - A Georgia school custodian accepted his high school diploma this week.

“It wasn’t easy. It was a struggle for a while. But looking back, I am very proud,” Elmo Desilva said.

Desilva, 45, is a custodian for the school district at Indian Creek Elementary School in Clarkston.

He was one of 46 adults on Friday to receive a high school diploma during a district graduation ceremony.

Earlier this year, Desilva was eying a promotion to head custodian but to be considered, he needed his high school diploma.

That’s when his school principal, Stephanie Brown-Bryant, ushered him to the DeKalb County Adult Education Program

“By having our staff members equipped with educational opportunities it lends itself to growth. Not just for them but for our school,” Brown-Bryant said.

Desilva said he took night classes twice a week for nearly six months.

“I hate to fail at something. I didn’t want to start and not finish. I didn’t want to disappoint my boss,” he said.

As a teen, Desilva said he lived in an unstable home with parents who were not always around. He said he had to take on extra responsibilities to take care of his younger siblings and his education had to wait.

“I had to make money to put food on the table and clothes on their backs as a young teenager. It just pulled me out of school,” he said.

According to Desilva, being promoted to head custodian would help him support his family and plan for retirement. He also said the position could potentially open further professional opportunities.

The school principal said she has put in a good word on his behalf.

“I’ve already recommended him for the position,” Brown-Bryant said.