PORTLAND, Ore. — Eloise Williams spends her mornings getting Rosa Parks Elementary in North Portland ready each day for students and staff. She raises the U.S. and Oregon flags out front, turns on all the lights and walks the grounds picking up trash.
"Typically, I get in here, get the lights on, get the flag up," Williams said. "Check for anything that might look like a safety to my grounds."
That's her daily routine before the doors open.
"I'm always joking with people and say I probably should change my routine because if you really needed to find me, everybody can find me because I have the same exact routine," Williams said with a laugh.
At Rosa Parks Elementary, Williams is the head custodian; it's a job she's held for the past three years. She is always paying close attention in case something is amiss.
"I always just watch the kids. Just making sure they're, if not nothing else, they're just not throwing food," Williams said of the kids in the cafeteria.
Every lunch period, Williams helps out. She stands at a table and helps pass out condiments. On hamburger day, she uses the ketchup to make a connection.
"I draw a happy face on their burger and I always tell them have a wonderful day," she said. "I think that they like that."
It was in that cafeteria on May 23 that she noticed something wasn't right with a student. She could tell he was in trouble.
"He was doing like this," Williams said, making motions with her arms to signify that he was having trouble breathing. "I just sprinted over there. I knew something was wrong. I took off my custodian hat and went into mama mode."
The fourth-grade student was choking on rice. Williams said she ran over about two tables away from where she was and immediately started doing the Heimlich maneuver on him.
"I was like, I'm not going to start breathing until he starts breathing. My adrenaline was just pumping," Williams said.
Williams received first-aid training while working at a local hospital in patient transport and custodial work. She said this was the first time she's ever had to use it.
"I remembered everything instantly. I was really blown away with that," Williams said.
Those kids that eat at the Rosa Parks Elementary school's cafeteria had a mother of three watching over them like she would her own.
"All of these kids, I know they have their own parents, the thing is, when they come here, they're all mine. Jokingly, outside of this, I say I got 200 to 300 babies and they're all my kids," Williams said. "When I saw him, he was my baby at that moment. He was my kid and I was saving him."