Leo Magalang works as a custodian at Charles Reed Elementary in suburban Plainfield, and last week he got a surprise of a lifetime when he was sworn in as a citizen of the United States.
When Magalang returned to work the day after the ceremony, students and teachers embraced him with an incredible celebration of his big day.
“It was overwhelming, heartwarming, and I feel so loved,” he cried. “So loved.”
Students and teachers lined the hallways of the school for the surprise, waving American flags to celebrate their beloved custodian and friend.
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“I just came in as usual, but when I opened the door the kids were already shouting, 'Leo! Leo! Leo!'” he said. “I was so touched.”
Cellphone video captured the moments as Magalang walked down the halls unable to contain his emotions.
“I was crying the whole time,” he said. “It’s a good thing we have the mask because if we don’t they could see my ugly face when I cry.”
The 64-year-old and his family emigrated from the Philippines hoping for a chance at a better life.
“The U.S. has given us an opportunity to be here, reside here, and to work here and for a better life,” he said.
The principal of Charles Reed said they wanted to do something special for Magalang to show that they care and appreciate him. In addition to the boisterous and fun celebration, students also wrote him notes and messages.
“We’re just happy that we did something to make him feel good and there’s so much craziness going on in the world itself and here in school there’s been so many challenges,” said principal Curtis Hudson. “We take every opportunity we can to celebrate and that was a good reason to celebrate.”
“You should do your best be strive for excellence whatever you do ultimately the people around the people you serve will love you,” he added.