School Custodian Forms Unique Mentorship With Student

A student with disabilities dreams of becoming a custodian despite the physical challenges.

September 14, 2023

According to KMSP-TV, a unique mentorship has developed at a Maple Lake, Minnesota, school between one of its custodians and a student who hopes to be like him someday.

Israel Budke, a fourth-grade student at Maple Lake Elementary School, loves to clean. According to his teachers, while other students want to play during their free time, Budke wants to keep the classrooms spotless.

“Because I like helping out each day,” he told KMSP.

Budke aspires to be a school custodian when he grows up, but his disabilities make the physicalness of custodial tasks extremely challenging.

Enter Todd Mavencamp, a custodian at the school who has formed a special relationship with Budke and is encouraging him to follow his dreams. Mavencamp helps Budke, who relies on a wheelchair, to get around the school and attend to cleaning duties.

“It was such an instant bond,” Maple Lake second grade teacher Annie Jost told KMSP. “They’ve really formed this unique and special connection.”

Despite Budke’s physical limitations, Mavencamp has figured out adaptive ways for Budke to contribute to the school’s custodial tasks, such as sweeping the floors and cleaning the tables.

To earn time together with Mavencamp, the teachers at the school agreed upon a point system. Budke can earn points by completing schoolwork that he can then exchange to spend time with the custodian.

Teachers at the school believe the special connection between the two has improved Budke’s communication and relationship-building skills.

“I think the friendships are really important for him,” Jackie Manninen, Maple Lake special education teacher, told KMSP. “They drive him to want to do more things, and better.”

While reaching out for Mavencamp’s hand during the interview with KMSP, Budke elicited a smile and a nod from him when he said, “He’s my best friend.”

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