GENESEO — Several SUNY Geneseo Local members employed as facilities staff at the college were recently recognized for saving a student’s life.

Shortly after Thanksgiving break last fall, college custodial staff noticed one student in particular.

CSEA SUNY Geneseo Local members Jill Recktenwald and Ashley Maier, both cleaners assigned to a campus dormitory, noticed a student discarding his belongings. 

While it’s not uncommon for students to occasionally toss out some possessions, the items that the student was trying to discard included textbooks, shampoo and an Xbox, which struck the cleaners as unusual. 

Jill Recktenwald, a cleaner at SUNY Geneseo, cleans a sink in a campus residence hall bathroom.

The student offered to give Recktenwald a nearly $300-valued pair of Bose headphones. 

“[I asked him], Don’t you want your younger brothers to have this stuff?” said Recktenwald.

The student told Recktenwald no, and added that he barely slept the previous night, which Recktenwald found odd considering he just returned from a weekend away from campus.

As Recktenwald and Maier discussed the odd behavior of the student, Maier began to worry, especially when she noticed the student’s belongings.

Ashley Maier, a cleaner at SUNY Geneseo, wipes a mirror in a campus residence hall bathroom.

“I walked around the corner and my stomach dropped,” said Maier. 

Maier, who is familiar with individuals who have struggled with their mental health, said she began to worry that this student was experiencing a mental health crisis. 

As she and Recktenwald contemplated what to do about the situation, they consulted another member within their department, Chad Foster. He advised his co-workers to report the student’s behavior to campus officials. 

“That doesn’t sound right to give away any of your personal belongings,” said Foster. “I was able to give them that extra nudge to get them to make that phone call.”

Then, Maier heard music blaring from the student’s room and took that as another sign that the student was in distress based on her familiarity with people experiencing mental health issues. 

That was the tipping point for the custodians, who then reported the student’s behavior to his resident advisor. 

“Ashley [Maier] is the one that really picked up on all these signs,” said Recktenwald. “Kudos to [her].”

Maier, Recktenwald and Foster were later recognized by college officials for their outstanding work in going above and beyond their assigned duties to save the student. 

“One never knows when you might be called upon to step outside your normal duties to rise to a greater cause, yet our team demonstrated they were ready and showed extreme caring as well as needed urgency,” said SUNY Geneseo Vice President of Finance and Administration Julie Buehler. “I remain grateful for our employees and their service.” 

“The trust that [Recktenwald and Maier] had in their fellow union members to go to them with this situation truly speaks to the strength of our membership here at SUNY Geneseo,” said CSEA SUNY Geneseo Local President Todd White. “When members can unite to assist a student in such a critical situation, it truly reaffirms the value of organized labor.”

— Madison Ruffo


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